Tourespaña on Targeting with Data

Tourespaña focuses on a digital strategy that strongly relies on data to both source important information and engages with tourists.

In this case study we will explore:

  • The overview of the project ‘Destino Turístico Inteligente.
  • The role and opportunity represented by data for DMOs.
  • How to design a sustainable future and tackle issues around sustainability using data.
  • How DMOs can leverage their existing data and technology to embrace future opportunities around automation.

In this case study we will explore:

  • The overview of the project ‘Destino Turístico Inteligente.
  • The role and opportunity represented by data for DMOs.
  • How to design a sustainable future and tackle issues around sustainability using data.
  • How DMOs can leverage their existing data and technology to embrace future opportunities around automation.

At Tourespaña, Spain’s National Tourism Organisation, we interviewed Blanca Pérez-Sauquillo - Deputy Assistant Director of Tourism Marketing to learn about the importance of data in strengthening Spain’s tourism brand around the world.

In this case study we will explore:

  • The overview of the project ‘Destino Turístico Inteligente'.
  • The role and opportunity represented by data for DMOs.
  • How to design a sustainable future and tackle issues around sustainability using data.
  • How DMOs can leverage their existing data and technology to embrace future opportunities around automation.

About Tourespana: Its Role in Tourism

Tourespaña is Spain’s National Tourism organisation within the Ministry of Tourism in Spain. The NTO is responsible for the promotion of Spain as a destination, with the mission of developing a Sustainability Model for Tourism. As part of their ‘Destino Turístico Inteligente’ project, Tourespaña focuses primarily on the key markets they want to attract to Spain and uses visitor data in order to achieve this.

Tourespaña’s role in Sustainable Tourism

How to develop a sustainable tourism model for the country? Tourespaña’s answer to this question relies on diversifying the tourist offer and spreading tourism around the country to fight overcrowding and seasonality. Their strategy though differs depending on the market.

Within the European market, the main focus is on what they call the “Cosmopolitan Traveller” segment. Unlike the typical “Sun and Beach” traveller, these visitors have different motivations for coming to Spain. They are more interested in art, culture, gastronomy, shopping, local itineraries, are generally more affluent and have a higher spend. They usually travel at different times throughout the year, and this is one of the main reasons why this segment plays a key role within Tourespaña’s sustainability model.

As one could easily imagine, one of Tourespaña's main focus is to bring quality tourism to the country as opposed to the lower quality "Sun and Beach" tourism. They avoid targeting the seasonal tourist, preferring to focus their targeting efforts towards the year-round “Cosmopolitan Traveller” instead.

Of course, the targeting efforts of Tourespaña are not only focused on the European and American markets but on important long-haul emerging markets. In this context, the Chinese market represents undoubtedly the main one.

Tourespaña’s Digital Strategy

In order to better target key tourist segments, the NTO has put in place a strategy that strongly relies on data to both source important information and engage with tourists through their visitor journey. These data play a key role in the NTO's Sustainable Tourism model, helping them to take strategic decisions and tackling issues around sustainability. Tourespaña’s focus on digital strategy, which we will discuss further in this report, allows them to be more efficient, measure performance, target the right audiences, transform their brand and ultimately, achieve sustainability.

The role and opportunities of Data for DMOs

As we know in a time of digital transformation, data is becoming a game-changer for DMOs and the global travel industry. At the same time, data provide significant challenges and opportunities for Tourism.

For example, data can provide DMOs with valuable opportunities such as:

  • Enabling the prediction of tourist demand.
  • Enabling better decision-making.
  • Managing knowledge flows and interaction with customers.
  • Providing the best service in a more efficient and effective way.

This can result in improved productivity, increased customer satisfaction, personalised marketing campaigns, and more efficient operations.  

DMOs can leverage their existing data and technology to embrace future opportunities around automation.  This allows them to redefine their role beyond branding and marketing.

DMOs can also exploit current developments in technology to achieve greater productivity and customer acquisition. Particularly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly crucial role in helping destinations creating content more efficiently and creatively, discovering all-important customer insights, understanding visitor’s behavioural patterns and creating a highly personalised online experience.

The Importance of Data in strengthening Tourespaña's Brand around the world

Data plays a key role in strengthening Spain’s destination brand around the world: specifically, data has been fundamental to enhance Tourespaña’s brand story, making it appealing to potential visitors. Tourespaña and DMOs can use data to their benefit, in order to:

  • Be more customer-centric, allowing DMOs to interact with their target markets.
  • Identify consumer questions, understand they are being asked and how to answer them in a compelling way.
  • Optimise messages to target markets: the more accurate the data from potential tourists, the more accurate the DMO messages will be.
  • Adapt products and services to target markets' tastes, preferences and characteristics.

