Tourism boards around the world typically don’t have robust booking sites of their own, and this can lead to a gap in measuring the effectiveness of their advertising.
Sure, if a sponsored link ties into a partner booking site or if a display ad has a certain call to action, these things are mostly measurable.
But other than conducting sometimes-suspect visitor surveys, counting the number of brochure or app downloads, tallying the number of enplanements at nearby airports, and tracking bookings to partner sites, how do destination marketing organizations figure out which types of marketing — email, display ads, videos, paid links or TV — were most effective if the trips were booked by at disparate airline or hotel sites, or by travel agents?
A small U.S.-based startup with a staff of six, Arrivalist, hopes to step into this gap for tourism boards with technology that tracks changes in the locations of users’ devices after these devices have been exposed to marketing messages, whether by email, website visits or banner ads, for example.
“So if a device receives one or more marketing messages in one location and that same device accesses a network (phone network, Wi-Fi network, Internet connection, social network etc.) in the location that it’s received marketing messages from, then we report which messages preceded the change in the location of the device,” says Cree Lawson, Arrivalist founder and CEO.
At right, Arrivalist portrays in red the locations where users’ devices were exposed to Kansas’ tourism advertising, and the blue dots detect these devices in Kansas.
Arrivalist, which was founded in 2011 and has $700,000 in angel funding, has agreements with five U.S. tourism boards, including the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and its Travelks.com.
One of the ways Arrivalist tracks the locations of travelers’ electronic devices is by placing pixels in the tourist boards’ advertising. The pixels set cookies for tracking purposes.
This arrival attribution technology is geared not only to inform tourism boards about which ads and types of advertising performed most effectively, it can also show them which part of a state or country travelers visited.
Lawson, who founded Travel Ad Network in 2003, says Arrivalist’s arrival attribution tech can also determine which “visitors” to a destination are commuters, and which ones are truly tourists, further helping tourism boards measure their marketing’s impact.
It is too early to measure the effectiveness of Arrivalist’s arrival attribution technology, but Kansas, which signed on in January and plans to launch its next marketing campaign in April, clearly sees the need for this type of solution.
“Our division is tasked with maximizing a minimal budget,” says Linda Craghead, assistant secretary for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “When given the opportunity to track who we have truly reached, and know that the reach turned into a visit, that is huge for us.”
Alissa Menke, senior digital strategist for Kansas’ ad agency, Jones Huyett Partners, says the Arrivalist attribution technology will enable her to track whether online video is more effective than display ads.
The state could previously track the time users spent on Travelks.com and downloads of travel guides, but that wasn’t the full picture, Menke says. “I could really never figure out what is bringing people to Kansas,” she adds.
In the run-up to Kansas’ next marketing campaign, Lawson says Arrivalist determined that about 38% of visitors to the state came from drive markets, which the tourism body traditionally marketed to.
Arrivalist found that more than half of Kansas’ visitors from Chicago visited the great plains section of the state rather than Kansas City, Lawson said, presenting a marketing opportunity.
In addition to its arrival attribution technology, Arrivalist plans on developing a program to advertise to visitors once they arrive at a destination.
The Competitive Set
Arrivalist faces plenty of competition from the likes of Sojern, Adara, and numerous other companies that measure travel intent for retargeting purposes, and then track the effectiveness of digital ads.
Erin Lockhart, a Sojern spokesperson, says the company’s primary mission is driving a consumer to make a booking.
“Sojern does use location-based data to determine the effectiveness of marketing efforts, but advertising to consumers while on a trip is not a key focus,” Lockhart says.
It remains to be seen if Arrivalist’s solution will be effective, but Lawson sees an opportunity based on the company’s particular focus. “Everyone else gets caught up in the plumbing of travel distribution,” he says. “And we just measure whether people show up.”