The following is a press release issued by Visit Mendocino County. For full disclosure, Visit Mendocino County advertises on our website:
“If I was giving out a report card, I’d say you’re doing a very good job,” lauded Carl Ribaudo, partner of Travel Analytics Group (TAG). Ribaudo recently presented his findings to Visit Mendocino County’s (VMC) Annual Meeting attendees, demonstrating how businesses may utilize website data analysis to improve reaching target tourism audiences.
A travel industry analyst and strategist, Ribaudo has developed destination tourism strategies linking a Destination Marketing Organization’s (DMO) capabilities with the ever-changing market environment. He has served on Visit California’s Research and Return on Investment Committee, on Travel Nevada’s Tourism Marketing Committee and is a strategist for the Insights Collective, a national tourism think tank.
TAG was tasked by VMC to build out a website influence study. Ribaudo encouraged attendees to think creatively when it comes to using websites to bring more people to their accommodations, attractions, wineries and related tourist businesses.
According to Visit Mendocino County executive director Travis Scott, because of tourism’s major role in Mendocino County’s economy, engaging a company such as TAG teaches VMC and other tourist-dependent businesses how to maximize their digital impact- building the best, most affordable, and expedient ways to attract county visitors, because these days, simply “putting up a website” without utilizing tools to identify customers and market one’s business is an almost futile exercise. The collection and use of website data enable businesses to best engage with potential customers, clients or visitors.
TAG is helping produce a return-on-investment metric that effectively identifies travel spending generated within Mendocino County. To do that, Ribaudo captures and analyzes marketing efforts. An economic impact report and return on investment by website users is calculated. Visitor characteristics are identified. The effectiveness and efficiency of VMC’s marketing program, website visitor sessions, and social media programs are studied, with the data ultimately improving the organization’s invested capital’s return on investment.
“The challenge,” Ribaudo continued, “is how to measure an organization’s effectiveness through the number of room nights generated, the amount of revenue generated, and the return on the invested capital.“
From there, Ribaudo suggests how to use marketing to drive as many visitors as possible to websites. “It’s a comprehensive approach at the macro level. We’re looking to increase influence on potential visitors.”
“Everything you do is designed to drive people to your website,” said Ribaudo. “The better you manage your database, the more valuable an asset it becomes,” adding that he “feels very good” about the top-to-bottom rebranding and upcoming launch of VMC’s new website being spearheaded by Brendan Mcguigan.
TAG is surveying website visitors as part of their information gathering.
“This gives us a good trajectory of what we’re doing. It’s a conservative approach to understanding what you do and the influence of VMC,” Ribaudo explained.
Ribaudo explained how collected data assists with attracting visitors to the website and thus, book trips and spend money in Mendocino County.
An impressive 493,498 “unique visits” to the VMC website occurred between January and October of 2022.
Over 62% of respondents indicated they’d taken one overnight trip to the county between January and October 2022, with a few “hardcore-“ 9.4% of respondents taking five trips or more. Nearly 44% of respondents said they were considering one, two or many potential travel destinations when they clicked onto VMC’s website. TAG determined how potential visitors found the website, noting search engine strategies are critical in terms of businesses attracting targeted visitors and influencing final travel decisions.
As far as the economic benefits to the county, the average per-party amount spent on a trip was $1,830.
The survey’s preliminary 6-month estimated direct, indirect, and induced tax impacts for Municipalities totaled $114,000; for Special Districts: $323,000; for the County: $405,000: the State: $1,765,000 and Federal Taxes totaled $4,067,000.
TAG then created four scenarios, each designed to create more public awareness and drive potential visitors to the website- all based upon the data collected from August to December 2022.
Using an algebraic calculation based on all the collected data, Ribaudo conservatively estimated VMC’s current economic impact baseline at $29,513,189.
The first scenario included a reduction and improvement of the website’s “bounce rate,” which is the percentage of site visitors who log on to the website and leave with no engagement.
“Without spending another dollar, little things can make big differences,” said Ribaudo, noting that reducing “bounced” visitors by 10% would increase economic impact from the $29 million baseline by over $10 million to $41,990,300. “How do we influence the public to think about us in a certain way that leads to a purchase? One way is to engage longer with a site, thus reducing the bounce rate.”
Scenario Two projected a 10% increase of users, with a projected economic impact estimated at $32,464,500.
Scenario Three projected a 20% increase in visitor spending per party, potentially increasing economic impact to $35,415,800, and finally, Scenario Four, which included all three previous scenarios could substantially increase the total regional economic impact to $50,808,276.
“Every one of these things are doable. What is the future we want? It’s about finding a way through the scenario analysis. This helps people think creatively and provides multiple, wider ways of considering future options. Don’t think ‘top-down.’ The emergent approach is bottom-up.”
“Organizational creativity is the true asset of a community. Learn to unhook and unharness that creativity. This is about website engagement, not conversion. Every step is a link in a chain. We can add value at every single link. This is the kind of applicable thinking as we move forward, as we think about strategy and implementation.”
Ribaudo will be back for a final presentation of all his findings later this year.
His recommendations: “Be unique. Be different. Go at things outside the industry to get new approaches,” he concluded.