One of the main benefits of this data strategy is increased market growth. Thanks to high optimisation and targeting, the NTO has been able to expand on markets reaching target audiences with the right messages and the right content at the right time.

Prioritising the use of Data to optimise campaigns

The use of data is absolutely prominent in Tourespaña's strategy, especially when it comes to campaign optimisation. The NTO uses data across all three phases of a campaign: planning, launch and evaluation. In the planning phase data is used to target audiences, channels, and messages; in the launch phase data is used to create 'call to actions', monitor interactions and adapt messaging; in the evaluation phase, data becomes crucial to evaluate performance and readapt for future campaigns.

DMOs should use data to optimise their campaigns in order to:

  • Target the right customers.
  • Target the right channels.
  • Develop the right messages.
  • Monitor interactions.
  • Optimise the conversion path.
  • Improve future campaigns.

Campaign Optimisation

To define target audiences Tourespaña uses proprietary data in addition to first-party, second-party and third-party data. But how does this feed into their campaigns? The NTO has developed a unique approach, mixing online navigation data with real data from visitors, bringing the 'digital' and the 'physical' worlds together.

For example, as part of their 2019 campaign, Tourespaña used Geo-Spatial Intelligence to identify audiences and create lead generation. In particular, Geo-Spatial data was used to deliver personalised messages to Tourespaña’s target audiences. Based on these data, one message targeted travellers who had been to Spain before, thanking them for their visit and encouraging them to come back again. The second message was aimed at travellers who hadn’t been to Spain yet but had visited competing countries such as France and Italy. Designed with the objective of acquiring new visitors, the message recommended the prospective travellers to consider Spain for culinary and cultural trips, based on their online navigation data.

Using Geo-Spatial Intelligence: Technology and Targeting

Tourespaña's approach consists in using Geo-Spatial Intelligence to mix digital data (aimed to identify potential travellers) with data obtained from mobile phones.

Particularly, the NTO has been using Geo-Spatial data in recent campaigns to combine time and space and to link potential visitors with 'real moments'.  For example, in a recent campaign for the Chinese market, the objective was not to generate leads but to create awareness. To achieve this, they used Geo-Location data to identify potential Chinese travellers who were in a traffic jam and sent them an interactive message: the person who got the message could then play with the screen by clearing the smoke to reveal a message about the weather in Spain at that particular moment.

To create further brand awareness in China, Tourespaña used Geo-Spatial data to identify potential visitors that enjoyed shopping in a particular area and combined this with current data about the exchange rate. Tourespaña then created a catchy invitation message for these visitors encouraging them to shop in Spain, telling them about the great exchange rate that awaited them.

The Opportunities

There are therefore plenty of opportunities available to DMOs using Geo-Spatial Intelligence such as:

  • Uncovering target audience patterns and trends using location-specific data.
  • Developing real-time intelligence on audience locations, conditions and behaviours.
  • Creating brand awareness in a more efficient and compelling way.
  • Using key data about audiences to build more focused marketing campaigns.
  • Developing better operational intelligence and decision making.


Geo-Spatial Intelligence allows DMOs to know what is happening, why it is happening and where. For destinations, this also means using data based on someone’s location to better target/personalise the messaging and offer. For example, someone browsing a site whilst in traffic in a megacity might be drawn by escape/relaxation messages and ads (e.g 'escape the city to the serene silence of Basque Country'). On the other hand, someone browsing in a rural location might be drawn to a more cultural offering such as a city or a museum tour.

On the other hand, the consumer himself can also benefit from Geo-Spatial data during his vacation, as personalised messages and ads can provide suggestions based on his current location in the destination. For example, knowing a guest is in Barcelona can allow the system to send customised messages suggesting day trips from the city.

Contextualisation: Redefining Targeting and Messages

Unlike personalisation, contextualisation doesn’t take note of anything specific about individuals other than the context in which they were ‘found’.  No information about them is required other than the ones related to their certain context in which they find themselves.

From the point of view of privacy, consumers prefer contextualisation because it never relies on ‘personal information’ and feels overall safer. From a marketing point of view, the most important thing is to approach contextualisation with the customer response in mind, so that the brand is delivering a targeted messaging that feels relevant without being intrusive.

In the case of Tourespaña, they use dynamic creativity and digital data to create a contextualised ad for when people are navigating the web. For example, if someone is reading a culinary blog online, Tourespaña will place a targeted ad about Spanish gastronomy to create awareness of what Spain has to offer. Similarly, if someone is reading a history article online, Tourespaña will use dynamic creativity to place a targeted ad about Spanish history, culture and legacy to raise the target audience's awareness.

