April 7, 2021


Rebuilding your research after an unpredictable 2020 means taking a fresh look everything. Many travel industry leaders are starting their research from scratch in 2021. To ensure you start on solid footing, TTRA CenStates is here to guide you on research tips and tricks through our quarterly Travel Spotlight.

Let’s start the year with some basics for collecting, interpreting and sharing your research.


Evaluate where your data is coming from and how its source may impact the interpretation of your findings.

  • When reviewing your data, be careful you’re not combining different sources and counting the same visitor multiple times.
    • Someone who visits your Facebook page may or may not be the same person who requested a guide. Combining those two numbers may be duplicating your audience size and over-representing your findings.
  • Use digital resources as a starting point for understanding your audience but be careful using only those sources for visitor statistics.
    • Friends/fans of your Facebook page may not be the same as the visitors booking a trip.
    • Combining data from Facebook, digital media, Google Analytics and other digital platforms is a great way to start understanding your audience.
      • However, you may not see the types of visitors you’re missing out on and who isn’t coming from the total available audience pool.
  • Decisions in travel can happen at any point and it isn’t required to browse before someone purchases. If someone is visiting your site or your Facebook page – they may have already decided to visit.
    • You may be evaluating data points from visitors at all different points in their decision making process, regardless where your data is sourced from.


Now that you’ve collected the information, how can you interpret it for the truest story it’s telling?

  • Comparisons give our data power. Use benchmarks, industry averages, past performance or other context to compare and contrast your results to show the impact of your numbers.
    • TTRA, the U.S. Travel Association, and your state travel organization are reputable resources to ask for contextual research.
  • If evaluating engagement with your marketing campaigns, start by identifying if your data shows appeal, action, engagement, connection or attribution. Advertising metrics may only show ‘action’ and don’t necessarily mean appeal of the message or action in booking a trip.
    • Know the difference so you can measure and report accurately.
  • Use Google Analytics’ source/medium dimension to understand where the action from your advertising campaigns is originating.
    • Understanding where your audience was before they engaged with your ads can help you understand more of their intent and opportunity to reach them in the future.


Before meeting with stakeholders, review your information with others to ensure you are prepared for questions and comparisons in the results.

  • If your research was limited and only provides insight in one of many areas of interest for your DMO, position that as an opportunity to your stakeholders and what we can do from the learnings today.
    • Highlight what the research does say and what it doesn’t say, using that to open the door for future research.
    • Develop a research plan for what you’d like to measure in the future and plant the seed for a way to get that research next time.
  • Use your network (CenStates) to gut check your presentations before you send them to stakeholders.
    • Ask for tips on avoiding potential landmines on the critique of the research and how to best communicate the results to a non-marketing or non-tourism industry audience.
    • Many of your colleagues in CenStates have navigated presenting tourism research to Boards, public meetings, etc. Don’t be shy about asking for guidance!
    • Watch for updates on CenStates’ 2021 Conference. It’s a great place to grow your network.

Interested in more on this topic? View our latest THIRD THURSDAY webinar, “Quick and Easy Research Without Breaking Your Budget