Why Benchmarking is Critical for Destinations

Our recent release of mark has created a wealth of conversations…both online and offline…about the value and need for benchmarking. Some peers understand the possibilities instantly, while others require a gentle nudge to realize the value of shared data.

Regardless of report, benchmarking, or more specifically, sharing knowledge is critical for the continued success of destination marketing organizations.

Once you move beyond the childish, let’s see who is better perspective on the data, benchmarking has the ability to create smarter marketers, provide much needed analysis and build advocacy for the industry at-large.

I have seen it happen.

And it will happen again.

7 Reasons Why Benchmarking is Critical for Destinations

Provides a Measure of Success

For nearly all DMOs and CVBs, the current benchmark process is simply a measurement against one’s self. Month over month, quarter over quarter, year over year. While this approach to measurement is fine, it only provides a narrow indication of your organization’s progress.

Spoiler alert: everyone’s charts have an arrow that is pointing up and heading to the right.

Sure, that 20% growth looks positive, but how would your perspective change if you knew that your 5 closest competitors were growing at 80%?

Provides Insight into a Campaign

Look, I love agencies. I work with some smart people at a variety of agencies. And goodness knows there are some solid, reputable ones out there. But you know what, very few agencies will ever tell a client that a campaign was anything but a smashing success. Start up the spin and hold on. Benchmarking allows a destination to compare success, and ideally budget, to determine if that $10m campaign delivered the same results as your neighbor’s $2m campaign.

Makes You Smarter

Add up measurement and insight, boom, you just became a smarter marketer. And it did not take a Ph.D or a 25-page report to figure it out. Clear analytic benchmarking allows you to see trends and react, based upon real analysis.

Suddenly you now have a concrete answer to the question of how are we doing?

Makes The Industry Smarter

It is simple. By pooling data, reporting anonymously and comparing results, the destination marketing industry (DMOs, CVBs, NTOs, etc.) can become smarter as a group. Best practices, white papers and case studies are all possible due to the centralization of data and the ability to report from it.

As our industry learns from this knowledge, we can then apply this experience into better decision-making, cost-savings and overall tourism advocacy. The potential is massive, simply because you shared information.

A rising tide lifts all boats. (Thanks Casey.)

Nimble and Adaptable

Reporting on progress each year, or in some cases every 3 or 5 years, is simply not fast enough in this new digital age. During my time at AOT, I can recall receiving the 2007 report…five months into 2008. Massive research studies and reports have a place in our overall research toolbox, but relying on that data to make the quick, strategic decisions required in the current marketing environment is simply not feasible.

You need answers now. You need analysis of your competition now. And you need to take action, now.


Continuing on the idea of benchmarking as an alternative to the traditional, large and lengthy research report, fact is, only a small percentage of our DMO and CVB peers will have access or even use the data contained in that type of report. The beauty of starting your measurement research with benchmarking is there is always a DMO of similar make-up to compare against.

Large or small, rural or urban, leisure or convention.

And by comparing metrics between similar destinations, you can gain valuable insight at a fraction of the cost.

CYA Friendly

Unfortunate, but true. For some, benchmarking will be a solution to the need for a CYA (cover your ass) report. While the intellectual purist in me does not really want to admit that this is a true reason, the DMO veteran inside realizes that it is. If you are fighting for dollars and proclaiming your value to a board, member or Senator, it always helps to have data that makes you look good.

And perhaps makes you look smarter as well.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.