Summer 2020 Facebook Advertising Results


The numbers are in! Here’s how Facebook advertising performed for our travel clients this summer.

The COVID pandemic may have slowed down some parts of the travel sector, but most of our clients were still dependent upon advertising to help drive revenue. Regardless of their budget, clients want to know what return they’re getting on their investment (measured as ROAS: Return on Ad Spend), and of course, we work hard to measure and maximize that return.

Since we already have the numbers, we wanted to share them. Today we’re looking back at the summer 2020 results by tourism category, and by campaign type.

Results by Category

Food Tours & Treats includes non-tour products and services (food boxes, etc.). This was a challenging year overall for food tour companies, and search trend data shows that the demand for these tours lags behind almost every other category of travel.

Two categories were intentionally excluded from the chart: 1) indoor attractions had a 10.6x ROAS, but the investment was limited. 2) Team building ROAS isn’t trackable in quite the same way that other types of activities are.

The whitewater rafting results are better than the report indicates. One of our clients had revenue data being significantly under-reported to Facebook during this period. We’re confident that this was well above 5x, which is typically our minimum target.

Results by Campaign Type

We categorized campaign types as follows:

  • Discovery: Reaching people who haven’t yet engaged with your brand.
  • Remarketing: Reaching people who have engaged with your brand (visited your site, watched your video, etc.)
  • Full Funnel: In some cases, we use a single campaign to handle both Discovery and Remarketing, and the separation happens inside the campaign itself.

It’s typical to see Discovery campaigns showing a much lower return than Remarketing (also known as Retargeting) campaigns. There are two main reasons:

  1. Retargeting is much more focused. It’s more cost-effective to market to the small list of customers and prospects that have already expressed interest in your tour or activity, than to reach entirely new people.
  2. Attribution. Facebook attributes revenue to the last ad that influenced the purchase. If someone ends up in your retargeting campaign because of a discovery ad, and they then purchase, 100% of that revenue gets attributed to retargeting. It’s dangerous to judge the success of either campaign type by looking at their respective ROAS numbers; they should often be considered in aggregate. (That statement cannot be extrapolated to other measurement; often, aggregate data is less useful than segmented data.)

In almost all cases, it would be a mistake to look at this chart and choose to shift 100% of ad spend to remarketing campaigns. While it would increase your ROAS, it would decrease revenue. Discovery ads help bring people into your marketing funnel, so they’re an important part of any operator’s growth strategy.

Results by Category & Campaign Type

As mentioned above, the whitewater rafting results are under-reported here; performance was better than shown here.

Why does the Discovery/Remarketing gap vary so much by category? There are at least a couple of potential reasons:

  • Location. Some tours and attractions are in destination locations, and reaching new people during the planning stage can be expensive. While we can try to build a profile of someone interested in a historical tour of Boston (or trust Facebook’s algorithm to target a lookalike audience built from your customer list), we can’t necessarily target the entire country to hopefully reach everyone considering a trip to Boston.
  • Audience Targeting Accuracy. Some signals of intent or affinity can be stronger than others. For example, we (or in some cases, Facebook) might be better at identifying prospective zipliners than prospective escape room participants.

Next Up: Fall and Holidays

With the summer behind us, we’ve transitioned to new messaging, as discussed in 6 Ways to Boost Tour Revenue With Timely & Targeted Messaging.


About The Author

Nathan Andrew

Nate is passionate about helping companies reach their goals through integrated digital marketing campaigns and local SEO. He loves helping tour and activity company leaders stay focused on the numbers that matter, and fostering sustainable long term growth and profitability.