Leveraging Data to Navigate the Early Stages of Recovery, with James Sauter

Episode 197

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James is Partner and Co-founder of Rove Marketing, a leading tourism data, analytics, and consulting firm. They are focused on helping tourism organizations become more data-driven, so they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation, and ultimately drive revenue growth. He brings over 20 years of strategic knowledge in CRM, customer experience management, data and analytics, branding, and digital marketing strategy. Destination on the Left is joined by James Sauter, a partner and co-founder of Rove Marketing. Rove is a leading tourism data, analytics, and consulting firm focused on helping tourism organizations become more data-driven, so they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation, and ultimately drive revenue growth. On our podcast, James talks about how destinations are using mobile location data to inform their early recovery plans, how residents sentiment data can help with recovery and rebuilding and how collaboration will fuel the future of tourism.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • James’ vision with Rove and the services they offer
  • The two areas in which Rove works with tourism organizations to help them utilize data
  • How Rove has used data to help tourism organizations navigate the pandemic
  • The tourism dashboards Rove is building all over the world, and how they work
  • How Rove is tracking resident sentiment to support destinations and drive tourism traffic
  • How mobile location data and other sources are being used creatively to help destinations recover
  • What role data will play in transforming destinations to fit the “new normal”
  • How this data collection and analysis process will eventually be able to span multiple destinations and entire regions

Rove Marketing

James Sauter is a partner and co-founder of Rove Marketing. Rove is a leading tourism data, analytics, and consulting firm focused on helping tourism organizations become more data-driven, so they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation, and ultimately drive revenue growth. On our podcast, James talks about how destinations are using mobile location data to inform their early recovery plans, how residents sentiment data can help with recovery and rebuilding and how collaboration will fuel the future of tourism. He explains how we can better use data to plan for the future during these uncertain times.

The Power of Data Collection

Before COVID, everything pointed to massive growth in the tourism industry. It was a major opportunity for Rove to get in on the ground floor and help tourism organizations make better decisions by leveraging data technology and their insights. They accomplish this by providing full-service consulting and data collection services under one roof. And data collection is more important now than ever. It has played a huge role in understanding what is happening in the travel industry as consumer trends/government regulations change. Using that information, DMOs can plan the best course of action and pivot as needed.

How to Use the Data You Collect

One of the areas where James’ team found its stride was with mobile location data. As we work through this fragmented reopening process, it is important to know where people are, where they’re visiting within a location, how long they’re staying, and their demographic. This can help destinations drastically during the early stages of recovery. They are also using creativity to leverage data in other ways, such as sourcing rating and review information. Rove can pull all of the reviews for restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc. and put them into a scale to track performance. Obviously, when COVID hit, there was a dip in data for this tool, but everything is proving extremely valuable as tourism reopens.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:17 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with another very smart guest James solder from RO marketing planning for the future. And uncertain times is not easy to be really strategic. We need data to help show us the way, but what kind of data should we be looking at and how do we find the strategic insights that will inform our strategy and plan? That is exactly what James and I get into in this conversation. We talk about how destinations are using mobile location data to inform their early recovery plans, how residents sentiment data can help with recovery and rebuilding and how collaboration will fuel the future of tourism. As we build back stronger, a little more about James, he is partner and cofounder of rogue marketing, uh, leading tourism, data analytics and consulting firm focused on helping tourism organizations become more data driven.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:23 So they are better positioned to navigate change, maximize travel visitation and ultimately drive revenue growth. James brings over 20 years of strategic knowledge and CRM, customer experience management, data and analytics, branding, and digital marketing strategy to his current role at ROV, we will get into how James and Rove helped destinations and marketers. But first I want to share this important message with you, James, thank you so much for joining us and I’m so looking forward to this conversation, and I know it’s going to be a good strategic conversation with you today, but before we get started, can you share a little bit about your story with our listeners in your own words? I find it adds just so much more context to the conversation.

