“DMO website metrics are mostly Vanity KPIs,” a seasoned DMO executive acknowledged, with a hint of resignation and sorrow. Other DMO executives in the conference room nodded in agreement.

The veteran marketeer, responsible for multiple award-winning promotional destination campaigns, knew what he was talking about. DMOs – and indeed many other organizations – need to consider the digital journey of their visitors in a different way.

How DMOs can think differently about the value of their web visitors and the website experience

Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) tend to focus their resources, attention and budget on advertising key performance indicators (KPIs) – such as views, click-through rates (CTR) and social media shares or likes, as well as ‘real metrics’ including night stays and tourism expenditure. But gaps in data collection can often make these metrics a challenge to accurately measure.

Ultimately for marketing departments, it’s all about Marketing ROI – how many visitors and average daily spend can be earned from advertising budgets. There’s ‘bonus points’ if you get the right type of tourist: DMOs covet long-stay and high-spending travelers who engage with local activities and businesses, preferably with a high economic and low environmental impact.

Discussion about KPIs at the DMO conference

Having spent the last few years of my career working with DMOs, providing travel intelligence as well as supporting their digital marketing strategies, I was expecting this point of view when I shared the conference stage with the DMO executive.

When I joined BD4 – an AI-powered specialist that provides real-time user profiling and personalization tools to some of the world’s top travel brands – I knew there was a strong use case for this technology and its capabilities for Destination Marketing Organizations. So I’ve put myself on a mission to elevate DMOs’ understanding of their website visitors and the impact personalization can have on their ability to attract and retain visitors. 

DMOs’ perspective on personalization

It seems that the DMO industry is also waking up to the importance of personalization. According to recent Industry Research, the 2022 MMGY Destination Marketing Technology Survey, which includes input from 155 destination marketers, names Website Personalization as the top technology to invest in (41.77%) – well ahead of any other type of technology or capability. This is if budget, resources and the ability to successfully adopt personalization were not an issue.

This is against the status quo, shared by findings in the 2022 Simpleview State of Digital Marketing report, which mentions that more than two-thirds of Destination Marketing Organizations report they have not created a digital customer journey or planned personalized content. Apparently, 58% of the DMOs don’t do any frequent A/B tests on their homepage – which would allow them to at least optimize their website for the average user.

As I walked around the recent Destination Marketing Organization conference and spoke with more than a dozen DMO executives, these report findings reflect what I heard. Everyone seems to value the importance of customizing and personalizing website experiences and offers, but no one is really doing it – whether it’s because of lack of resources, expertise or budget.

Yet everyone agrees that today’s website analytics are mostly vanity metrics: since DMO websites are mostly created to inspire, there are no strong KPIs attached to commercial performance, compared to travel eCommerce businesses that live and die by conversion rates and basket values.

Realigning KPIs to augment the DMOs’ success

Everyone agrees that the DMO website is the central pillar of the DMO Digital Marketing strategy and requires putting a proper KPI strategy and analytics in place.

I’m often asked: “What are the potential use cases for User Profiling and Personalization Technology for DMOs? What are the first steps for Destination Marketing Organizations to start this journey?”

Many DMOs wrongly assume that, because they don’t sell anything, they shouldn’t focus on commercially-based key performance indicators. Every single website has objectives – and different types of metrics can be put in place to measure how well we are reaching these objectives and, ultimately, use tools to improve.

KPIs for a Destination Marketing Organization’s dashboard

KPIs for a DMO can be metrics like:

  • Average time on site
  • Single question satisfaction surveys
  • Or even soft conversions like email / social media subscriptions

These are all standard metrics that can be improved by providing relevant content and appropriate calls to actions if you understand, in real-time, what your users are looking for and where they are in their shopping journey:

  • Are they just browsing?
  • Are they seeking inspiration?
  • Are they deciding if they want to travel to the destination?
  • Or have they already made up their mind and are planning a specific visit?

What areas, activities and services have they shown interest in? How can you use this insight to show them more tailored content, and therefore depend less on a generic – or random – display of content and offers which are often irrelevant to many visitors? Broad awareness is good, but not good enough.

An example of how these key metrics can help DMOs

A marketing executive from one of the most visited Spanish Mediterranean resort areas told me that repeat visitors are a huge proportion of their tourist audience. He wondered how he could use that knowledge to adapt the website offerings and entice users to return to the destination even more frequently.

More advanced destinations could coordinate their digital marketing strategies, tying different types of banner advertising, communication channels and campaigns to traveler website behavior. They can adapt content and marketing strategies accordingly, enriching their Customer Data Platforms (CDP) with new relevant metrics, potentially even linking them with search and conversion signals from their Online Travel Agency (OTA) or Airline partners.

This requires a dynamic, 1:1 understanding of each user and the technology to coordinate in real-time all of these aspects – and, more importantly, to be able to monitor the impact on key metrics and constantly refine and optimize, in a closed feedback loop.

Eventually, it’s all about answering the question: if I knew more about my website visitor, what would I do differently to enhance their digital experience?

Do you want to improve your DMOs’ KPI success? Get in touch with Tiago and talk about the best options for you, your website and your future tourists.

Contact Tiago

About Tiago Relvao

Director of Business Development at BD4


Tiago has worked with leading global brands & destinations in travel and tourism for more than 15 years, has lived in six different countries and is fluent in four languages.

His passion: Growing Online Travel Brands by using AI-driven real-time personalization insights.
His focus: strategy, product and business development.