Tourism Destinations: Increasing Repeat Visitors
This research provides the following information: case studies of tourism destinations that have increased their rate of repeat visitors over a measured time span; marketing/promotional best practices for improving repeat visits to a tourism destination; motivations for repeat visitation at tourism destinations; and pain points that trigger visitors to abandon a tourist destination. Aruba and Warner Bros. Studio Tour London have both increased their rate of repeat visitors through creative marketing tactics. By constantly improving offerings and creating enticing loyalty programs, tourist attractions can improve their repeat visitation. Details on the requested topics have been provided below.
Aruba — Robust CRM Solution
- Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) is the official marketing and tourism organization for Aruba. The organization sought to increase first-time visitors as well as repeat visitation to the island. In order to accomplish this objective, ATA needed to address some of its antiquated systems and processes. It also had to improve overall engagement with its past and future guests.
- Strategy Used: ATA collaborated with Ansira to obtain technology upgrades, data-driven marketing solutions, and customer insights to boost tourism. Ansira's marketing team began by building and restructuring the organization's database and reporting platform in order to improve its data collection and visibility.
- The next step was visitor modeling and segmentation to enable ATA send more relevant and personalized content to prospects. Also, Ansira created a global email tool that deployed communication across 120 countries in nine languages.
- Using ongoing campaign analysis and data mining, Ansira identified an opportunity for the organization to invest more in engaging high-spending customers. With this insight, ATA adjusted its electronic customer relationship management (eCRM) messaging for high-spending tourists and launched targeted media campaigns to meet that audience where they are.
- The Impact: This approach equipped ATA with "the ability to deliver the right communication to the right customer at the right time." For its targeted visitors, the island achieved a 43% increase in return rate.
- From visitors that were sent more relevant emails, ATA also achieved a $2.1 million increase in on-island spending. Overall, there was a $20 million increase in on-island spending from Aruba's target market.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter is a public attraction that offers Harry Potter fans of all age groups the opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes experience of the Harry Potter film series. The tourist attraction wanted to ensure that its visitors continued to have an excellent experience.
- Strategy Used: Between January 2017 and December 2018, the tourist attraction launched a permanent expansion of the Forbidden Forest and introduced a new behind-the-scenes experience for its visitors. Also, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London ran its education program along with seasonal features.
- With a deliberate focus on visitors, the attraction also re-designed its consumer website in order to engage new visitors better and encourage repeat visitation.
- The Impact: In terms of customer retention, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London saw a 3% increase in its repeat visitors. This was accompanied by an 8% rise in international visitors year-over-year (YOY).
- This approach earned the tourist destination a visitor enjoyment score of 99%. Also, there was an 18% increase in YOY ticket sales. Attendance was boosted by 118,000 visitors YOY.
Constantly Improve Offerings to Create Memorable Experiences
- As international travel becomes easier, the tourism market has also become more competitive. In order to gain repeat visitors and attract new ones, it is important for tourist destinations to constantly improve their offerings.
- For a tourist attraction to be successful, it has to facilitate the creation of memories. When tourists visit a destination and leave without a new and remarkable memory that they can talk about on their way home, such visitors might not be encouraged to return.
- In delivering memorable experiences, variety is extremely important. For an attraction to gain repeat visitation, tourists need to be offered unexpected or unique experiences each time they visit the destination.
- A study by Skift Research provides evidence to validate why it is the best practice to deliver improved and unique experiences. According to Skift's survey, "only 27% of repeat tourists said they did the same activities as they did the first time." All other respondents preferred a new experience. "73% [of repeat tourists] incorporated at least some different activities into their vacations when they returned to a destination."
- Examples of destinations that use this strategy are Alton Towers and The Royal Armouries Museum. Whenever Alton Towers unveils a new ride, people visit again because that ride was not available the last time they went. Also, The Royal Armouries Museum introduces new shows and events at different times in the year in order to lure people to experience those new events.
Create Enticing Loyalty Programs
- Tourist attractions need to design a loyalty program that offers enticing incentives and rewards to encourage frequent visits and more spending. Customer loyalty leads to an increase in visit frequency. Also, attractive incentives significantly drive buying behaviors.
- Through these programs, tourist destinations can assign points to customers and create a reward system that encourages visitors to return. By setting attainable rewards as well as stretch goal rewards, members can be motivated to visit more often.
- For instance, a tourist destination could offer its customers the opportunity of paying a one-time price in order to have access to group biking tours, hiking trips, or adventure classes. They could even be offered expert advice on specific trails.
- It is important to launch these customer loyalty programs for various buyer personas. Different cohorts have different needs and unique preferences. Therefore, loyalty programs should be designed to suit these varying personas.
- A Nielsen study provides insight into why it is the best practice to launch loyalty programs. According to the study, "84% of consumers are more drawn to a brand that offers a loyalty program and 66% of customers mention the ability to gain rewards influences their spending behavior."
