Tracking Down Measurement Resources
In this section of Driving Financial Sustainability for Byway Organizations, we look at tracking and measurement resources as suggested by byway representatives participating in the roundtable discussions for this CD project. The National Scenic Byway Resource Center has identified the need to establish a new, economic impact study protocol that aims to improve the state of the art and standardize study methods so that future economic impact studies are comparable and consistent in their methods. Learn more (PDF)
Do you develop your own tools or do you call someone for assistance in developing a tracking and measurement program for your byway? Who is already conducting statistical and other surveys that might have valuable information to support your planning and development and measurement efforts? Who offers data online? Who provides consulting services to help you determine target audiences and the effectiveness of campaigns to reach those audiences? Who can help you measure the economic impact of your byway with resulting data that will convince funders to support your organization and/or your projects?
Among the byway representatives participating in the roundtable discussions for this CD there is a consensus for developing a centralized system for defining, developing, collecting and analyzing byway impact data. Byway organizations, of course, can and do generate their own surveys and collect data using staff, in cooperation with university-based resources, or by contract with a consulting agency or as a combination of the three efforts.
Who already has or can help produce the type of data you are interested in?
Your State Tourism and/or Economic Development office or a statewide tourism, hospitality or vacation council likely has statistics that may be of use to you. Ask your State Department of Transportation for traffic counts.
Do area visitor centers, local attractions and event hosts keep attendance counts with admission fees that show economic impact?
One of the services the byway organization might offer its members is training in how to collect impact data using a system standardized for your byway, if not for all byways.
Organizations such as the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) often provide statistical and trend data for free, with additional data available by fee or subscription. TIA’s Travel Economic Impact Model estimates travel expenditures and related economic impact in the U.S with annual statistics on a national, state, regional and county/city basis. Interested parties may contract with TIA to use the model for conducting customized research at the county and local levels.
Consulting firms provide tracking and measurement services for a fee, and may help you design programs to help increase your impact figures. No endorsement is implied for any resources listed here; a thorough references check is always advised before signing any contract for services.
Travel research consultant Judy Randall of Randall Travel Marketing spoke at the 2003 National Scenic Byway Conference on Capturing Your Customer’s View. (This is a large file that includes suggestions for developing mail surveys, intercept surveys, and telephone surveys.) Accompanying material is the 7-page A Basic Conversion Study How To.
What type of information do you need to make the case that your byway is providing a positive economic impact on the region? Are you interested in the number of residents, number of byway-related jobs, number of businesses on the byway, the number of new businesses starting up in the past five years and other indicators of economic growth?
For some byway groups, the number of historic buildings saved from destruction is a measure of successful impact viewed in combination with economic and tourist visitation data.
Would GIS data, perhaps available from a state or county agency, on land use patterns be useful? The Geographic Information Systems is a computerized system that allows mapping by designated themes and addresses. The system allows you to analyze an area by such information as its Census data categories or by the level of charitable giving to your organization based on addresses. The system allows layers of information to be seen as a geodatabase, a map and a dataset model that can then be analyzed for target marketing and other purposes. Departments of Transportation often have such a system in place and may be willing to demonstrate the system or offer training.
It is important to establish a baseline or benchmark for each type of statistic or focus area that you will track. The baseline provides a basis for comparison of increase or loss. A universally standardized survey for collecting information on byways nationwide could be a useful tool for comparing byways as a collective group.
Economic impact for the byway organization itself can be tracked on many levels, including the number of memberships and sponsorships retained and new, and the increase or decrease in sales of byway-related products sold for the benefit of the byway organization. The impact of the byway organization on the regional economy is more likely to involve the number of tourism-related jobs retained and new and other community-based data.
With some statistics, such as traffic counts, attributing the impact of those statistics directly to or only to the byway will be difficult. Some byway organizations have found it wise to position their byway as among the factors influencing local impact or growth.
Measurement tools used by byway representatives participating in the roundtable discussions for this CD include:
Developing Your Own Visitor Profile Surveys - click on #4
Identifying Your Target Market Through Research - click on #4
National Scenic Byways Awareness and Image Questionnaire - click on #4