Heatmaps for the tourist industry - Destination Falkenberg goes ahead

06 May 2019

Do you know that you are probably sitting on a completely unused "gold mine" with information already in your systems? Within the hotel world, there is a lot of information of various kinds that is collected, collected and which at best is categorized. Sometimes there is the information there, right in front of the eyes, without even thinking about possible alternative uses.

Strategically working with development by using data and information is a phenomenon in many different industries. Large hotel chains have for many years worked to reach out to potential customers and existing guests by using eg. The information about guests that you have collected - information that is correctly used can have great value because it says a lot about the guests' behavior.

Important information about the domestic market

There are no legal requirements for hotels to register where guests who are domiciled in Sweden come from. On the other hand, as a hotel, according to the special requirements of the Aliens Regulation and the National Police Board's regulations, it is obliged to register which country foreign guests come from and Visit Sweden conducts annual surveys of visitors coming from other countries. Interestingly, the vast majority of all commercial guest nights in Sweden are not due to guests from other countries, but guests who come from other parts of the country - as much as 73 per cent of the commercial guest nights in Sweden are the Swedes who represent.

Unexplored area with great potential

The tourist travel of the Swedish population (Swedes traveling) is a survey that was done earlier by various private companies. Survey methodology and the results have been discussed and only in 2018 Tillväxtverket published a new survey with Statistics Sweden as a producer. Having overall insight into Swedish travelers has so far been difficult.

That's why we contacted Kristján Fannar at Destination Falkenberg after reading his interesting LinkedIn posts about how they work in a pioneering way with data-driven destination development. Destination Falkenberg is a municipal company owned by the municipality of Falkenberg and cooperates with the local visitor industry. Falkenberg has a population of about 45,000 inhabitants and has approximately 750,000 commercial guest nights per year and they are the municipality in Halland that has the strongest increase in the number of commercial guest nights.

He says that the survey "Swedish travel" is certainly interesting, but that it is not enough for accurate local marketing. Kristján got an idea that it should be possible to use the information that already exists at residential facilities, if visitors' domicile, in order to be able to target the marketing correctly.

There were more or less accepted ideas and hypotheses about where Falkenberg's visitors came, hypotheses that he wanted to try and question. He wanted to see if there was a pattern for the visitors' place of residence, between those who lived in for example the hotels on the coast and those a little further into the country and if there was any difference between those who lived in hotels and campsites.

Unique pilot project with "heatmaps"

At Kristján's initiative, therefore, in 2018, they carried out a unique pilot project with "heatmaps", or "heat maps" as they are called in Swedish. He does not know that any other destination company had carried out the corresponding surveys or developed heatmaps for his visiting industry. However, heatmaps are commonly used to work with in other industries.

As a destination company you do not have any information about where the guests of the hotels and other facilities come from, he contacted various types of facilities in the municipality of Falkenberg, ranging from campsites to spa hotels. He wanted to hear if he could access their data to carry out the pilot project and received a very positive response. He received excerpts from their booking system which included a total of a total of 58,000 individual bookings, which constituted a very good basis. The information contained information about the guests' post office in order to be able to be used in the mapping, information that of course was personalized. Falkenberg's data can be compared with that of the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth's new national survey, "Svenskars Resande", which is based on 60,000 individuals per year.

Benefits compared to traditional market research

Traditionally, destination companies usually conduct surveys among the guests to try to map where they come from. You simply go out and talk to guests or conduct some form of questionnaire surveys. The disadvantage of these methods is that it is not certain that there will be a statistically sound basis and that these surveys are usually carried out only for a limited period of the year. It is a clear disadvantage, unlike obtaining data from the booking systems that cover bookings from all year round.

Falkenberg Heatmap

The strategic value of heatmaps

The information provided by Kristján made it possible to create a heat map that visually showed from which postal location Falkenberg's visitors come from depending on the type of accommodation. These post offices were then colored depending on the number of visitors.

This enables market analyzes at a completely new strategic level compared to earlier.

From a marketing point of view it is interesting to get information about where in Sweden the guests come from, depending on the type of accommodation.

Simplifies strategic decision making

When you get a heatmap that gives a clear picture of where the guests come from, you can make the right strategic decision regarding where to invest in marketing. It will be easier to prioritize campaigns and marketing efforts. Are you going to focus on targeting existing customers in areas where you already have a stable base of guests from? Or should you invest in areas where you do not have so many guests at the moment? These are strategic decisions that must be made that can be facilitated by using a heatmap as a decision basis. The main advantage is, above all, that you make decisions on facts, not on hypotheses and guesses. One simply raises the discussion and decision making to a more strategic level.

Information already in the systems

All hotels have information about their guests in their booking system and guests also provide information when they make their payment. The information about where the guests come from is thus already there and which rightly used can constitute a very good basis for strategic decisions. It's just to take the information and put it in a map program to visualize where the guests come from.

Heatmaps - tools for directing the power-driven marketing

Kristjan also wants to put in a firewall that it is a fairly old-fashioned way of working if you only segment based on geographical origin because it does not give the whole picture of who the guest is or how the customer profile looks. He emphasized that Falkenberg, in its marketing, therefore first and foremost works power driven, ie. they produce target groups and segment the guests based on the guests' driving forces and interests.

- We work primarily with driving power-driven marketing, regardless of age and geography. Our heatmap then helps us target marketing to the right geographic target group, says Kristján.

More accurate marketing - fewer guesses

Actually, it is quite so "simple" - one compiles the information that one already has access to and develops heatmaps that constitute excellent documentation for making strategic decisions. By using heatmaps, they can target marketing more accurately to the right geographical areas and customer groups. They thus get a better return on their marketing and this facilitates the choice of channels to reach out to a particular geographical target group.

One of the biggest advantages of heatmaps is that it also raises the discussion to a strategic level regarding where to target its marketing geographically instead of implementing more or less qualified guesses. You get more on your feet and can take more fact-based decisions.

- What has been interesting from my perspective is to gain access to data from the hotels and facilities. If you are your own hotel, you can do the same, but you have all the information you need in-house, says Kristján.

A win-win project

It is understood that it has been a very rewarding win-win collaboration between Destination Falkenberg and the facilities that participated in the pilot project. It is Kristján's hope that this pilot project will have a continuation, that one can carry out a corresponding survey and produce heatmaps annually. Surely, more, both destination companies and individual hotels will be inspired by Falkenberg's pioneering way of working.