James Sauter: 02:14 Yeah, sure. Nicole, thanks. And thanks for having me on the, on the podcast. This is a great, well, uh, jeez, I’m, uh, I’m from Montreal, not far from you. Um, and I’m, you know, I’m, uh, you know, I guess, uh, at heart I’m a, an advertising executive, um, where I spent, uh, probably the, the larger part of my career, um, working on the agency side. Um, but I had this, um, this, uh, you know, big interests that had been kind of building up from, from a young age to eventually start my own business. And, um, I’d say that about three years ago, um, uh, left the ad world and, um, and started Rove and, and RO is, is, it’s actually a kind of an interesting, because you know, in my last few years, um, you’re working at a large multinational ad agency. I started pitching more and more tourism clients, and that’s where I got introduced to, to the, the vertical, the industry.

James Sauter: 03:14 And I just found it, you know, so, um, amazing culture was fantastic. You know, I was used to kind of working in banking and telco and retail. And so when I started getting into tourism, uh, I thought, wow, this is just an amazing industry with amazing people. And the product is amazing. So, um, so when the bug started to, to hit me to really start my own business, uh, I thought, well, tourism looks like a pretty good place to go. And, uh, and the story, the story actually gets kind of really interesting around there because at the same time I had a client, um, that also wanted to start his own business. And so it’s kind of a little bit of romance there where the agency executive and the client executive came together and, um, and we formed a robe. So a little bit of story by me.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:03 Yeah. Uh, and that’s amazing. It’s, it’s been, I’m sure quite the journey over the last three years. Um, can you share with our listeners a little bit about Rove and, and the services that you provide and actually, as you’re doing that, if you could talk a little bit about kind of your vision and, and why you went in the direction that you went in with growth.

James Sauter: 04:23 Yeah, well, you know, I mean, you know, tourism before COVID, you know, all the numbers were, were pointing upward with tourism, right? The, the growth was, um, you know, projected, you know, you know, for as far as you could see in the pipe, it was going to keep growing. Um, and, and we thought tourism was a great place to go. And, and specifically within tourism though, you know, we want it to really land on data and technology. So, um, really wrote exists for the purpose of helping tourism organizations make better decisions. Um, now we do that, uh, by harnessing data and leveraging technologies, um, to make, you know, organizations more insight driven. There’s, there’s two ways that we go about that. Um, we, um, we have one area of the business that, uh, offers consulting services and that’s focused in data and analytics, and we work closely with clients, um, across the full spectrum, um, from upfront planning to implementation.

James Sauter: 05:16 And then the second area of the business is where we help organizations collect data. And in this area we found kind of a, an interesting gap in the market and that’s around quantifying the visitor experience. And so when we talk about quantifying the visitor experience in tourism, you know, the experience is the product. So, so what we’re talking about here is measuring the product. Um, but it’s, it’s quite challenging to go about that. Um, you know, when you’re looking at different visitor segments in different markets and different product, um, so we’ve got a suite of solutions that help us measure the visitor experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:50 Yeah. And I’m familiar with some of those solutions because you’ve been doing a lot of work since, uh, the COVID-19 pandemic, um, pretty much shut down, travel all across the world. And, um, talk a little bit about the types of data that you have been, you know, assisting tourism organizations with, even to get through this pandemic.

James Sauter: 06:12 Uh, you know, it’s, um, the depen DEMEC has been hard. Um, it’s been hard on our clients, um, hurt on the industry. Um, and so when, you know, back in March, um, you know, when it hit, we really kind of had to sit down and look at how do we, how do we help our clients, right. Um, how can we be there for them? Um, and so, you know, we, we started looking at some of the data that we have. So we collect a rating and review data, uh, at scale. So for a destination, um, you know, we can pull out all the, you know, restaurant reviews and all the hotel reviews, all the attraction reviews, park reviews, um, and then analyze that at scale so that you have an understanding of your, your performance, but of course, that, you know, when COVID hit and everything shut down, you know, there weren’t really a lot of experiences to measure.

James Sauter: 07:00 You know, we, we, we, we then kind of shifted more towards, um, mobile location data. And there was, um, you know, having spoken to our clients, we, we got a sense that they were going to need to know when we were going to start seeing some recovery happen. Um, and there was, there was large consensus across the industry that, that, that recovery was going to start very local, which it has. Um, but, but when it starts that local, it’s really hard to measure. Um, so we, um, we, we got with our tech providers and our data providers and, and thought of, uh, of, uh, you know, what kind of solutions could we offer our clients. And one of those was, um, kind of the, what we call the COVID recovery dashboard. Um, and it was really designed to help our clients, you know, get the early signals of recovery.

