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Five Reasons to Conduct Perception Surveys To Inform Your Destination Marketing

Still have a dictionary? No? Then Google this – perception. Merriam Webster defines perception as a mental image or concept one has of something. When that something is your destination, the importance of the right perception is critical for your marketing to succeed among your current, past, and potential visitors. The power of perception is especially important in reaching media and in generating positive word-of-mouth marketing that drives visitation.

One way to measure perception is to conduct perception studies. Such studies are important for gauging the pulse of how travelers, and those that influence them, perceive your destination, either through past experiences or misguided information. The results can help guide you toward smarter marketing that has you reaching—and engaging—with more strategic messaging for specific audiences.  Another outcome of a well-done perception study is the ability to cross-tab the findings so that you can extract perceptions from select groups such as certain age cohorts, geographies, freelance versus staff journalists and more. The more you know about the preferences and characteristics of your audience, the better targeted your messaging will be.

Over the next three months, we’ll be profiling three different tactical research strategies that are important for DMOs to inform their destination marketing strategies. Perception is first up.

Here are five key reasons how a perception study can aid your destination marketing efforts:

Reason #1 – Develop a Benchmark

Start by asking your target travelers and the audiences that influence them – travel media, travel advisors and meeting planners – how your destination rates on various factors at a particular point in time. This sets a benchmark against which you can measure how much you “move the needle,” on both perception, arrivals, visitor spend, repeat visitation or dispersal, all of which are measurements of the effectiveness of your travel PR and destination marketing efforts.

It’s important to have a measurement of where you currently stand among your target audiences.  DCI recommends that perception studies be conducted every two to three years to show how opinions and knowledge of your travel destination have changed over time. Perception studies can help DMOs demonstrate the ROI of targeted initiatives that you implement throughout the year as well as key track of how visitor opinions and knowledge is trending.

Reason #2 – Understand Misperceptions About Your Destination

Discovering that audiences have misperceptions about your destination is the first step to correcting the problem.  For example, perhaps there is a misperception that there are limited direct flights to your destination. Once it’s known that this perception exists, it’s possible to educate your target audience on airlift.

Changing attitudes and misperceptions is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time and consistent messaging to channel the correct information to those with the wrong mental perception of your destination. But it is possible to make that change and ultimately drive more visitor arrivals.

Learning about misconceptions of your destination by travel journalists is key to preventing negative or misinformed stories. It allows you to set the record straight and use your new-found knowledge to pitch and promote storylines that will turn the tide. Afterall, editorial coverage not only impacts consumer perception, but also the perception of travel advisors and meeting planners who directly impact booking decisions.

Reason #3 – Create A Sounding Board for Itineraries and/or Storylines

A perception study is a great way to receive feedback on the experiences that are of most interest to your target travelers and the storylines that are of most interest to travel journalists. Understanding what topics consumers have an interest in and pitching stories that feature these experiences to journalists makes the greatest impact. The findings of your perception study also provide destinations with proof-points and statistics to use in forming story angles.

Reason #4 – Understand Your Competitive Set

Destinations may think they know who they are competing against but a perception study will reveal how they stack up against their true competitive set. It will also reveal other destinations against which they’re competing but may not be on their radar. There’s a common saying that people are rich in choices but poor in time. Destinations can ensure that your competition isn’t outpacing you as a popular choice by conducting a perception study and analyzing the results to understand your true competitive set and where you may be falling short against those competitors.

Reason #5 – Build a Target Database

While most perception surveys promise confidentiality, a question can be included which asks the respondent if they are willing to share their contact information with the destination. This provides a qualified list for, depending on the audience of the study, email marketing, pitching, future fam trips, special events and webinars.

Building a target database is one of the best outcomes of a perception survey. It allows destinations to improve your marketing efforts to those who agree to share their contact information. This open door to your target audience, whether that audience is travelers, travel media, travel advisors or meeting planners.

About DCI

At DCI, we understand the importance of perception studies for destination marketing organizations. Perception studies are essential for focusing your marketing strategy on things that cause the needle to move on the misperception/perception of your destination.

Our team partners with destinations to increase visitor arrivals, disperse visitors and to augment visitor spending. We strategically win the support of key influencers who build demand for your destination and convert this demand into actual visitors. The important research we conduct, like that of perception surveys, guides our tailored approach for each destination.

Tourism is a job creator and helps to drive economic development and quality of life enhancements for communities around the world. The industry is more competitive than ever, making a perception study a useful tool for advancing and directing your marketing efforts. To learn more about how DCI can help your destination develop a better understanding of your competition, attract more travelers, and move the misconception needle from negative to positive, contact us today.

Written By

Robyn Domber

Robyn is DCI’s Vice President of Research. In this role, she spearheads all of the firm’s primary and secondary research efforts, including surveys, focus groups, data analysis and result compilation. She joined DCI with 15 years of experience in the site selection and economic development consulting field.

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