News & Views

Rethinking KPIs in the New Norm

Remember KPIs? The key performance indicators that you thought you knew so well? COVID-19 has upended so much of our marketing efforts, and the KPIs that we follow are just another thing that we have to recalibrate to address the new norm.

Organic traffic, social media conversion and mobile leads will still be a part of our measurements, but it’s time to rethink the overall approach that DMOs take, to prove that they are adding value in a difficult situation. The pandemic is presenting destinations with new opportunities, according to travel experts who presented during a recent webinar with the US Travel Association.

There are some dream metrics that, if they existed, would help create a more holistic statistical representation of a destination. It’s more important now to look at how visitors and residents affect each other, to make tourism more a part of local communities and less of an external force. DMOs are hoping to develop new KPIs for financial performance and diversity issues, as well, but in this new norm it’s all a work in progress.

At the same time, the professionals say KPIs like room rates and ad value equivalency are among the indicators that need to go.

In the meantime, we wanted to highlight some of the takeaways from their talk to underscore that, yes, travel marketing will continue as before, but it can be better with a few new practices. To do so, consider three major areas of reporting – media/ROI, community, and traveler visitors — and how to reimagine them.


For the media, it’s not just about tracking the same old clicks on articles. Instead, look to track hotel revenue per impression, as related to owned or paid media. Since hotel taxes are important for local communities, evaluating how DMOs contribute to these funds will be vital. Looking at the incremental changes in traditional KPIs, however, will be key to gauge interest as arrivals and bookings start to tick up from essentially zero.

Expanding horizons to include metrics like destination image or likelihood to visit will be even more useful during recovery, as rampant cancelations create a need for more gradual returns to travel. Intent – more than action – will be important during these difficult times while destinations are largely closed.

Another useful metric that DMOs don’t often think of is civic pride. Develop a scale to measure how you are we moving the needle on destination image among residents, to see how they talk positively about their community in the media. By creating positive civic pride internally, DMOs can translate these efforts to allow travelers to feel safe and welcomed, as well.


When it comes to DMO KPIs that may be off your radar, look to relocation statistics. It will be useful to find how many people move to the city and correlate this with tourism growth, to see if DMO efforts are truly paying off or not. Understanding what new residents appreciate about a destination will also help inform strategies for attracting visitors since there is ample overlap.

At the same time, taking the temperature of resident sentiment is pivotal now more than ever. Really lean into understanding how residents feel about opening up to travelers. Reopening can’t happen successfully for visitors unless residents are on board, so DMOs need to address both groups and measure accordingly.

Beyond just the people, DMOs must look at businesses and develop metrics to measure confidence among local enterprises that may be wavering during the pandemic. Ask them how they feel about the current economic situation and accumulate data to help guide solutions for these important partners. DMOs need these stakeholders moving into recovery, so staying up to date with their situation is important.

If you haven’t already used it, a Net Promoter Score is a KPI that allows DMOs to gauge how residents and visitors are likely to recommend a destination based on various criteria. This measurement can be used to highlight gaps between resident and visitor perceptions, to find out what works and what doesn’t.


Of course tracking traveler KPIs is important – there’s no way around it. Looking more holistically at the visitor experience, however, gives DMOs the opportunity to gain extra insight into their habits, which will undoubtedly be different during the recovery phase. For example, it’s important to look at visitor spending across the board – not just at accommodation taxes – to demonstrate where tourism is contributing to local economies, and in turn helping to substantiate DMO efforts. Collect data on credit card spending and restaurants among other businesses to paint a more complete picture.

Geolocation data also serves useful purposes, helping DMOs understand where people are coming from and how long they are staying in destination. It’s a bit late to create pre-COVID-19 benchmarks to compare, but moving forward, geolocation KPIs will be useful for DMOs to understand who is coming to their destinations to create more strategic efforts.

Soft metrics like clicks, searches and demographics are still important as destinations learn who they should be targeting in this new normal. For example, if DMOs can collect data showing that a certain age group is clicking on a certain type of content on their website – adventure experiences, luxury options, solo travel – it can help inform how the DMO redirects its messaging. At the same time, evaluating POI data allows DMOs to target people by knowing what they are interested in and to identify new interests. Perhaps the tried and true attractions aren’t popular during the pandemic, but an underdog experience is driving visitation. Having data to support a shift in messaging will be key.

Think outside the box, too, and look towards historic purchases and search behavior online to create metrics that will identify avid travelers. Creating a traveler rating score – akin to a credit rating – lets DMOs target visitors most likely to be at the forefront of travel during recovery phases.

An important KPI for overburdened destinations is to establish a visitor to resident ratio. To combat over tourism and maximize dispersal throughout a region, these metrics are beneficial.

Feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities presented by the KPI choices out there? Technology has that effect. At DCI, we take a digital approach to all of our efforts and help destinations secure the most relevant research and data that we can. Contact Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn how our placemaking agency can help you navigate this new normal.

Written By

Bryan Pirolli

As DCI's in-house Senior Writer, Bryan brings more than a decade of travel journalism experience to play when uncovering the next big story idea for our clients.

More Articles by Bryan Pirolli

Interested in how DCI collaborates with our clients to increase visitors and business inquiries?

Get In Touch
We have updated our Privacy Policy to include GDPR. If you continue we will assume that you agree to our privacy policy.