James Sauter: 07:46 Um, so we would measure, um, you know, visitation or mobility within a destination, um, understanding where people are, you know, going, where are they coming from, how long they’re staying, what are they doing? You know, their demographics and all of that data really helped, um, our clients, you know, start to see the early signs of recovery. And then of course, kind of in June and July, as we started to see that they could understand a little bit more as to where were they coming from? How far were they driving from, right. Um, what was their demographic and, and what, what areas within their destination was really kind of, you know, bringing that growth and, and, and, um, and the recovery. So really valuable information, um, at the early stages of the recovery.

Nicole Mahoney: 08:29 Right. And, um, talk a little bit about where your clients are located. Cause I, I know of course you, and I know each other because I work so much in New York state tourism and, you know, I’ve seen this data that you’ve done for in these dashboards you’ve created within New York state, but you’re creating these all over. Correct?

James Sauter: 08:49 Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, we’re really fortunate that we work with some really great organizations. Um, you know, we’ve got some clients in Asia, in Hong Kong that, you know, amidst all the chaos that’s happening in Hong Kong and China, but, you know, a compounded with the COVID, um, you know, the political unrest as well. Um, they’ve kind of, you know, kept with us and, and really saw the value in the visitor satisfaction data. You know, one of the key challenges that our clients are having is that, you know, we know that safety is a really big driver to a positive experience, um, before COVID, the safety was actually kind of the, it wasn’t that hard to create a safe environment, um, after COVID, it became incredibly difficult. And so a lot of our clients want to use the data to understand how to create a safe environment that met the visitor’s expectations, but yet not take away from the overall experience and collecting the visitor satisfaction data that we have really helped them quickly understand those expectations and make some adjustments to improve their experience.

James Sauter: 09:55 Um, we also work a lot in Europe and France is a big user of the data. Um, so again, talking about, you know, measuring the visitor experience, you know, France, um, uses the data to better, um, you know, plan out policies and grant funding. So, you know, for example, they, they use the data to uncover that, um, you know, the, the shopping hours, um, were, were subpar, right? You you’d have international visitors going to France and the stores would be closed when people want to buy. And, um, and, and, you know, from our perspective, it was kind of obvious right from North America. But, but from, from their perspective, it wasn’t that obvious. And so, um, when they saw the data, they realized that they had to make, um, kind of a sweeping change to be the hours of operation for some of the shopping, um, um, neighborhoods, um, around Paris, for example.

James Sauter: 10:50 And so they did that. So within, within, um, uh, you know, some of them were, you know, touristy areas in, in Paris. Um, the, the shopping areas are different now to accommodate the visitors. Um, in other areas around the rating system for hotels, they realized that the rating system was not consistent with the international rating system. And so people would be thinking that they’re booking a five star hotel, but they’re really getting a four star hotel and you’d be disappointed with the experience and our data allowed them to uncover this insight that really triggered kind of a revamp of how they, they rate their hotels, um, across the country. So a lot of, you know, destination development or oriented insights, um, but all towards ultimately improving the, um, the visitor experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:37 Yeah. I think that’s a, that’s really great. And so we, we’ve been talking a lot on this show about, uh, being more strategic and, um, you know, thinking about those recovery plans or, you know, future plans for bringing tourism back and building back better. And I’m curious, um, James, how our listeners might think about this type of data. So you’re talking about data that relates to the visitor experience, um, or other types of data that, you know, that your clients are using, um, as they’re thinking about building out those recovery plans.

James Sauter: 12:17 Yeah. You know, one product that I didn’t actually mention, uh, earlier on is our resident sentiment tools. So where we collect, um, at a global scale, um, resident sentiment data on tourism and, you know, before COVID a lot of the conversation was around overcrowding, right? The impact of tourism on local communities. And of course, you know, that conversation has completely shifted, um, from a resident’s perspective, but also, you know, what has stayed true is the importance of engaging residents in your overall tourism strategy. So, so the, our product, um, around the resident, um, has kind of taken on a bit of a different, um, purpose. And that purpose is that as, as destinations are looking to recover, um, and, and really almost kind of rebuild, um, you know, to do it, you know, with the resident in mind is very important. Um, but also to, to know that the resident is on board, um, gives them a better, um, let’s just say maybe a tailwind as they, you know, reach, um, for government grants.