Native Ads and Dynamic Ads

As we know, consumers actively want to be presented with new content and will always ask 'what’s next?'. That’s where native ads come in, ready to engage a consumer on their discovery journey for more content.

Native ads target consumers when they are ready, instead of disrupting them in their digital journey. The positives to native ads are that consumers can be reached at various stages of the sales funnel, such as in the exploration phase where they can be inspired.  Native ads allow DMOs to reach consumers ready to convert, for example by directing them to a booking platform, product page or app store. The flexibility that native ads offer not only benefits consumers, but also marketers who can guide them throughout the key stages of their online journey in a more granular fashion.

Dynamic ads are banners that automatically change in order to adapt messages and promotions according to each online user, ensuring that each one is exposed to the most relevant content. They have significant benefits: they are time-saving, frequently and automatically updated, create all-relevant headlines, increase engagement levels and lead to higher marketing ROI.

Using both types of ads can truly optimise reach opportunities for DMOs. Tourespaña combines the use of native and dynamic ads in addition to Geo-Spatial Intelligence data to target audiences across all the customer journey, contextualising ads to reach potential visitors and inspire them based on their interests.

How Tourespaña measures ROI

In order to achieve cost-efficiency and to optimise investment, Tourespaña used an individual attribution model in their latest campaign, which enabled them to evaluate the marketing touchpoints a consumer encounters on their path to conversion. This allowed them to give credit to each different channel and publisher involved. In doing this the NTO achieved greater profitability from their campaigns.

The way to success for campaign optimisation is always one: using the right data to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. The message has to be clear and precise to get the best results. There are many ways to reach potential visitors through dynamic, native and contextualised ads. The key for DMOs is to be always engaging, customer-focused and have a visible 'call to action' in all online campaigns.

Key Learnings from Tourespaña Digital Evolution

Focus on Strategy

For Tourespaña the most important thing is to always have a clear strategy and plan all the possible outcomes accordingly.  The visitor’s digital journey, the key channels, touchpoints and messages combined with the data, all have to be taken into consideration. Keeping the focus on strategy was paramount for Tourespaña.

To Keep up with Technology you must keep evolving

As technology is advancing rapidly, it is important to be aware not only of new tools but also of changes to regulations that can have a direct impact on your strategy. Technology has the power to do anything but other aspects may have a significant impact. Legal restrictions and GDPR can affect a campaign and for Tourespaña, these issues meant reacting quickly and adapting.

Be Selective with Big Data

Transform data based on intelligence. Be selective, as not all consumer data will be useful. It is recommended that you are realistic about your ability and capability to use the data. Focus on what is useful for you as a DMO and on what is fundamental to reach your target audiences.

Key Takeaways

1. “The Consumer is Central to Tourespaña’s strategy“

The consumer is central to Tourespaña’s strategy, more than the product and the destination. The focus must be on listening to the consumer and using the right data to understand them, their needs and wants. The strategic use of data allows Tourespaña to deliver the right message, in the right place, at the right time.

2. “Use Geo-Spatial Intelligence, Contextualisation and Dynamic Advertising to Optimise Campaigns”

It is important to include these elements in a forward-thinking digital strategy, as they will enhance and optimise DMO campaigns and advertising. Mixing these elements with a strong customer-centric approach and using the right targeting data is a recipe for success! These components can tap into consumers interests and content preferences, and have the ability to increase customer acquisition and retention through data intelligence. Ultimately, these aspects put the customer at the forefront.

3. "Support Visitors all the way to Conversion”

As an NTO, Tourespaña were originally only focused on the upper funnel but now they are working on a full-funnel strategy. They not only want to raise awareness of Spain, but their priority is to speak to the consumer through the entire customer journey, even whilst they are in Spain. Tourespaña wants to be connected to potential visitors through all touchpoints available. DMOs must ensure they are with potential visitors from start to finish to achieve conversion and customer retention.

4.“The Opportunities in sharing Data with Industry Partners”

The more data you can mix, the more understanding you will have of the traveller and their needs and requirements. Combining data from the private sector, the public sector, industry, marketing intelligence, booking data and credit card data provides essential opportunities. Sharing this data with industry partners will also improve the whole visitor experience. For DMOs, sharing data with industry partners can be extremely beneficial in growing the destination brand and achieving objectives.

5. “The Future Opportunities with Data to Improve Targeting”

The future as Tourespaña see it, is the coming together of private and public data, its optimisation and sharing throughout the country. This approach provides many opportunities to use data to improve targeting. The future opportunities data can provide are better audience predictions, improved targeted advertising, expanded customer acquisition and retention, new product development and monetization, and media scheduling optimisation. Data can help navigate the biggest changing factor in the industry - consumer behaviour. As a leading destination, Tourespaña wants to lead the way in digital evolution.

Published on:
June 2020
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