Welcome to Your Destination: How Arrivalist Is Changing Destination Marketing


Arrivalist logo

By Brian Ward—You’ve spent a lot of time and money marketing your destination. You’ve created TV commercials, banner ads, hashtags, and a superlative homepage to draw people to your location. Now how do you determine what worked?

“The old joke in online advertising is, ‘I know half my budget is wasted I just don’t know what half,’ ” Arrivalist founder Cree Lawson said, “We are giving destinations their first chance to answer that question.”

Arrivalist is a new company with patented technology that anonymously tracks the location of a user’s mobile device. They can compare the messages people are exposed to about a destination with whether or not they subsequently travel to that destination.

“The transformative new insight we provide is the ability to illustrate how marketing impacts visitation to stakeholders and to optimize media spending for maximum impact,” Lawson says.

The possible uses of this for DMOs are staggering. Here are some real uses of Arrivalist (with hypothetical examples):

  • You can determine what types of marketing are more effective at bringing people in. (For example, people who saw a YouTube ad for Chicago might be more likely to visit than those who saw a banner ad.)
  • You can determine where people are being exposed to your marketing and where they eventually arrive. (For example, people in Maine who see the California State homepage might be more likely to go to San Francisco, while Oklahoma folks who visit the same site might travel to Los Angeles.)
  • You can connect traveler ads to visitors, not locals. (For example, Phone #1 came from far out of town, so they should receive ads for local hotels. Phone #2 is based near town so the owner probably has a place to sleep already.)
  • A user doesn’t have to book anything to count as an arrival. (For example, even if a visitor travels to your destination in an RV and doesn’t book a hotel or plane ticket, you can still tell that they visited. You can even tell if they were just passing through, or if they stopped and stayed at your destination.)

Arrivalist measures “arrivals per 1,000 exposures” to come up with its figures. See the chart below. Consider the work Arrivalist did with the state of Kansas. Kansas defines a visitor as anyone who travels more than 30 miles across the border, stays for a time, and then doesn’t come back for a set period of time. Using that definition, Lawson says they discovered that most visitors to Kansas came from contiguous states, which is where most of Kansas’s marketing is focused. It also found that Kansas had visitors from every state in the union except North Dakota.

Arrivalist screenshot strech 2

Arrivalist started testing and patenting its new tech two years ago, launching commercially in 2013. Lawson says that people love the idea and that the company has added six new clients in the last six months.

“Every client is so wildly different and every media plan is so different for each destination,” Lawson said. “If there is one thing that is true, it’s that attracting a user to your site is the watershed moment in creating demand for travel. Everything else varies wildly from client to client.”

To Arrivalist’s advantage is the increasing number of people who bring their mobile devices with them on vacations. A study done by TripAdvisor found that while on vacation 85% of Americans will use a smart phone, 46% use a tablet, and 61%  will access social media. Of all  the vacationers from the 22 countries polled, 87% use a smart phone, 44% use a tablet and 61% access social media while on holiday.

Lawson says he has a client who said what Arrivalist does is, “like counting out of state license plates in the visitor parking lot.” While Lawson said that they can’t measure the 15% of Americans who don’t use a smartphone on vacation, they are still able to get a decent sample size for DMOs.

“It’s important to note we’re not just looking at one impression.” Lawson said, “We look at a sequence of market exposures: Banner ads, emails, site visits, multiple points of contact.”

Lawson says that the company can also help target marketing at visitors specifically. Of American travelers, 44% use their smartphones to find restaurants, 23% look for hotels, and 35% look for things to do. Well-directed marketing could make a huge difference in what a visitor buys, eats, and if they come back.

“We’ve been called, ‘the Holy Grail,’ ‘a game change,’ and ‘revolutionary.’ So we’ve been lucky enough to find clients so eager to show the impact of their marketing campaigns,” Lawson said, “I think this industry has been unable to close the loop for so long, they are very interested in showing the value of the media they buy.” ∞

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