James Sauter: 13:26 And they want to justify that they’ve got the residents support, especially if you’re going to, you know, look for taxpayer dollars to, to rebuild the industry. Um, knowing that you’ve got the resident on board, um, and in a supportive, um, community, um, is very important. Um, so it’s, uh, it’s another important product that we offer, um, and that aligns to the visitor experience. Um, because interestingly, the number one driver of a positive experience is the hospitality of residents. Um, so you really need to get those residents on board and, and now more than ever is important to be listening to them

Nicole Mahoney: 14:04 And talk a little bit about how that works, how you get that resident sentiment, uh, data, is this, uh, is this a survey mechanism that you’re putting in the field or are you scraping this data from somewhere? Or is it a combination?

James Sauter: 14:16 No, it’s, it’s actually, um, it is a survey tool. Um, so we, we collect the data through, uh, you know, panel data. Um, but we’ve been collecting data for quite a few years on this topic. And so we’ve got a trending data and, and our own proprietary indexes. So, um, you know, we’re, we’re able to, you know, develop indices. So, you know, kind of like a net promoter score, but for, for resident support, right. Um, use that as an example of one and there’s, you know, tourism, you know, growth support, right? So the support to, to growing the industry, um, and, and those metrics are benchmarked against, um, other destinations. So because we’ve got data on Barcelona and Venice and Dubrovnik and, you know, Paris, London, and major cities, New York city as well, um, you know, we’re able to, to, you know, study a destination and then look at the metrics or those metrics to other destinations that had similar challenges and then use the data in more of a predictive nature. Um, so that we know that if a certain index is sitting at four you’re, you’re okay, it’s not a problem yet, but it, once it gets to five or six, you’ve got to start addressing it. Um, so it allows you to prioritize your, your, your overall resident strategy, but also to look at it by, um, by population segment neighborhoods, um, demographics, et cetera.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:43 Yeah. And I think you’re really getting to something that I, that I believe is going to be a big part of those recovery plans, which is just that your, your resident’s strategy, um, which might be something that DMO is, you know, hadn’t really tapped into in the past, or hadn’t really incorporated into their planning perhaps. I mean, maybe on a destination development side of things, but, uh, when you think about a DMO, you know, in the marketing work that they do to, to attract visitors residents, weren’t necessarily part of that part of the plan. Um, but I think they are definitely going to play a much, much bigger role. Are you seeing with your clients, anyone that is, you know, really pulling that data in? Is it too early to tell how they’re, how they’re starting to think about that and recovery?

James Sauter: 16:33 Yeah. In fact, we are seeing that, um, we’re seeing it for two reasons. One, um, uh, they’re, they’re using the data to support funding and advocacy at the government level. Um, you know, just showing that they’ve got a supportive resident base, um, is, is, um, is very important, but also, you know, as, as campaigns are starting to emerge to, you know, to promote tourism, local tourism road trips, et cetera, it’s really important to make sure that you’ve got the resident on board and that there’s not backlash. Right. The last thing you want is to come out with your campaign. And then all of a sudden, you know, residents are complaining to media as to, you know, why are we attracting visitors to our region? Um, you know, we don’t want visitors. And then that really puts, you know, obviously, uh, um, the fork in the wheel, right. Um, uh, in terms of, of, of driving tourism and rebuilding it. So they want to understand where residents sit before they actually launched the campaign. Um, and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of traction.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:35 Yeah, absolutely. So I want to circle back and talk a little bit, um, about what you had talked about earlier, which was that mobile location data and those dashboards, um, and in kind of using that data to be ready, um, you know, to, to, uh, to be ready with your recovery plans or your marketing, um, and to be able to direct that marketing to where the audience is. And so I, I’m curious if you can elaborate a little bit as, as our listeners might be thinking about, you know, planning for recovery planning for the future, how they might interpret data such as your mobile location data or other data that you may suggest they look, look at, you know, so that they know when it is the right time to market and to which audiences.

