The Missing Benchmark: Current Customer Demand (And How To Find It)

 
Brian Nicholson

When you’re evaluating how business is going in a given month, you’re probably comparing revenue and traffic to the previous year. 

Of course, there are probably periods in your data (such as 2020-2022) during which your revenue hasn’t followed typical seasonal trends. In cases like this, simple year-over-year comparisons—without context—can be misleading. 

For example, this client saw a 404% year-over-year revenue increase in May 2022. However, that improvement is more about a slow May 2021 than a strong May 2022.

That’s why we create charts like the one above, to show multiple years of data. Despite a huge year-over-year increase, this business’s revenue is down 13% vs. 2019. 

This data leaves a lingering question: Is this good? The answer depends—in part—on how much the customer demand has shifted. 

The charts below are samples, with the black line representing theoretical customer demand.

If 2022 customer demand looks like this, the company is outperforming the market.If 2022 customer demand looks like this, the company is underperforming.
If 2022 customer demand looks like this, the company is outperforming the market.
If 2022 customer demand looks like this, the company is underperforming.

Another way to look at this: If your website’s search traffic is down vs. May 2021, is that because:

  • People are just searching less for your region or activity?

    -or-
  • You’re getting beaten by the competition?

Using Search Volume As A Benchmark

Google Search Trends data can be useful if there’s a high-volume search term that serves as a good proxy for your own market demand. Google’s normal Search Trends report doesn’t make year-over-year comparisons easy, so we recommend our Tourism Search Trends Tool, which uses Google Search Trends data, with a focus on multi-year comparisons. This data is indexed on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing peak demand.

Another source of search volume is the free Keyword Planner in Google Ads. However, we’ve found that this data doesn’t always line up with the search trends report, likely due to the Keyword Planner using broad match methodology.

We have not yet conducted a study to see how well this data lines up against other demand data, so we do not recommend using this as your only source of truth.

Your search term is crucial

The value of this data as a measure of customer demand depends on how good of a proxy the search term is for your own tour, activity, or attraction. It’s best to pick multiple search terms rather than a single one. And some businesses will have better “proxies” available than others.

Look out for non-travel-intent searches

Be careful about the impact of the news on search demand. For example, Yellowstone National Park was in the news in June 2022 due to flood-related closures, which will drive up search traffic even though much of that traffic does not represent current interest in travel. Another example: when we were benchmarking search data for the phrase “escape room,” we found huge spikes in 2019 and 2021 due to the release of movies by that name.

Searching doesn’t mean booking

There is, of course, a difference between people searching for, booking, and being in, a destination.

Using DMO Data As A Benchmark

Getting actual visitor count data from the local DMO, parks service, etc. provides an even better benchmark when such data is available. Watch your own guest count relative to DMO data to track your market share over time.

In the example below, an O’ahu company can see that the visitor count is 18% below where it was in 2019, so a guest count drop of about 18% could be expected, and anything better than an 18% drop could be considered a win.

Visitor arrival data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority (https://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/research/monthly-visitor-statistics/)

Additional Data Sources

Our Tourism Recovery Trackers Roundup has more data sources that are useful for this research, such as Kayak’s Flight Search Trends, Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index, and more.

Kayak’s Flight Search Trends shows search interest for flights to destination cities.

Tip: Check Your Own Data Quality

When comparing two pieces of data, you need to know that both of them are accurate.

It’s common for us to find data quality issues when we onboard new clients. For example, one client was sending very little data to Google Analytics in May 2021 due to a configuration problem, so their own year-over-year May 2022 data needed to be ignored even though it looked great. This is why we perform a measurement audit for all new clients.

Being able to trust your data is important. If you’re looking for a tourism marketing agency with deep expertise in measurement, we’d love to chat.

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About The Author

Brian Nicholson

Brian is a partner at Blend Marketing. He focuses on brand strategy, positioning, and analytics for the tourism industry.

Email Brian

About The Author

Brian Nicholson

Brian is a partner at Blend Marketing. He focuses on brand strategy, positioning, and analytics for the tourism industry.