- The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is an example of a destination that uses loyalty programs to boost repeat visitation. By becoming a DMA Member, customers are promised the following perks: "A full year of exclusive benefits and privileges, including FREE parking in the Museum's garage, FREE tickets to all special exhibitions, FREE access to every Late Night and Second Thursdays with a Twist, and more!"
MOTIVATIONS FOR REPEAT VISITS
To Further Explore a Destination
- People tend to naturally like things more if they have been exposed to them before. After visiting a place for the first time, a tourist becomes familiar with that location and develops a desire to return. These returning visitors get the opportunity "to explore more obscure areas of a destination that they may have missed previously."
- Therefore, the desire to further explore a destination's offerings is a key factor that influences a tourist's decision to revisit it. Out of curiosity, a first-time visitor seeks to discover the hidden features that make a place unique.
- For instance, travelers who first visited an attraction while on a business trip are more likely to revisit because they did not have the opportunity to thoroughly explore that destination.
- Tourists' satisfaction is influenced by the experiences they have during a visit to a particular destination. By having pleasant/positive experiences, a person becomes satisfied.
- Typically, satisfied tourists develop the intention to revisit a destination. Besides the desire to revisit, studies have shown that positive emotions and satisfaction are essential precursors to loyalty. Therefore, such a visitor might develop a long-lasting affinity for the destination.
- Research also indicates that emotions are a vital outcome of a tourist's consumption experience. Specifically, by eliciting positive emotions — through joyful experiences — from tourists, a destination is very likely to gain repeat visits.
Desire for Novelty
- Novel occurrences tend to "amplify tourists’ memories of an experience and elicit pleasure." Whenever a novel experience exceeds a tourist's expectations, that person becomes happy and satisfied, ultimately developing a strong desire to revisit the destination.
- Tourists desire to try something new or unique while traveling. Tourism novelty includes several dimensions: boredom alleviation, adventure, surprise, and thrill. This desire for novel experiences is evident in Skift's study which found that most return visitors try new activities whenever they return to a destination.
- Also, repeat tourists tend to engage more with the local economy and culture when they return to a destination. Consumers seek authentic experiences and the opportunity to immerse themselves in a destination's local culture. This trait is particularly evident in people who were pleased with their first experience at a particular destination.
- Destination image is another important factor that influences repeat visitation to a tourist attraction. It is an individual’s feelings, beliefs, and overall perception of a specific destination.
- This factor plays two important roles in tourists' behaviors: It influences the decision-making process when choosing a destination. It also conditions the "after-decision-making behaviors, including participation (on-site experience), evaluation (satisfaction), and future behavioral intentions (intention to revisit)."
- Besides influencing individual tourist decisions, the perception of a destination has a significant impact on satisfaction, loyalty, and intention to visit or revisit. When a destination makes a great impression, travelers happily return to it.
- As the international tourism market becomes increasingly competitive, tourist attractions can gain a competitive advantage via repeat visits. However, if an experience is negative, destinations risk losing the opportunity to gain repeat visitors. Also, the revenue that could have been generated from their subsequent visits is lost.
- Research shows that "people who endure a negative experience are 50% more likely to share it on social media, with 52% more likely to share it on an online review." Just like positive experiences can lead to customer satisfaction and loyalty, negative experiences have an equal but opposite effect on a destination.
- Also, about 68% of people state that service and product reviews make a difference in their decision to purchase. Many of those people prioritize online reviews in their decision-making. One negative review that is "seen by potential customers can drive down business by almost 22%." When three negative reviews are posted online, this percentage increases to over 59%.
- When choosing a particular tourist destination, perceived risk reflects the uncertainties and risks that tourists believe they may face. It is an important factor that affects their attitudes and perceptions towards a destination.
- Tourism activities usually occur in non-conventional environments, therefore, "the off-site nature of these activities and the intangibility of products increase their risks." Research indicates that, compared to tourists with high perceived risk, those "with low perceived risk are more likely to recommend destinations to friends and relatives."
- Also, perceived risk has a negative impact on consumer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction. Ultimately, "when tourists have a high perceived risk during travel, their perceived value and satisfaction will decrease, which will [negatively] affect their willingness to revisit a destination."
Inability to Participate in Local Activities
- Repeat visitors usually know a city better and prefer to venture beyond the typical "must-see attractions". According to Laura Aalto, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Helsinki Marketing, "establishing a sense of “localhood” is key to a positive and often long-term relationship between a city and its visitors."
- When visitors become familiar with a destination, they crave more authentic and local experiences. Aalto stated: "Nobody wants to be a tourist, everybody wants to be [a] part-time [local].” Helsinki's CEO further explained that the organization's "job is to create the kind of circumstances, conditions, and platforms for visitors who come to [a destination] to meet with the locals and not go to the most obvious attractions.”
- Also, some of the most obvious destinations tend to become overcrowded due to the continuous promotion they receive. This is another issue that repeat visitors are worried about. Therefore, it is crucial to cater to the needs of this cohort and convert them into very loyal customers. A destination that does not offer local experiences risks losing valuable customers that may eventually leverage social media and other channels to share their dissatisfaction.