James Sauter: 18:29 Yeah, for sure. So, you know, um, you know, the, those, those dashboards, um, you know, they were, they were designed for the recovery and, and of course now we’re kind of firmly entrenched in the recovery, um, you know, looking to maximize tourism during the summer months. And so the, the shift, um, uh, has actually started to occur in, in how we use the data to, to kind of promote tourism. Um, and so we’re, we’re using the data right now to identify, um, it was a whole bunch of reasons. One is to identify, uh, visitors that came to a destination last year, right. In 2019, and, and look at their debt, you know, their profile, their demographic, where they from their origin, how long did they stay and then use that data to remark it to those individuals, you know, with the assumption that obviously they would’ve had a good experience.

James Sauter: 19:20 Um, let’s see if we can bring them back, right. So it’s a great way to do digital or retargeting, um, but also for measurement purposes. So as the campaigns, uh, unfold, um, you know, there’s no, you know, hotel data is, is, is, is not, you know, totally complete. Um, of course, you know, flight data is not complete either. Um, so you’re looking for, um, a source of data that can help you measure visitation. And this data, the mobile location data certainly helps, um, identify where visitors are coming from. Um, how many are coming in? You know, what are they doing in destination? Um, and, um, and how long are they staying? Um, so, you know, for marketing purposes, as the campaign is unfolding, it certainly allows you to see, um, you know, to what extent your campaign is having an impact. We can pull that data on a monthly basis or even a weekly basis. Um, so it certainly allows you some, some great flexibility, um, to help optimize your campaigns.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:19 Yeah. And I think that that’s just so important to, especially when we’re in, you know, the situation that we’re in now, where you might start with marketing, you might start marketing in one area, and then all of a sudden that particular area might become a hotspot. And so that state no longer, you know, or that area no longer can travel to your destination. And so you have to shift gears and, um, it sounds like this mobile, uh, data well, really can help you target where you know where to go next. Right.

James Sauter: 20:49 Well, yeah. And, and, you know, one thing that, that we’re, we’re actually getting, um, more interest on, uh, is, is, is real time remarketing, um, and a little more costly, but, but being able to reach people when they’re actually in market. Um, so if a destination has a passport, for example, right. Or offers, you know, different passes that you can download online, um, being able to, um, identify in, you know, visitors that downloaded the past and then see them in, in market and remarket to them to promote the usage of the past, um, is just, you know, another level of how, you know, how much more optimized and, and targeted can we be right with the right place, right. Time type of message. Um, and in, in these days, you know, as, as we’re, you know, trying to get the most out of the, you know, the few months that we have, um, in this recovery, you know, it’s, it’s quite valuable. So just another area of how the data is really kind of coming in useful.

Nicole Mahoney: 21:48 Absolutely. So, James, I’m going to ask you this question about what kind of more of a longterm vision, um, which might be a longterm vision. We could, we could say it’s a reverse vision, pre pandemic pre pandemic, but I’m curious, you know, I’ve seen a lot of, uh, uh, a lot of folks talking about 20, 21. Hopefully it’s going to be like a stabilization year, 20, 22, we’ll start to be rebuilding 20, 23, if all goes, well, we could be back to pre pandemic levels for travel. And, um, so we talked a lot about how data can help us as we rebuild, but what, what else can it do for us when we’re in a, you know, a new normal, or, you know, we’re built back to a better, to a better state that we were in before, where are some of the uses that this data can really help, um, CMOs and marketers just be a lot more strategic.

James Sauter: 22:44 Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s such a good question. And, um, you know, you’re talking about 20, 23 and my biggest challenge right now is, is what is January gonna look like?

Nicole Mahoney: 22:57 Right.

James Sauter: 22:58 But, you know, we’re, it’s, you know, at the core of, of, of, of tourism is an experience. Um, and, you know, Europe has been really good at doing this and focusing on improving that experience, they know that the experience is really good. You know, people are more likely to come back, right? People are more likely to talk about it. Um, people are more likely to spend more money. Um, we know that that’s true because we’re tourist ourselves and when we have a good experience, all those things happen. And so if you focus on improving the experience, um, you know, the rest will take care of itself. The data that that we focus on is, is, is really geared towards that as, as you kind of bring it to the here and now, um, you know, we’re really focusing, helping our clients accelerate out of the recovery.

