Published on 02-Apr-2012
"During the crisis we made all sorts of analyses of our results and calculated what the further impact would be by developing predictive models. Based on these analyses, the Amsterdam city council made budget available for us to develop additional marketing activities. That worked very well. We came out of the crisis much more quickly than other European cities." - Olivier Ponti, Research & Development Manager of the Development, Research and Advice department, Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board
Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board
Travel & Transportation
Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Optimizing IT, Smarter Planet
Smarter Cities, Smarter Transportation
With annual visitor numbers totalling 12.2 million, Amsterdam is among Europe’s top 10 tourist cities. The number of people that also visit the area around the city – the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area – is even higher. This includes both holiday and business visitors: in 2010, for example, the area hosted as many as 645 international conventions. The tourism sector in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area generates approximately €6 billion annually and provides employment to 111,000 people.
Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination, but the competition is fierce between European city break destinations. Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board (ATCB) wanted to make the city as attractive as possible to potential visitors by responding optimally to their needs. Targeted marketing campaigns would increase the chance of tourists opting for Amsterdam.
IBM® predictive analytics software allows ATCB to combine and analyse data from various sources in order to gain insight into tourist preferences, behaviour and satisfaction. In this way, ATCB is better able to gear its services and products to the tourists’ needs, and thereby influence their behaviour. In addition, IBM analytics software makes it possible to predict which target groups are most likely to visit Amsterdam, allowing ATCB to make more efficient use of its marketing budget and increase the results of its promotional campaigns.
Supports a 14 percent boost in hotel guests and overnight stays, a 7 percent increase in international airport arrivals and a 17 percent increase in the number of conventions. Provides the ability to process an enormous amount of data on millions of visitors with only 1.5 full time employees.
Enables a targeted approach of the most interesting groups of potential visitors for a more effective use of the marketing budget. Increases visitor satisfaction and product sales, as well as substantially increases the number of tourists that visit Amsterdam each year.
To read a Dutch version of this case study, please click here.
With annual visitor numbers totalling 12.2 million, Amsterdam is among Europe’s top 10 tourist cities. The number of people that also visit the area around the city – the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area – is even higher. This includes both holiday and business visitors: in 2010, for example, the area hosted as many as 645 international conventions. The tourism sector in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area generates approximately €6 billion annually and provides employment to 111,000 people. Tourism is therefore an important economic factor in the region.
The contribution of the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board (ATCB) to the employment and prosperity of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area should not be underestimated. By customising promotion, information, research and service provision, ATCB aims to encourage leisure and business visits to the region. The organisation’s 100 employees initiate and promote innovation and product development. ATCB also carries out worldwide marketing and promotion activities, for example by organising advertising campaigns and press trips. It also works with various partners, such as the Amsterdam city council and various travel industry organisations.
For ATCB to work effectively, it is essential to have a good understanding of the behaviour of tourists. Olivier Ponti, Research & Development Manager of the Development, Research and Advice department of ATCB, explains: “We want to monitor where, when and why people go to Amsterdam. But it is just as important to know how we can influence this behaviour and what the effects of our activities are. All this information helps us – both as an organisation and as a destination – to perform better and to face up to strong competition from other European cities.”
Researching data from a variety of sources
In order to collect the information required to achieve its aims, ATCB analyses data from many different sources. “We carry out a lot of research ourselves, for example via our website, our service centre, chat rooms and the tourist information offices,” says Ponti. “We also carry out customer satisfaction surveys via e-mail and conduct face-to-face interviews. In 2011 we conducted personal interviews with as many as 10,200 people. Altogether, this provides us with a great deal of data, from social and demographic specifics on visitors, to information on how they prepare their trips, what areas they visit, how much money they spend, how satisfied they are, and what improvements they would like to see.”
ATCB looks at the use of the “I amsterdam” tourist card as well. “Tourists can use this card to travel on all trams, buses and underground lines of the Amsterdam public transport system, as well as gain access to the city’s top attractions,” explains Ponti. “They also benefit from all sorts of discounts and surprises. The use of the card provides us with information on what tourists do, which activities they combine and how they move about.”
In addition, ATCB uses data from its partners in the tourism industry as well as from Statistics Netherlands, for example regarding hotels: the number of overnight stays, where new hotels are being built, and so on. If ATCB has any specific questions, then the organisation conducts ad hoc surveys.
Further automation of data processing
For several years, ATCB has been using IBM Business Analytics software to analyse its data. Ponti comments: “When I started working for ATCB we were already using IBM SPSS® Statistics. In 2009 as a result of various developments we also started to use IBM SPSS Modeler. That year it helped us to update all our research projects and improve our processes. We also started on new projects, such as a major visitors’ survey.”
Another reason for purchasing IBM predictive analytics software was the fact that the “I amsterdam” card produced a great deal of data that ATCB was not able to process effectively. Ponti explains: “With 1.5 full-time employees, we are a very small department. We therefore have to be very efficient. With IBM analytics we were able to further automate the processing of the data. It became possible to combine data from various sources quickly and simply to create predictive models and to identify patterns and trends.”
ATCB implemented the IBM analytics software itself. Training provided by IBM helped to make the implementation run smoothly. “The training was very useful and interesting, and quickly made us familiar with the strengths of the software, for example, in making accurate predictions,” says Ponti.
