Whenever an event like the NBA All-Star Game takes place in a city, destination managers know to be prepared for an increase in visitation.
But when the NBA presents its midseason showcase in Salt Lake City next February, officials there believe they will have more than just a general idea of what to expect, thanks to a strategic application of the Big Data.
With the game less than a year away, Visit the salt lake was able to analyze massive amounts of geolocation and credit card spending data provided by the Utah-based tech company Zartico for the visiting patterns that prevailed in Charlotte when the All-Star Game was held there in 2019.
The analysis, says Kaitlin Eskelon, CEO of Visit Salt Lake, found that the average visitor spent a week in Charlotte around the game. It also showed what time these visitors stayed out in the evening and what times they spent the most money.
Salt Lake officials plan to use that knowledge to bolster transit schedules around the event and to encourage some restaurants to stay open later than normal.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey, we think it’s going to be busy,’ we can say, ‘We think it’s going to be busy until 2 a.m., and here’s the data to prove it,'” Eskelon says. .
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Salt Lake City is just one of many destinations that are now refining their marketing and destination management strategies using visitor travel data acquired from mobile devices as well as anonymized spending data reported by more than 5,000 financial institutions.
At Mountain Travel Symposium held in Vail, Colorado in early April, an event produced by Travel Weekly parent company Northstar Travel Group, a handful of destination management professionals took to the stage to explain how They use Zartico not only to drive visitor traffic, but also to help balance the competing needs of tourism and local residents.
The company, founded in 2019, already works with 120 customers, says Chief Innovation Officer Jay Kinghorn. But while Eskelon said Zartico is the only company it knows of that offers the combination of geolocation data and credit card numbers, it’s not the only tech company that informs DMOs with tons of location equipment. Others include Datafy, Arrivalist and Tourism Economics.
James Jackson, CEO of Tourism Jasper in Alberta, told symposium attendees how he used geolocation data to examine the correlation between weather and visitation to Jasper National Park and its Marmot Basin ski resort, the helping to spend marketing dollars more effectively.
“We know if we have the right weather and the right precipitation, we don’t have to spend on marketing. People are going to come anyway,” Jackson said.
Similarly, the use of geolocation data can tell destination managers where visitors are coming from, and when this information is overlaid with credit card spending data, it can inform destination promoters in markets that have tend to send the highest spending visitors.
Aid for overtourism
Avoiding overtourism is another way DMOs deploy geolocation data. In general, says Kinghorn, residents begin to feel a significant impact on their quality of life when the visitor-to-resident ratio is above 2:1.
Cathy Ritter, CEO of consulting firm Better Destinations, says she’s using geolocation data to help the eight-county region of Glacier Country in Montana develop a stewardship plan. The plan isn’t expected to be completed until June, but sharing this data with Glacier National Park has already strengthened the relationship between the local DMO and public land managers, Ritter said.
The park and local forest service, she says, could use that data to direct visitors to less-used trails or to justify funding new visitor services.