James Sauter: 23:49 Um, and when I say accelerate, I mean, you know, if, if a museum, um, opens up and, and they don’t meet consumer expectations on safety, and then all of a sudden the reviews start to happen saying, yeah, I didn’t really feel that safe, you know, or the value for money isn’t there. Um, then the reviews are like, well, it’s it wasn’t worth it. Right. And, and that just that, that doesn’t do any help to, to bring people back and, and, and get people, you know, going to attractions and restaurants and hotels and stuff like that. So what we want to do is, is provide as quickly as we can almost in real time that visitor feedback data, so that, you know, attractions and destinations can understand, you know, how are they doing from that? You know, that, that COVID that safety perspective and creating an overall enjoyable experience. The sooner we can learn from the consumer, the sooner we can get that data and then implement change to become better and improve the better the experience is going to be. And with a better experience, you know, the more people are going to come back. Um, so that’s a little bit of the here and now strategy of how we’re trying to help our clients, you know, quickly kind of reopened successfully and stay open and do it in a way that that creates a safe and enjoyable experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:10 Yeah. I think that’s a really great point. And I appreciate that. You said, you know, I’m just trying to figure out what’s going to happen in January. Cause I know many of us that’s what we’re trying to do. Um, but I also believe that we have to have that long view of where we’re going, um, as well. And so what I find interesting about this visitor feedback data is not just, you know, how it will impact, uh, the here and now, as you mentioned, but also how that’s kind of the building blocks for the future, right? Because as the, as the visitors have more positive experiences and that good, that, that brings more people in and the experience evolves as we get hopefully further and further away from this, uh, pin to hammock. Uh, and then it just kind of builds on, on each other. Right? Yeah.

James Sauter: 25:58 I mean, I, I would, I would add, you know, like if, if I, if I were to just come back and maybe answer the question that you asked around 20, 23, um, you know, I see, you know, this kind of leads into the other side of our business, um, which is the data consulting and, um, you know, there’s so much data right. In, in, in tourism right now. And what we see is there’s a lot of, you know, destinations that, um, are, are having a hard time wrangling all that data. Right. You know, how do I get the right data at the right person at the right time to make the right decision? Um, fortunately there are some, some really great technologies. Um, so in the area kind of more business intelligence platforms that are, um, you know, coming down in price yet, you know, the features and functionality are really well equipped for tourism destinations.

James Sauter: 26:47 And, and you know, what we see is, you know, we’re seeing this a lot in Canada and now emerging into the U S is that, you know, the ability to harness that data and to leverage technology, to harness that data is becoming more accessible to a wider, you know, a wider spectrum of GMOs. Um, and so as, as we kind of look to, to recover out of COVID and then see that, that, that, you know, that volume come back, that, that also what will come back as a sense of, of need to reshape deemos, um, you know, with, with a data driven approach. Um, so that they’re, they’ve got kind of, uh, you know, they’re better set up to kind of handle some of these, these disruptions in the future, um, and using their data.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:32 Yeah. And do you, do you see these technologies being able to help deemos um, you talk about harnessing the power. I know one of the, you know, one of the challenges that not just demos a lot of marketers have is if they aren’t, um, specialized in data analytics, you know, being able to pull those strategic insights out or being able to interpret the data, do you see that, um, you know, maybe through some of these technologies or, or BI tools, um, assisting, you know, with being able to find those strategic insights?

James Sauter: 28:07 Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s a good point. Um, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of, uh, a lot of agencies, a lot of companies that understand destination management really well. There’s a lot of companies that understand data really well. There’s a lot of companies that understand technology really well. Um, what we’ve found is that there’s not a lot of companies that understand all of those right destination management data and technology, and how all three work together, um, to deliver those insights. And so what, what we provide on, on the consulting side is, is that knowledge, right. That expertise, so that, um, you know, as a DMO, if they’re not too sure, what is the right insight? How do I structure the data? What dashboards should I be looking at? What is the right KPI? That’s where we, you know, um, I have the value, um, and, um, you know, and, and with, with the, the flexibility that offers some of these, you know, the, the business intelligence platforms is that we’re able at a pretty affordable price to structure the data environment. So it’s uniquely customized to the needs of the demo. Um, and each demo is, is, you know, there’s some similarities between them, but there’s also some differences. And so that customization is important, um, at the, you know, at the, at the board level, at the executive level. And then of course, you know, how the, the DMO operates day to day, day to day.

