Benchmarking study for U.S. destinations released

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The Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) on Monday released a benchmarking study that lets the 50 U.S. states and 50 American cities see how they rank in total arrivals and total website visitors.

The DMAI said states and cities can see the correlation between arrivals and website visitors, thus measuring their effectiveness in making the best possible use of their websites. The results vary widely, and at times reveal a mismatch between a destination’s popularity and the public’s use of its website, said Michael Pusateri, CEO of Vantage Strategy Consulting, which prepared the report.

While most details will be available only in the full report, which sells for $1,495, Pusateri provided examples of results.

In one case, one city ranked No. 10 in arrivals but ranked No. 38 for traffic on its website, suggesting a lot more could be done to make the site part of the marketing and selling process.

The research also benchmarked how consumers find destination websites and which search engines are most used. It also measured the portion of trips booked online plus details on the bookers’ demographics.

The research, Pusateri said, found that the portion of visitors who used a search engine to find their way to state websites ranged from 30% to 76%. In addition, the choice of search engine varies widely. For example, at one extreme, only 23% of search engine users came to one state’s site from Google, whereas for another state, 63% of search engine users came from Google.

He said the reliance on search engines, as a percentage of all activity, varies in part based on how well-known those sites are to their visitors and how frequently consumers can get to the sites via click-throughs from other sites rather than a search engine. In any case, the results will help destinations determine the degree to which they need to do a better job of harnessing the power of search engines, Pusateri said.

As for booking activity, 17% of domestic travelers booked their trips online last year, up from 9% in 2002. For specific examples of eye-popping differences, he cited a pair of city results. He said that among travelers who booked their trips to Salt Lake City online, 59% were Gen-Xers and 33% baby boomers. By contrast, for trips to Tulsa, Okla., 81% of online bookers were baby boomers and only 11% were Gen-Xers.

With that kind of intelligence, Pusateri said destination marketers will have a better idea of how to talk to their audience because they will have better information about who the audience is.

Vantage Strategy Consulting prepared its report by drawing on data from Hitwise, a company that tracks Internet usage, and D.K. Shifflet & Associates, which gathers trending data from more than 80,000 consumers.

Michael Gehrisch, DMAI’s CEO, said the new report will be a valuable tool for destinations for use “in gauging the effectiveness of their online marketing programs and determining where to best allocate future marketing resources.” 

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