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Why Tourism Research Matters

The words “tourism research” might send chills down your spine. It can evoke the fear of completing a college term paper, lost in a library of dusty books and other caffeine-riddled students trying to master MLA style for the bibliography.

We’ve all been there.

Tourism research, however, comes in many forms, and not all of it is as scary as what your 19-year-old self may have thought. For destination management, it’s pivotal to be in tune with what’s going on in the industry. Tourism research can help inform strategy, define best practices, and moreover, allow you to think about how you’re managing your destination. It will challenge you. It will change you, for the better, if you let it.

Instead of detailing all the latest tourism research, we wanted to lay out the types of research that you should be thinking about, to know some of your options and what value they bring.

Think Tank Tourism Research

The term “think tank” covers all sorts of research bodies that produce independent results. Maybe they’re funded by a company, or maybe it’s backed by a private investor. In any case, know who supports the think tank before taking their findings to heart too quickly. If an oil company is funding the think tank, it might be difficult to take their recommendations on sustainable travel at face value.

The Digital Tourism Think Tank provides insight into digital trends and industry changes. Its team hosts events and your membership gets you access to its webinars and campus events. With ever-evolving trends in digital tourism, they keep their finger on the pulse of what’s cutting edge.

Industry Research

When comes out with a new report, like this 2019 one on sustainability, it’s easy to get drawn into the fancy graphics and numbers. Industry actors regularly produce their own research, though a true researcher may question the rigor with which these reports are created. Who do they serve?

Their results often are easy to understand, and some might say a little too easy to understand. Even TripAdvisor is in on the game, though it can still offer insight. The research is still useful, but, like with think tanks, consider the source before making any big structural changes in your destination marketing strategies.

Media-led Research

Professionals aren’t always looking to news sites for the latest breaking research, but one media company doubles as a research lab. We are always fans of Skift, the leading industry outlet for all things related to the travel industry.

Its writers keep you updated while also sharing occasional longer research projects with readers. A bit of research and a bit of news – it’s the best of both worlds. You’ll need to subscribe for reports like this one on ad tech in the travel industry, but for destinations looking to keep abreast, it’s essential reading.

When reading research or trend reports in the media, be sure to question where they are sourcing their research. It’s always good to read coverage on research, but seek transparency before someone calls “country coupling” a trend.

Governmental Tourism Research

Governments are deeply invested in tourism worldwide, especially as a way to pull developing countries out of poverty or addressing larger environmental issues. The UN World Tourism Organization is one of the most important bodies of researchers that puts out some of the world’s most trusted tourism reports. They even host their own learning platform, the UNTWO Academy.

The collaboration between various nations creates research that you can trust and that offers a more global perspective on the industry. They also lead the way in trends, as with the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism initiative based in their extensive research.

If the UNWTO seems too global for you, destinations like Iceland have their own research bodies. Maybe that’s too niche? The U.S. Travel Association will give American DMOs better insight.

Academic Research

There’s still plenty of interesting stuff happening in the ivory towers of the world’s universities. The International Journal of Tourism Research is a peer-edited, academic journal that is worth browsing. Peer-edited means that several researchers have looked it over, challenged it, and eventually validated it. It’s not always immediately evident how such tourism research is applicable, but free from industry interest, it offers unique and independent views that you won’t find elsewhere.

The articles published here might seem a bit complicated, thanks to the cumbersome norms of academic writing that have yet to change. Still, there are interesting themes and topics, ranging from sustainability to social media use in tourism that might help shape the way you think about the tourism industry.

While we produce our own tourism research at DCI, no one type of research body can do it all. Of course, the best bet is to hire a research team to identify and research your own tailor-made project, but when that’s not possible, there are some good options that may help you.

Curious about what sorts of tourism research we’re looking at, or are you potentially interested in your own customized research project? At DCI we have 60 years of experience marketing and researching destinations worldwide. Get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn more about what you can do to make sure you’re up to date with the latest research and travel trends.

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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