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Tourism Marketing KPIs

I often hear the term “holistic marketing” used interchangeably with something that seems like “spray-and-pray” marketing. Marketers are often pressured to be active everywhere in the hope that something is going to work.

Ironically, this type of overload prevents those marketers from reviewing – or doing anything with – the data to see which noodle actually sticks to the wall.

While you need an integrated approach, it doesn’t mean that you should do everything at once. Holistic marketing is based on the relationship between one channel or activity and another and improving the journey between those tactics.

Yes, you need to be active on the digital channels that matter. Team members should be present at the in-person events and locations that produce high ROI. You also need to quickly calculate your return often. At the same time, there are a lot of activities that don’t produce results, yet they persist “because everyone else is doing it”. Those activities need to stop, and this process will help you determine where those time-suckers are.

These steps below will help you channel your strength to where you need it, and prevent burnout from things that simply don’t matter.

Re-evaluate the Activities

Tourism marketing KPIs may vary from place to place. However, there is one that everyone counts: revenue. If you want to get true focus on your results, concentrate on the actions that improve visitor spend. Put revenue attribution at the core of your performance indicators.

Below is a handy matrix we use to achieve clarity on the KPIs that truly matter. You can use this formula for everything from tour marketing to conferences to social media channels.

This matrix is very simplified from how we determine strengths and monitor attribution but I’ll explain how it works.

Column Breakdown

Marketing Activity. In this column, you can name pretty much anything but it’s best to list things that are moderately specific. Don’t list an entire marketing category (tour operator outreach or your website). Instead, look at social media channels, types of content, etc.

Current ROI. Sure, measuring ROI is tough in any industry and the tourism sector is no exception. However, you can determine visitor traffic and click-throughs to other sites (hotels, museums, parks, etc.) in Google Analytics. Rate the ROI on a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the goal. This will be the most important determining factor in establishing tourism marketing KPIs.

The most important KPIs you have are the ones directly tied to revenue, like cost per visitor, cost per audience growth %, and so on. The measurement of likes, comments, and so on are indicators – they’re vanity metrics. Sure, they give you an idea of content popularity, but they’re not the goal. We see so many clients that rely on these “vanity metrics”; they can prove to be more of a distraction than anything else.

Growth Potential. Is this activity a growing online platform? Have you just started using it? Will it be a critical piece of an upcoming campaign? If so, rate it accordingly – the same way I mentioned above. If you don’t see much change coming from using the channel in the future, consider giving it a moderate to low score.

Automation Potential. There are some activities that we simply need to do, but they take up more time than they’re worth. Review the possibility of using a platform like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule social media posts on lower-performing channels (I’m looking at you, Twitter).

Similarly, consider automation in your email marketing platform to greet and nurture new subscribers. MailChimp‘s email automation is especially intuitive.

Final Score. Take the average of the preceding columns to give you a final rating of the activity. An activity of a score from 1-2 tells you it’s a time-waster that should be scrapped in favor of activities with 4-5 scores.

Cut the Fat

In the example above, you’ll see that the first activity isn’t performing currently. Its outlook for growth isn’t that great, but it can be automated. A final score of 3 tells you that it can go either way but it won’t produce significant ROI.

The second activity provides decent ROI now but the outlook is pretty rough and there’s no hope to automate any of it. This should definitely be scrapped.

The third activity is a prime driver of revenue that you can see sticking with for a long time. It can’t be automated but it still receives a high score. The recommendation for this activity would be to see how else it can be used to its potential.

Moving forward, pay attention to action vs. revenue. For example, if you want to grow hotel reservations, you need to look at the activities (website traffic growth) and divide that growth percentage by the number of outbound clicks from your website to hotel sites.

Remember, tourism marketing KPIs – just like other industries – rely on their impact on the bottom line.

Get expert insight from our destination brand assessment!

Next, Audit Your Content

Next, you may want to optimize the content you publish.

As destinations, there is rarely a shortage of things to talk about on social, email, event calendars, TV/radio, third-party sites, etc. There are the events you host, events from partners and local businesses, team member spotlights, scenic photos, promotional campaigns – the list is seemingly endless.

However, not all of your content is hitting the mark. One post can generate 300+ likes on Instagram, followed by one with only 25. Facebook can be driving website traffic while Twitter is a ghost town. Take a look at your channel and content performance and determine the following:

  • days and times of day produce the most engagement
  • topics resonate the most with your audience
  • content types perform better than others (outbound links vs. links to partner Facebook pages; video vs. image galleries, etc.)
  • Performance of ads or boosted posts

Once again, our approach is more complex. We use a 14-step process in our content review that also covers search engine optimization, email audience list health/segmentation, and a ton of other factors. These four high-level areas can help you in narrowing down and concentrating on delivering content that resonates with your audience.

New Tourism Marketing KPIs

Now that you’ve reduced your activities to the ones that truly matter, and you rely on revenue-based KPIs, it’s time to bring in some that also reflect the health of your community. These are rare exceptions to the “revenue-only” principle but they’ll forecast future growth.

  • Diversity-related metrics, which include periodic audits of your marketing materials, website, and social media content t make sure all audiences are represented. Promote to a larger, diverse audience and you’ll receive a larger, diverse audience.
  • Civic pride, which can be reflected in community surveys, email marketing, and volunteer registration for events.
  • Geolocation data from credit card reporting, Google Analytics, and practically every digital channel. Credit card reporting is particularly helpful since you can tie regions to revenue.
  • Reflection of your mission and values. This is often referred to as being “on brand”, using messaging that reflects the values of your community. If verbal guidelines have been created for your brand, this almost manages itself. In that case, a quarterly review is all you need.

Finally, one that’s truly COVID-inspired:

  • Couple visitor spending with hotel utilization. Don’t look at “heads in beds” alone since that doesn’t show the full picture of your visitation. We’re in a road trip economy for the next year at least, so keep an eye on visitor spending with merchants, restaurants, and attractions since many – if not most – of your visitors may only be there for the day.

Our audiences have changed dramatically over the past year or so. We need to refine and reconsider our tourism marketing KPIs if we want to impact revenue attribution and build a strong community.


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Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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