5 Tools for Tourism Consumer Research

A major component of our service design consulting with tourism organizations (DMOs, RTOs, CVBs) is observing the tourist to understand their behavior, motivations and path throughout the entire tourism experience to develop a strategy reflective of the consumer.

Traditionally, this process has been completed using the traditional intercept survey method or perhaps even shadowing consumers as they experience a destination.

However, both methods are limited by the scale and commitment required to capture unbiased responses and interactions from the consumer.

Fortunately, the iPhone or Android device in your hand is capable of doing much more than capturing selfies or playing Candy Crush Saga.

Our firm has adapted a variety of journaling, fitness and survey apps as consumer research tools for tourism strategy development and found particular success with the 5 tools listed below.


Mapping running data with R, via FlowingData.

Part of the larger MapMyFitness group, MapMyWalk is an application targeted at fitness-focused consumers allowing the monitoring of the health benefits of your exercise routine (also available for those who prefer running, biking or hiking).

While the exercise component is useful, we are more interested in utilizing the app to understand the most common path for tourists in a downtown core, large resort or convention center.

(Unfortunately, client confidentiality agreements won’t allow us to show a sample map from our analysis, but enjoy the above map of common running routes around Paris via FlowingData.)

Using the app in this modified format helped us identify the best places to park a mobile visitors center for a past DMO client.


A similar app to MapMyWalk but with an additional layer of location-based data and a gorgeous UI dubbed Storyline. With Moves (recently picked up by Facebook), we are looking at walking patterns in a specific geographic area while also receiving POI data when a consumer walks into a Starbucks or lingers in front of the local art gallery.

The passive nature of the app (read, the user does not have to tell it where they are) ensures data accuracy and provides a much clearer picture of a consumers spatial behavior with a tourism destination.

Because sometimes, the destination is so beautiful, you forget where you actually went.

Day One

Because of the persistent data collection of your mobile device, journaling apps have removed the need to constantly record information to create a comprehensive journal / scrapbook. Although, some would argue the digital consumer is just lazy.

Regardless, apps like Day One summarize both passive (location, time, weather) and direct data collection (photos, notes, thoughts) into a single journal experience.

Again, while originally meant for personal use, the data captured by Day One provides our clients and the resulting strategy a digital shadowing method that is far less invasive (than actually following someone around) and far more accurate in terms of tourist behavior.


Named after the infamous question (where were you when Kennedy was shot?), Kennedy is a journaling application to mark moments with context.

While the application does require active interaction to create an event, we have used this feature with past clients to highlight and photograph either very positive or very negative service moments during the progression of their tourism experience.

The photo is a quick action for the consumer and the app fills in accurate consumer research with location, date / time and weather conditions.


Reporter in action for a recent tourism consulting client.A research app built by a data nerd. Nicholas Felton’s brilliant annual reports have been shared for years and the drive for more data is the reason behind Reporter.

Yes, survey apps exist in the App Store, but none possess the UI, flexibility and methodology of Reporter. Out of the box (or App Store?), Reporter asks the user and common tasks (Where are you? Who are you with?) at set intervals (every 30 minutes, hour, etc.) throughout the day.

Fascinating and enjoyable to use.

But the flexibility of the app is where our clients see the most value. Create custom questions (while deleting the pre-set ones), response options, reminder intervals and triggers.

Our client projects have utilized the app to engage visitors, conference attendees and residents throughout the entire travel planning experience — rather than just the beginning or end.

Like Day One or Kennedy, Reporter allows us to visualize and record consumer behavior in (near) real-time and with improved accuracy when compared to a survey.

The difference is capturing what the consumer is actually doing versus documenting what the consumer thinks they did.

With each tool, consumer participation is required. These are not anonymous reporting apps, but require access to the consumer (and their mobile device) and in some cases explanation and education to use them correctly.

Think of it as intercepting the consumer before they start experiencing the destination, rather than after.

Mobile apps are more than just status updates and staying connected, for Travel 2.0 Consulting Group they are a critical tool to develop a comprehensive profile of our consulting client’s tourism consumer, the destination experience and the resulting strategy.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.