3A: Measuring Overall Tourism Performance
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It goes on to discuss benchmarking programmes and finishes with a discussion of monitoring within local authorities, both in terms of service delivery and internal management performance.
A prerequisite for the effective management of destinations is the ability to secure a detailed knowledge and understanding of its characteristics and performance. It is essential to help shape strategies and action plans required to meet future challenges in a structured way.
Information should be accurate and timely. If the effect of any actions is not regularly evaluated, the management process will become flawed.
The collection of up-to-date information and the regular monitoring of performance against plans is a fundamental component of good destination management. At the very simplest level, performance monitoring should include a checklist of actions completed. To be robust it should embrace a broader methodology that monitors, interrogates, evaluates and compares performance.
The process should be embedded as an integral part of an effective management system. It should be formulated to suit the individual destination, but most importantly it should be:
- easy to administer
- seen as a continuous process.
At the national level data is collected through the International Passenger Survey (IPS) and the United Kingdom Tourism Survey (UKTS). The UK Day Visits Survey measures the impact of day visits and estimates the volume and value of leisure day visits. VisitBritain’s website has more information on national tourism data.
The following list gives the main aspects of a destination’s performance that are important to measure.
Destination managers should have a clear understanding of the number of accommodation providers, caravan and campsites, and visitor attractions in their area. Ideally data on supply will include the total number of bedspaces, self-catering units, and caravan and campsite pitches as well as identifying businesses with quality accreditation, green business and accessibility ratings. This data should be kept on a spreadsheet and updated regularly.
An assessment of the number of visitors to a destination and the value of these visits to the economy is the most basic but significant piece of information required for an area. It is an essential part of the understanding process and is more fully covered in 3C: Determining the Local Economic Impact of Tourism. Once collected the information needs to be regularly updated so that basic trends can be established.
There is a cost in using either of the main models currently available, but as the data provided is essential for understanding, planning and development purposes, it is well worth the investment. For the purpose of identifying trends it is important to continue to use the same model and to obtain the data on a regular basis, preferably annually.
Visitor surveys are essential to evaluate customer perceptions of a destination and to identify needs. Again, it is imperative that surveys are carried out on a regular basis and that the data collected is consistent to allow for comparison to enable the monitoring of trends, to evaluate the impact of new developments and to assess changing needs. This is covered more fully in 3B: Surveying Visitor Satisfaction.
A suggested basic visitor survey questionnaire is given in Appendix 2. This is an example for seaside resorts, but using the basic format with alterations for non-resort destinations will allow for benchmarking across destinations.
On a regular basis, for example every three years, seek the views of local residents as to their level of satisfaction with the tourism services in their area, and their views on the impact of visitors and the provision made for them. This is covered more fully in 3D: Surveying Local Community Attitudes to Tourism.
A suggested survey form for use in assessing customer satisfaction with TICs is given in Appendix 3. The form can be handed out to a sample percentage of TIC visitors to provide some feedback on satisfaction levels. Incentives can be offered to encourage completion and return, and attempts should be made to secure the views of a full cross section of visitors.
Regular surveys of the local tourism service providers are essential to ensure that the resources devoted to tourism are being used to best effect and satisfy the needs of local businesses. Suggested questionnaires for evaluating local business satisfaction are given as Appendix 4A (operators) and Appendix 4B (accommodation providers). The relevant form should be sent to all tourism businesses, preferably on an annual basis.
It is important that some method is used to evaluate the success and impact of marketing activities, including brochures campaigns and websites. A simple response form included in a destination brochure with an incentive to provide important feedback is given as Appendix 5. Survey forms can also be sent out subsequently to those requesting a brochure and questionnaires can be made available in local accommodation to help assess what influenced someone to visit.
Similarly, processes, which can also be used on a comparative basis, are available to evaluate the effectiveness of a destination website in attracting visitors to an area.
With increasing pressure on budgets, and increasing competition for market share, measuring the cost effectiveness of all marketing activity is becoming more and more important.
Information on website evaluation and methodology for evaluating the return on investment of campaigns are both available as Destination Performance UK (DP:UK) advice sheets. The Advice Sheet Evaluating Marketing Campaigns is included as Appendix 6.
A regular review of the tourism businesses operating in an area and an awareness of the take up of quality standards is a fundamental part of basic intelligence and monitoring. A reliable up-to-date database of all establishments (accommodation, self catering, caravan sites and campsites, hostels, attractions) is essential to monitor capacity and change. Information collected should include at the base level:
- quality grading
- number of rooms, units and bedspaces in serviced and self catering accommodation
- the number of pitches at caravan sites and campsites.
