Inside the Chamber column: Gathering Glenwood Springs visitor analytics using 21st century technology
The Glenwood Springs tourism promotion board recently set out to answer a few questions about visitors to this beautiful community. A few years had passed since a visitor study had been conducted on Glenwood Springs, and this time a different approach was chosen. Rather than the traditional tablet-wielding survey-taker wandering the popular tourist haunts over the course of a few weeks during the peak of tourist season, Glenwood Springs partnered with the research company AirSage.
To conduct its studies, AirSage uses patented technology that anonymously collects wireless signaling data to create meaningful location information. In other words, every time any Verizon or Sprint subscriber’s cellphone “pings” a cell tower, the information is anonymously collected and then aggregated. As an aggregate, this data can be used to help answer questions of “when and where” regarding Glenwood Springs visitors.
Accessing proprietary data through AirSage gave Glenwood Springs a sample size of close to half a million visiting cellular devices. That’s immensely larger than anything conceivable with a traditional intercept survey. The nature of the study excludes international visitors (Verizon and Sprint are continental U.S. providers), but the sheer volume of the sample size ensures accurate answers to some basic questions about Glenwood Springs.
From where are visitors are coming? The study confirmed many pre-existing assumptions about the Glenwood Springs visitor, but it also uncovered a few surprises. It will come as no shock that Jefferson, Denver and Arapahoe counties are the largest feeder market, with other Front Range counties following close behind. What was surprising was that a full 40 percent of visitors to Glenwood Springs are from out of state. California, Texas and Illinois are obvious contributors, but a big revelation was the large number of visitors from Utah, Nevada and Arizona. These three states actually sent more visitors than Texas and Illinois, and these six states accounted for more than 17 percent of Glenwood Springs visitors over the course of the 12-month study.
What is a typical visitor’s household size and income? AirSage determines where a visitor is coming from based on a device’s home location — i.e. where does this phone “sleep” at night. Once the software has determined this information, it then associates the anonymous device with the corresponding home location census data. For example, if Boulder County has an average household income of $100,000 per year, the visitor from this county is assumed to have this income. Per the 12-month study, average visitors to Glenwood Springs live in two-person households (another surprise) and make an average of approximately $82,000 per year.
How many total visitors does Glenwood Springs get? A study sample size of nearly half a million is outstanding, but a question asked over and over of the tourism team is “How many total visitors does Glenwood Springs receive each year?” Through a complex extrapolation process, AirSage calculated 2.3 million visitors to Glenwood Springs over the 12-month study period. This includes both overnight and day visitors.
The study also analyzed how long visitors stay, how many visitors to Glenwood Springs visit neighboring counties, and how many visitors to neighboring counties visit Glenwood Springs. All of these questions were studied over the course of a year (July 2015 through June 2016), which helped identified seasonal traveler trends. If you would like to see an overview of the entire study, visit goo.gl/wCkOVq.
For questions, comments, or more information on this study email Cristin Barta, tourism marketing project manager at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association: email@example.com.