Better timing of promotional campaigns
IBM Business Analytics software provides ATCB with better insight into the behaviour of tourists who visit the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, and allows the board to respond more effectively to identified trends in tourist behaviour. A good example is the in-depth analysis of data gathered from the “I amsterdam” card. Ponti comments: “We looked at time patterns to discover peaks throughout the year or during the day. This information enabled us to better time promotional campaigns and discounts, but also to influence when popular museums or attractions are visited so that they are not overwhelmed with visitors.”
In this way, ATCB can improve sales and marketing activities on the one hand, and provide a better experience for visitors on the other.
ATCB also discovered that it was better to cluster various attractions on the card, a fact which it has since taken into consideration. “We now try to add groups of attractions in a geographical area to the card instead of isolated attractions,” says Ponti. In addition, the analysis of the card data provides information that ATCB can use to further develop and market the “I amsterdam” card. Ponti adds: “We have been able to see how many tourists combined their visits to museums and attractions. We used these correlations to build profiles such as ‘Family and Entertainment’ and then geared our sales and marketing activities around them. We are also able to cluster the promotion of various museums and attractions.”
Effective use of marketing budget
The analysis of the results of visitor surveys also provides ATCB with valuable information. “Based on socio-demographic data, we can now develop segments of tourists who are more likely to visit Amsterdam. We discovered that the following three factors play a role in this: they come from areas with a large population, they have high purchasing power and their home area has good transport links to Amsterdam. Using those insights, we can use our marketing budget more effectively,” says Ponti.
Getting through the crisis faster
It is also remarkable how the IBM analytics software has enabled ATCB to help Amsterdam’s tourist industry avoid the worst effects of the global financial crisis. Ponti: “During the crisis we made all sorts of analyses of our results and calculated what the further impact would be by developing predictive models. Based on these analyses, the Amsterdam city council made budget available for us to develop additional marketing activities. That worked very well. We came out of the crisis much more quickly than other European cities,” explains Ponti.
Attracting the most lucrative conventions
An important role for ATCB is to promote Amsterdam as a top destination for conferences and conventions. To that end, the board created a database to analyse the profile of all meetings that had taken place in Amsterdam in recent years. With this information, ATCB is now able to attract new conferences to Amsterdam in a more targeted manner. Research also showed that 27 percent of all meetings accounted for 66 percent of all meeting delegates and yielded the most profit. These were mostly events organised by the government or trade associations aimed at knowledge sharing. For that reason ATCB decided to focus on this segment.
By combining information from various meeting locations, ATCB is able to determine what the real ‘hot spots’ are for the events sector, and why. In addition, ATCB can now investigate the reasons why certain areas are not performing so well. Ponti comments: “We provide our partners with the results of this type of analysis and others. In doing so, we present our organisation as a knowledge centre within the tourism sector in Amsterdam.”
Keeping customers happy
ATCB has also made intensive use of the IBM software for its satisfaction surveys. Ponti says: “We use IBM analytics to combine and analyse the results of various customer satisfaction surveys,” says Ponti. “The feedback helps us improve the quality of our services. It turned out that many of the visitors to our English language website were not native English speakers, and that the English on the website was far too difficult for them. As a result, we have decided to modify the level of language used.”
Based on an ad-hoc survey into customer satisfaction, ATCB managed to retain a very important customer. “A big trade show and congress event was going to leave Amsterdam because it claimed that its participants were not satisfied. We then conducted a survey among 7,000 participants, and based on the results we have offered the organisers very concrete solutions. In doing so, we successfully managed to keep the event in Amsterdam,” explains Ponti.
Boosting productivity with research and analysis
Ponti is very happy with the results that ATCB has obtained with the IBM software. ‘First of all, our productivity is high due to our analysis tools. Despite our department being quite small, the analysis tools are powerful and flexible enough to enable us to process and analyse enormous amounts of data. That is a great asset,” says Ponti.
Moreover, the information that the various analyses provide enables ATCB to approach various visitor segments in a much more targeted manner and provide them with suitable services and products. The sales of the “I amsterdam” card, for example, increased by 26 percent in the first year after ATCB implemented IBM analytics. In subsequent years, sales of the card have continued to increase strongly.
Outperforming other European cities
The number of hotel guests and overnight stays in Amsterdam increased by 14 percent between 2009 and 2010, while the number of international travellers by plane increased by 7 percent. The number of conferences also increased by 17 percent. This shows that Amsterdam has performed much better than many other European cities. Ponti comments: “It is difficult to link these results directly with the implementation of the IBM software, as we are not the only organisation that promotes Amsterdam as an attractive destination. It is certain, though, that due to this software we make better decisions and are able to approach the right customer segments in a more targeted and therefore more cost-efficient manner with suitable products and services. In this way, the analysis software greatly contributes to our results.”
In the future, ATCB wants to exploit the potential of the IBM Business Analytics software even further. “We want to work more with scenarios to better predict different outcomes. And even though we are leading the way in our sector, we can explore other aspects to get to know our customers better. That would also help to further strengthen our position as a knowledge centre.”
About IBM Business Analytics
IBM Business Analytics software delivers actionable insights decision-makers need to achieve better business performance. IBM offers a comprehensive, unified portfolio of business intelligence, predictive and advanced analytics, financial performance and strategy management, governance, risk and compliance and analytic applications.
With IBM software, companies can spot trends, patterns and anomalies, compare “what if” scenarios, predict potential threats and opportunities, identify and manage key business risks, and plan, budget and forecast resources. With these deep analytic capabilities, our customers around the world can better understand, anticipate and shape business outcomes.
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