Friday, November 12, 2010

Ministry of Tourism Research Tools Improve Decision Making

I like numbers. Anyone who follows me knows that I'm always advocating - and sometimes pleading - for people to understand the myriad of consumer travel data as it relates to making sound investment and marketing decisions within the tourism industry. As many know, I'm proud that all of our strategic decisions are made using consumer research.

The days of building product for selfish reasons ("well I think its neat, therefore everyone else will" syndrome) and "spray and pray" marketing approaches that hit everyone hoping something will stick are ineffective and irresponsible approaches to planning and execution.

One of the single best free sources of such data to help us all make informed decisions is the Ministry of Tourism. Past and current performance, travel motivator studies (TAMS) and regional economic profiles provide significant ammunition to help both public and private sector tourism partners make informed decisions that enhance chances for success.

With the recent move over to the regional tourism organization framework, the Ministry has even updated data to reflect the regional tourism profiles of all thirteen regions, including Northern Ontario's sub regions.

Even the presentations provided at the 2010 Ontario Tourism Summit have already been posted online so those that couldn't write fast enough at the sessions or couldn't attend in person, has access to the same great insights as everyone else.

When I get asked for advice from operators about making their business more successful, the first question is ask is "Do you have a business plan?" I hear some that do, some that wrote one when they first opened and some who respond "huh?" Having a business plan, including a strong marketing and financial component is critical to starting out (essential if you're applying for financing) and updating that plan annually or even bi-annually is not a bad idea as markets can change rapidly. For an established business, even an annual marketing plan is a good start. At the end of the day, these are some of the most basic questions you need to have answers for.

  • Who is your client
  • What do they value in a travel experience
  • Where do they live
  • How do they shop
  • What are they willing to pay for your experience
  • what will it cost to reach them and deliver on their expectations

...and this is where the research helps you.

In Northern Ontario, we've had, for far too long, a culture of entitlement expecting the government to do everything for us and hand out grant money, all the while berating them for not doing what we want them too. The single most important level of support that can be provided to our regional tourism industry is information. Its up to us to take the initiative, act like entrepreneurs and leaders, and embrace this plethora of information to chart our own future as a financially sustainable industry.

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