The number of accessible establishments (both attractions and accommodation) should also be recorded including the take-up of the National Accessible Scheme.
Information about changes and the opening of new establishments should be gained from local authority staff, eg environmental health officers, building control officers, planning officers and rating staff, by creating an integrated collaborative framework for regular intelligence sharing.
Environmental considerations should be an integral part of the service planning and delivery process. Monitoring systems need to be put in place to ensure that sustainability issues are adequately addressed. At the simplest level, the impact of any new development needs to be assessed in broad environmental terms.
An evaluation of the effectiveness of any environmental management processes instituted, eg local produce sourcing, recycling programmes, green business programmes, should also be part of the monitoring process. See also 3E: Determining Local Recreational Carrying Capacity.
Regular monitoring programmes as described above will provide the information for destination performance indicators that can be used as comparators against other destinations. The quality of performance indicators is often debated; it seems very difficult to devise ones that appear to have any intellectual rigour yet can still be easily collected on a regular basis.
What is essential is that there are sufficient monitoring programmes in place to provide the destination manager with the range of knowledge required to inform decision making and planning, evaluate overall performance and allow for easy comparison with other destinations.
The Single Improvement Tool has been developed for local authority cultural services by IDeA in association with the key national cultural organisations. Tourism, as it forms part of the national cultural services block, has been included in the process. The tool applies equally well to local authority tourism services, even if they are based in other service areas such as economic development or regeneration. The tool contains a list of suggested performance indicators for tourism services. These are based on a set suggested in the Tourism Sustainability Group (TSG) report to the European Commission, and on indicators that have been adopted by Destination Performance UK and the Welsh Audit Commission. The indicators suggested by the TSG in their report are attached as Appendix 7.
It is anticipated that local authority tourism services, and those providing tourism services to or on behalf of local authorities, will use the list in determining indicators for Local Area Agreements.
The indicators have been divided into four main groups to cover.
- Economic factors
A list of the indicators included under each heading in the Single Improvement Tool is given in Appendix 8.
The indicators should not be viewed as prescriptive or definitive. The choice of indicators to be used will depend on the nature of the destination, its organisational structure and the level of progress made towards sustainable destination management. However an attempt should be made to collect as many of the core indicators as possible.
The collection of key or core performance data in a standardised format enables a direct comparison to be made of overall performance within a specific sector or grouping. Benchmarking clubs have been in existence for a number of years but their distribution is patchy and they have highlighted the lack of accurate, simple and timely locally-based comparative data. The emergence of individual benchmarking clubs has also emphasised the need for more universal recognition of the role and value of core comparable information to support more effective performance management in destinations.
In England, the establishment of the National Tourism Best Value Group in 1999 was, at its simplest, an attempt to standardise baseline data collection processes for all local authorities.
Across Europe, destination groupings and networks have been seeking the ‘holy grail’ of the perfect set of sustainable performance indicators to be used for Europe-wide benchmarking. Without co-ordination a plethora of different processes have been emerging.
In addition, the apparent need to be exhaustive and visibly rigorous has led to the creation of endless sets of potential indicators that do not pass the acid tests of simplicity, collectability, comparability and reliance. There is much to be learnt from fellow practitioners across Europe and there are benefits to be gained from the ability to share information with a much broader range of destinations.
It is hoped that adoption of the TSG report by the European Commission (see Further reading) and the Commission’s commitment to increasing the sustainability and competitiveness of European tourism will lead to increasing use of comparable indicators for benchmarking.
In addition to self-assessment performance benchmarking processes, Tourism South East offers a specific process that can be bought in to provide destination and TIC benchmarking.
Destination benchmarking consists of collecting and analysing a standardised set of visitor survey information for comparison directly with the scores from other destinations.
The process is very useful for providing a definitive baseline or starting point for understanding visitor perceptions of the destination and visitor profiles. Regular reviews, using the same process, are essential to monitor changes and the results of any improvements over time. If the full benchmarking process is carried out every three to five years then interim data can be collected as a check, using less expensive techniques.
The cost of carrying out a full benchmarking survey can be around £4,000-£5,000. The survey questionnaire given in Appendix 2 covers the majority of the areas that form part of the destination benchmarking process.
Further details of the Destination benchmarking process can be obtained from Tourism South East.