Nicole Mahoney: 29:34 Absolutely. James, I want to switch gears just a little bit and talk about collaboration. Um, it’s a, it’s a big theme on this show and, and I happen to believe that collaboration is going to play a very important role in recovery and in how tourism succeeds in the future. And I’m curious when I, uh, mentioned the word collaboration to you, or, or this other word that I like to use, which is this whole idea of coopertition where perceived competitors come together to create something bigger than they can on their own. I’m wondering when we apply those concepts, collaboration, competition to data where you see that can really bring some value.

James Sauter: 30:19 Yeah. These are good questions, Nicole,

Nicole Mahoney: 30:21 You know, I like to ask hard ones, James, I told you that. Right.

James Sauter: 30:27 Um, I would, you know, uh, first of all, I would say that if it wasn’t for collaboration, I don’t know where we’d be through COVID. Um, so, you know, I would say like the secretariats and we’ve had some, some success through COVID unfortunately, and I would say that that success comes on the heels of, of amazing collaboration with our data partners and our tech partners. Um, and, and, you know, the, the output of that is, is really providing solutions to our clients that, um, are low cost, um, you know, and it really hit on where the value needs to be. Um, when we talk about, you know, coopertition and, um, you know, you know, bringing different groups together, you know, I, I, I just think, you know, now’s not the time to be competing. Um, now’s the time to be, you know, working together with the interests, the best interest of the deemos and, and rebuilding, um, tourism.

James Sauter: 31:27 Um, we don’t have the luxury to, to, to compete. And, and I, I, you know, I, I applaud, um, you know, what we’re seeing in the industry around the webinars, and there’s a lot of webinars and, um, you know, everybody coming together, I think it’s great. Um, and it, it really actually shows, um, uh, you know, the true culture of the industry when we need to, we’ve got to come together and help each other, you know, we’re, you know, in terms of coopertition, you know, we’re, we’re bringing different data sets together. So we talked about the mobile data and understanding where people are coming from and what are they doing, but then, you know, overlapping that data with visitor expectation data. So, um, you know, those are two different data sets. Um, but, you know, as you understand where people are coming in to your region, you know, going in and speaking to, you know, the, the, the, the business, the tourism business operators, you know, along those corridors, as traffic corridors, right.

James Sauter: 32:24 And, and making sure that they understand what visitors are expecting in terms of experience and making sure that that experience is, um, uh, is top notch, um, or else you’re, you’re, you’re really going to trip, right. Um, viewing the, in a negative way and that doesn’t help. So there’s, you know, I, I, I’m going to kind of rise above things here and just say that philosophically, I think the industry is doing a great job at, um, at collaborating. Um, and I think it’s the key to, you know, to kind of getting out of this, um, this difficult pandemic.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:58 Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. I, I, I love how you talked about it, you know, a really a Testament to how this industry operates. Um, and I know collaboration is very integral to, you know, even pre COVID how this, uh, how the tourism industry operated. Um, but I also know that there’s some collaborations that you’ve been working on, um, at least in New York state, and I believe elsewhere, um, where we’re looking at larger data sets and being able to pull insights maybe based on, uh, an entire vacation region, for example, can you talk a little bit about that as well? Like how this data can be broader than perhaps just, you know, a single destination, but still add value to the broader vacation region?

James Sauter: 33:47 Well, yeah, there’s, it’s interesting. We’re, we’re, we’re running a collaboration right now with us travel, um, where we’re using the data to, um, track visitation at us national parks. Um, and we’ve been running this, um, this dashboard now for a few months, um, and we’ve really been able to identify kind of, you know, where, um, so, you know, when is that, that traffic kind of building in the parks, um, and, and we saw it, you build, and it was quite exciting as we kind of saw the traffic kind of build within, you know, state parks and national parks. And then, you know, and then we’ve actually kind of more recently seen it peak. Um, and we’ve had three consecutive weeks of decline at the parks now, which is really interesting, which either suggests that we’re at capacity or we’ve got back to school on the horizon and stuff like that.

