Currently there is a lot of available information about how our guests surf the web. But what do we really know about the way they surf around in the real world? What do we know about their movement patterns once they have arrived at our beautiful destinations?
So far number of nights at accommodation, number of visitors at the attractions, and a few qualitative interviews have been a major part of our background knowledge. Imagine if we could supply this knowledge with hard data in such large amounts that it gives us credible knowledge about our guests' actual movement patterns!
This is now possible. New technology is being developed every single day, which means new data collection opportunities. In the summer of 2017, New Nordic Engineering and Destination Djursland collaborated on a pilot project. The goal was to test a solution developed by New Nordic Engineering; to map the visitors' movements between the destination's many attractions - and to do it without disturbing the visitors' experiences! Thus: No questionnaires. No app to be downloaded. No QR codes to be scanned. No electronic "check-ins" or discount codes.
About Destination Djursland
Djursland is a coastal holiday destination in Denmark. Djursland is a peninsula with a 250 km long and varied coastline which covers an area of 50 x 50 km, offers 23 attractions, museums, adventure centers, the National Park Mols Bjerge, and is half an hour's drive from Aarhus (Denmark's second largest city).
Djursland is a destination that has both many free attractions and experiences at the coast and in nature and many attractions requiring an entrance fee. Accommodation capacity stretches over many types and small units. Holiday homes and camping being the most dominant types.
For several years, Destination Djursland has had a very positive problem: All beds are sold out in high season. There is therefore no basis for increased sales. At the same time, the destination is a favorite excursion destination for day trips. Many inhabitants and tourists from nearby towns and holiday homes visit Djursland for a single day. So far these guests have not been part of the statistics.
Djursland is a holiday area with a lot of tourism players; large and small. There are a lot of pieces in the puzzle. Therefore, a real measured database is a very powerful tool as a basis for further development of the destination. The pilot project has provided many answers and raised new questions. How do we ensure the best placement of the measurement points in order to find an answer for the questions we would like to answer? It is very interesting to get a valid picture of the tourists' movement patterns. This project has shown us new opportunities for tourism products and packages.
The method of measuring
Most guests carry a smartphone with them. Smartphones send out a signal 1-2 times a minute in order to investigate which available WiFi networks are nearby. The signal reaches out approx. 30 m. from the phone and contains a unique 16-digit number. The number has no connection to the phone number in the phone's SIM card.
New Nordic Engineering has developed small measurement stations with a tiny built-in computer that can capture these signals. This way of measuring cannot be compared to a turnstile. The equipment typically catches between 60-90% of the passers-by. The method is good for creating an overview, showing trends and making comparison between the different measurement points. It is for example very easy to do benchmarking between similar attractions. Some smartphones regularly change the number that is being sent out, causing it to be difficult to follow the same smartphone for a longer period of time.
In the summer of 2017 a total of 26 measuring stations were set up around Djursland. We defined five groups, that we divided all measurement point between: Key counters, indoor attractions, outdoor attractions, nature experiences, and shopping / urban environment.
What we learned from the project
We gained quite a lot of brand new knowledge from the pilot project. In some cases, the data collected could confirm and prove that the assumptions we had were correct. In other cases, we gained completely new knowledge, which we must now take a closer look at and we may use it as a basis for development.
For New Nordic Engineering it was a chance to test out the equipment from which we learned a lot. Among other things we found that it is essential that the equipment are placed where the guests naturally make a stop - otherwise they might slip by without being noticed by the measuring equipment! If the entrance and exit are at the same location, it is possible to determine how long the guests are visiting an attraction – otherwise it is not.
The future brings much more learning: We have got a great data set to play with. So far, we have been careful to make clear conclusions based on our material. We need to consider for what we can and should use the statistics. How far do we want to go in our interpretation?
10 things we learned from the project
1. The data set shows no connection between rainy days and number of visitor.
Therefore, there is no reason to cry over rain and bad weather.
2. The autumn holiday in October brings as many visitors as a week in the middle of the summer vacation.
The cities Grenaa and Ebeltoft reached 85% and 71% of the number of guests on an average summer day in week 42, where we have a school holiday.
3. The data shows very different visitor patterns for the five defined groups of measurement points.
It was possible to identify different visitor patterns for the five groups. Some showed a rhythm of weeks, others a seasonal rhythm, others peaked a single day of the week and were low on visitors on other days.
4. We saw less guests travelling north to south and vice versa during one week of vacation in Djursland than expected (measuring a vacation week from Saturday to Saturday).
Djursland has many cottages on the north coast, but we saw that our measuring points in the southern part of the destination noticed these guests only in a lesser degree. We are careful to conclude too much on these figures, as perhaps we should have had more measurement points on the north coast.
6. The city of Ebeltoft does not utilize its location at the water and the unique environment at the commercial fishing port. Guests simply don’t find it!
The town and coastline in Ebeltoft are separated by one road, which has previously led heavy traffic to and from the city's ferry port. Today, the ferry rarely departs, but the city's infrastructure seemingly makes it difficult for guests to find their way from the city's shopping street to the beach and the pleasant harbor environment. Ebeltoft has the opportunity to create a new brand that puts more emphasis on the coastal area if small changes are made to the city's layout. Work for this is on the drawing board in 2018.
7. There is a sizable connection between visits to an indoor attraction in Grenaa and a visit to the pedestrian street.
The measurements show that the shops in Grenaa must be very happy with the big indoor attraction located at the city's harbor - an aquarium. The measurements show that almost everyone who visited the aquarium also went for a walk in the city's pedestrian streets. It is worth considering this for smaller towns with a business life that could well use a helping hand!
8. National Park Mols Bjerge’s most beautiful places do not share many of their guests with the rest of Djursland.
Five measuring points were installed in scenic surroundings in the National Park Mols Bjerge but there was only a very limited overlap between the five measuring points and the other measuring points in Djursland. Here is a great potential to guide the nature-interested guests to other parts of Djursland and vice versa: The guests are in the area!
9. Guests in National Park Mols Bjerge mostly only visit one place in the national park.
Virtually all the guests at the five natural points visited only one place. This suggests that the visitors of the National Park visit a certain "place" rather than visit a "national park". The question is whether the individual excursion goals in the national park are bigger brands than the national park as a whole? It is something that can be further worked on.
10. Access conditions and bus parking are important for visits to more than one place in the national park on the same day.
There were two places inside the national park, which - despite being very far apart - were visited by the same guests on the same day. Characterized by both places is that there are good access conditions for buses and turning points. A knowledge that brings with it an opportunity to work on improving accessibility in more places in the national park or developing "packages for buses".
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