One of the most common questions we receive from our clients or when we are speaking at industry conferences is, “What is the best way to measure our success?” Most often, this question is posed by a CVB or sports commission and is in the context of how to measure their sales efforts. The most common measurement criteria used is, of course, room nights. But is that the best method we have to evaluate if we are winning or losing?
Author Seth Godin once said, “Measurement is fabulous. Unless you are busy measuring what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important.” We feel room nights may be measuring what Godin says is “easy.” Historically, room nights are the most used method, and many in the tourism space don’t really use any other measurement metrics. That said, there are challenges with actually documenting total room nights for events, especially in the absence of a hard and fast “stay and play” policy. You might say, “If we don’t use room nights, then how do we solve the measurement issue in order to satisfy our bosses, boards, and other stakeholders?” We would say, "Change the benchmarks."
Here are some samples of what our clients use to measure their success – that are not room night based.....
- Out-of-Town Registered Participants – This is one of the best numbers to use in evaluating how many people are likely actually visiting your destination. Very few athletes travel to tournaments alone, the only question you have here is what multiplier number can you use to attach to each participant. There is data out there and many of the event rights holders track this number at their championships.
- Stalls Sold – This one is specific to the equine industry, as each horse (or steer or cow, etc.) generally has 3-4 people attributed to it in order to carry out their grooming, training, riding, and related show activities. This method can often also be applied to race team type events as well as aquatic activities such as a dragon boat race. These types of events basically have a pit crew that goes along with the star of the show, be that a horse, a boat, or a race car.
- Out-of-Town Registered Teams – Similar to the two options above, while you may not be able to locate all the rooms picked up for an event, we don’t know of many teams that travel with just a few athletes. Determine the average number of participants per team, survey them to identify how big their overall travel party may be, then multiply it out by the number of teams.
- Economic Impact – If you can’t track the rooms, then track the money. This is actually often easier to compute than chasing room nights. Use the NASC or DMAI tool, plug in the participants and the other known data points you have, and determine a number. The other great thing about using economic impact is that historically, you can use your total impact numbers from year to year to tell a great story to your stakeholders and to arae media (example: "This year our CVB’s sports department brought in over $12 million in direct visitor spending which took us over $100 million since our inception six years ago").
There are many ways to measure success. Room nights are hard to track, and are a major time suck to even try to gather the data. We suggest you have a hard conversation around how you want to evaluate your work. Success can come in many different forms – not just room nights.