More Ways of Applying Visitor Research to Increase Area Welcome
Friday, November 03, 2017, 7am by Jonathan Freeze, CDME
In late Sept., amid some simple tips for using GRCVB’s 2017-2018 Business Plan as a business planning resource, I suggested that our area hospitality businesses compare and contrast their average customers with the average visitor to Raleigh and Wake County.
Doing this allows us to look for overlap between individual hospitality businesses’ marketing efforts and the work done at GRCVB daily on behalf of our entire county. After all, GRCVB’s overall purpose is to attract new customers to cross our county borders year-over-year—visitors who then can be “harvested” or hosted by lodging/service providers, restaurants and attractions here at the point of sale.
In this post, let’s delve even more into the makeup of the average visitor to Raleigh/Wake County, in order to provide three real examples of cooperatively marketing with the GRCVB when it makes sense.
The average visitor to Wake County is not vacationing.
Area visitors tell our researchers that they come here for specific reasons, and the most common purpose of a stay is to visit friends and relatives (39% of overnight visitors cite this); this is followed in the rankings by group business (17%), such as attending a convention or meeting.
In 2015, GRCVB began advertising to our locals again precisely for this reason; the idea is to reach area residents with info about GRCVB services so that they, in turn, can share the visitor info with their visiting friends and relatives (VFRs), inspiring new trips and more spending during those trips made for family purposes. Even attractions, restaurants or service providers that were reticent to court out-of-town visitors directly or through paid means in the past should consider the popularity of VFR in Wake County and reconsider coming alongside GRCVB’s marketing efforts to reach visitors indirectly in this way; it’s just a twist on the resident outreach that these businesses probably are doing already.
Additionally, our area hotel partners may wish to consider reaching residents in conjunction with GRCVB’s VFR messaging as well; 34% of overnight stays currently occur in county residents’ homes, whereas knowledge of the proximity and pricing of a great, nearby hotel could help to change locals’ feelings on where is best to house their loved ones while visiting.
The average overnight party size here is 1.69 visitors…
and no, that 7/10 of a person doesn’t cause us any medical concerns, but it does mean that the majority of Wake County visitors (53%) arrive here alone. In fact, only 8% of overnight stays here include children on the trip (34% of overnight stays are made by couples).
This tells us at least two things. I expect that there’s plenty of existing demand for destination content and other cooperative marketing outreach to optimize area experiences for solo travelers, e.g., info about seating that’s comfortable for solo diners in table-service restaurants, materials from our hotels or nightclubs that don’t devalue the single/solo traveler in favor of couples’ packages or BOGOs as well as possibly experiences provided by our guided tour companies that will “get people together” (though the experiences might have been booked individually).
It also tells us, in the case of attractions designed for families to enjoy, that we still have a long way to go, to partner on mutually generating interest and demand for both visiting Raleigh with the fam and setting in-destination itineraries that will include these kids’ activities.
Finally (for now), the average visitor to Wake County is Southern or South Atlantic.
Some 69% of overnight visitors hail from the South Atlantic states… 54% really are from either N.C. or Va. What this means is that we don’t have to look far to understand the background, motivation or psychology of our average visitors… they are much like us. It’s not necessary to overthink our marketing messaging especially for attracting new leisure visits and special events audiences; we simply have to communicate our value and unique sales proposition (USP).
(The flipside of this, however, is that we must never confuse our nearby audience with our own identity as a place. It is important in destination marketing/tourism work—and in many other industries—that we differentiate our brands from what our customers are already used to or what our customers believe they already have available in their hometowns. Tourism brand names that mention “Heart of the Carolinas” and “Greater Triangle” can sometimes indicate a step too far in mixing the two and thus in diluting Raleigh’s uniqueness as a place.)
All GRCVB partner types can make use of the Raleigh, N.C., Brand Kit (est. 2015) to further apply our visitor/customer research to their individual business practices, consider where they fit in an average overnight visitor’s decision-making process and incorporate the Raleigh area’s USP into their marketing communications. Quick start guides for the executive directors/GMs of area hotels, attractions/retailers and restaurants are downloadable at www.raleighncbrand.com.
Author: Jonathan Freeze, CDME
Jonathan Freeze, CDME, has built a career in the marketing of places, directing the Greater Raleigh CVB's marketing efforts since 2008. Though a firm believer in the science of marketing, Jonathan also began his career as a writer and creative wordsmith. In 2021, he contributed a chapter recounting recent destination stewardship work in Raleigh to the book Tourism Microentrepreneurship (Emerald Publishing). Learn more