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Moving on From Sentiment

Issue # 9 (707 Words/4 Minutes)

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Moving on From Sentiment

For the past several years, both resident and visitor sentiment studies have been in vogue with research firms and Destination Marketing Organizations. Is it time to move on?

The notion of getting someone's sentiment was another way of asking their opinion regarding tourism issues if you are a resident or about a destination if you are an existing or potential visitor. When Covid came along, tracking sentiment from one week to the next created strong interest among DMO's. These studies were somewhat helpful because the industry had never experienced the impacts that Covid initially brought. As a result, many DMO's were desperately looking for some insight,

any insight with which to interpret the market and inform their constituency.

These reports are much like looking at a thermometer outside your window, providing a little information but not really enough.

It may be time to move on for several reasons: Tracking sentiment in conjunction with certain trends doesn't really provide insight for strategic decisions. Secondly, it may be time to move toward deeper and more meaningful indicators and something that equips executives with deeper insights to develop strategies and make decisions.

It may be time to move away from sentiment and opinion and move toward resident and visitor perspectives. What's the difference? Subtle but important. According to Webster, sentiment is an attribute or opinion, whereas perspective is the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance. More simply, sentiment is one's attitude toward something or what they have already decided about something. In contrast, perspective is what influences people's choices.

Focusing more on visitors' or residents' perspectives allows for a deeper understanding of relationships between people and places and the importance of influencing and shaping their decisions regarding tourism issues and places.

Understanding what shapes a person's perspective opens the door to understanding a person's values. This is where real insight can be found in identifying and aligning resident values with visitors that have the same values.

Traditional tourism marketing would suggest you start with consumers, find out their likes, what motivates them to visit, etc. As the influence of overtourism and Covid have weighed on destinations, smart DMOs have shifted their focus to viewing tourism through a resident lens. Resident perspective/values are the next logical step in this process. It follows a similar approach to identifying resident passions, such as mountain biking, road biking, hiking, etc. Once those have been identified, the DMO looks to match those passions with visitors that have the same passions. A deeper look into a resident's perspective will reveal their values, which offers the opportunity to identify those potential visitors that align best with the values of the community.

This perspective-based approach considers much more than a person's sentiment, attitude, or opinion. As we have seen, ongoing sentiment tracking through the pandemic provided a trend. It's like checking the temperature for the week and based on what you see, you get an idea of what jacket to wear, or should you bring your umbrella. Understanding perspective considers a variety of variables and their influences. In the same example, perspective allows you to take the temperature to ask what time of day you will be outside, where you will be, and what you will be doing? It allows you to consider if you have the right gear in your closet to deal with whatever the weather will be. It gives a fuller picture.

As the shocks of one COVID variant after another become normalized to a new reality, sentiment becomes less critical. In contrast, perspective and how residents or visitors frame their reality grows in importance and becomes more interesting to marketers. The tourism industry is being reshaped before our eyes, and gaining true insight into what drives visitors' and residents' perspectives is needed now more than ever before.

Understanding perspective also opens the door to innovation. It creates new frameworks for viewing residents and visitors in ways that measuring sentiment simply cannot. It is in this space where creativity can flourish. No matter what research you do, it's a means to an end. We are in a turbulent time where perspective can add much more to the discussion.

Take Another Path

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