James Sauter: 34:37 Um, but you kinda more, interestingly, you know, within, if you talk kind of a broader kind of type of destination parks are attracting, um, are really large drive market. Um, so, you know, we’re, we’re, we’ve also got the same data in New York state and New York state is, is really showing that, you know, the 50 to 60% of visitation is happening within 25 miles, um, the parks, um, and this is true for state and for national level parts, the parts are actually attracting visitation from a hundred miles out, um, you know, 200 miles out and that’s the majority. Um, so when you’re looking at that, you’re saying, well, you know, parts of doing a great job at bringing in, you know, heads and beds, right? Because at a hundred miles, you’re, you’re now attracting a higher value visitor, that’s going to stay longer. Um, but not only that, we’re able to also identify the corridors in which, you know, visitors are kinda coming in, um, and, and understanding those quarters helps, um, park organizers and tourism boards, you know, better prepare the, that are in those corridors, um, to serve the visitors, um, and do a better job.

James Sauter: 35:43 Um, you know, also, um, you know, as we had to dig deeper, you know, from that level, we go deeper, we look at what are the attractions, um, you know, doing, and, and what is the composition of a visitor to different types of attractions? You know, one of our favorite ones, you know, the baseball hall of fame in New York, not far from you, um, you know, is attracting a visitor, um, from, you know, over a hundred miles out. Um, and that’s great for the region, right. And, and understanding that is really good insight and good information, um, to help shape, um, you know, how do you get the most out of, of that visitor, um, and to support the baseball hall of fame?

Nicole Mahoney: 36:19 Absolutely. Yeah. I think those are, those are great examples, and I love that, you know, really understanding, um, especially right now in the middle of a pandemic, which attractions and parks, um, are attracting that higher value visitor, and then how you, you know, tap into that visitor, how you, um, take advantage of it for the entire region, or, you know, for those, for that corridor, as you mentioned. So, um, I think that’s a fantastic, uh, example. I appreciate your sharing that. So James, this has been an interesting conversation, as I knew it would be. Um, do you have any final thoughts? Is there anything that you wanted to share with us that I didn’t ask you about, um, before we say goodbye,

James Sauter: 37:04 You know, I, I maybe, um, uh, encouraging words, uh, you know, there’s, there’s a, a famous quote from Winston Churchill, never let a good crisis go to waste. Um, and I think, uh, you know, this is a great opportunity, uh, for us to, um, reshape the industry, um, to learn, um, to do things better, um, to be curious and inquisitive, to work together. Um, and, and I, I, I believe, uh, maybe I’m very optimistic here, but I believe that the, uh, the tourism industry is going to come out stronger post COVID 10, then we were going into COVID. Um, and, um, so be we must stay optimistic, right?

Nicole Mahoney: 37:47 Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And, uh, I, I’m the eternal optimist right there with you, James. I do believe we’re going to come out stronger. Uh, so I, I love those words of advice. And, and one last question before we say goodbye, where can our listeners, uh, catch up with you? How do they find you?

James Sauter: 38:05 Yeah, for sure. You can go to our website, um, at, uh, RO marketing.ca uh, or you can send me an email. I have to James dot solder@rovemarketing.ca. And we’d love to hear from, from anyone and everyone love to meet new people.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:23 Absolutely. Thank you so much, James. And we’ll look forward to catching up with you again, hopefully on the other side of this pandemic, and we’ll see where, where we’ve gone and what the data tells us about it. Absolutely looking forward to that, Nicole, thank you very much. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our influencer ebook that gives you the inside. Look at how my agency break the ice media implements influencer marketing for our tourism clients. The book goes into detail on all of the tools that we use to find that niche manage and measure influencers. You’ll find information on key follower benchmarks. How did that influence or channels getting your destination partners on board, creating itineraries, managing influencer expectations and measuring for ROI. Visit break the ice media.com forward slash influencers to download the full ebook that’s break the ice media.com forward slash influencers.

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