To provide a definitive baseline, a professionally undertaken TIC benchmarking survey is also an extremely useful exercise. If the surveys are carried out every three to five years, for example, interim data can be obtained by using the TIC customer satisfaction survey referred to in Appendix 3.
DP:UK has produced for its members an advice sheet covering TIC benchmarking (Establishing Performance Indicators).
Since the mid-1980s, Central Government has been striving to make local government more accountable for its actions and expenditure. An evaluation of the effectiveness of individual authorities in delivering their services was seen as an essential prerequisite in being able to assess value for money. The Best Value initiative made it a statutory requirement for all authorities to measure performance and review their services.
The Best Value regime evolved around 2002 into Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) whereby the whole performance of an authority was evaluated through a self-completed appraisal.
CPA itself is now evolving and the performance focus will be increasingly on Local and Comprehensive Area Agreements and a reduced set of less than 200 national performance indicators.
Performance plans are still an integral part of the process. So is a clear demonstration that service delivery is set within a robust and comprehensive strategic framework, and that performance and customer satisfaction are regularly monitored, and that actions are reviewed.
Authorities need to be able to demonstrate clearly that they can set their performance in the context of other similar destinations, making comparative benchmarking an essential and integral part of the management process.
Advice from IDeA and the Audit Commission is that whilst the nature of the process has changed, the expectation that authorities will be engaged in effective and robust performance management most definitely has not. The emphasis has moved considerably towards self assessment and self improvement. Whilst there are still no specific tourism indicators in the national set, suggestions have been provided through the Single Improvement Tool for cultural services to support Local Area Agreements.
As well as monitoring the performance of their destination, a number of local authorities and DMOs are now using business planning techniques to understand and improve the individual components of their management processes.
Integrated quality management, the EFQM Business Excellence Model, and ISO 9000 are the main techniques being deployed. Visit Wales has useful information on the application of integrated quality management in tourism. EFQM is a membership foundation working on quality management and sharing experience.
The processes include an evaluation of the key components of management:
- most important of all, monitoring.
The emergence of an increasing number of DMOs and DMPs in recent years has caused some confusion in relation to local authority performance management for tourism services.
Where a local authority makes a significant contribution to a DMO/DMP either financially, or through staff secondment, there is still an expectation that the results of that investment will need to be evaluated. This means that performance data will be required to demonstrate value for money and service improvement. It may be that the DMO/DMP will be the most appropriate organisation to provide that data.
To help support monitoring at destination management level, the Partners for England initiative has now established the English Tourism Intelligence Partnership (ETIP). The Partnership’s aim is to improve tourism intelligence in England and provide better evidential support for tourism investment, strategy development and planning at the national, regional and local levels. In this context the RDAs should have an important role in ensuring a co-ordinated and uniform approach across the country.
At the local level this will necessitate an improvement in the quality of information collected particularly in terms of the available accommodation stock and occupancy levels.
The ETIP is also looking at the development of Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSAs) to further improve the collection and comparison of data. It is likely to be some time before TSAs can be made available for individual destinations. Further information on TSAs is given in VisitBritain's Foresights reports
Destination Performance UK is a self-help membership organisation for local authority tourism services and DMOs/DMPs committed to the principles of performance management and best practice. It has its origins in the National Tourism Best Value Group which was created in 1999. It has established a sound basis for the collection of comparative information, benchmarking, and the provision of a platform for sharing best practice.
- Destination and management performance monitoring needs to be seen as an integral part of the management process and should be carried out continuously.
- Information collected should seek to recognise the needs of the English Tourism Intelligence Partnership (ETIP) in securing more robust and timely data at the local level.
- Where DMO/DMPs exist that are supported financially or in staffing terms by local authorities, they should provide the data required for those authorities to monitor and evaluate the results of their investment.
- Volume and value data, using the best available comparable model, needs to be collected on an annual basis.
- Visitor surveys need to be carried out on a comprehensive basis at least every three to five years. Interim surveys on a smaller scale should be used to provide monitoring checks.
- Satisfaction surveys need to be carried out for TIC customers and tourism businesses on an annual basis with resident satisfaction surveys being carried out less frequently, say every three years.
- All surveys should be based on a set of standardised core questions to enable comparison and benchmarking with other destinations.
- Joining a benchmarking club such as Destination Performance UK is a cost effective way of sharing information and experience.
- Using core performance indicators establish a set of performance measures for a destination.