Are tourists a big part of your customer base? Do you know why they visit your town or area? Do you know where they come from? Do you wish you knew more about them? Without commissioning your own market research, which can be costly, how will you ever find out?

Recently our local business advocate group, Pro Busselton, commissioned us to take on a big research task for the Busselton/Dunsborough area with one basic objective: who is the visitor? It was a task that took us several months to implement, analyse and report on, but it was an amazing triumph for Pro Busselton – their members can now access this data, and understand their customers better, for free!

The invaluable nature of the research evidenced itself in one major finding: the typical visitor to Busselton is NOT a family with 2.5 kids. It’s a couple, aged 34-45, and the female is the prime decision maker. For a business which positions itself to families and kids, this is a big wake-up call. Sure you’ll be busy in School Holidays, but what about the other 40 weeks of the year?

The research also showed us how Busselton and Dunsborough were very much perceived as ‘short break’ destinations, with the average length of stay calculating to 2.8 nights. Again, if you’re a business that focuses on 1 and 2 week long holidays, it would seem you were missing the bulk of the market.

These are just two of the many surprising findings from the research data.

The Pro Busselton project was criticised as a ‘less than productive’ use of the organisation’s funds, but I can’t disagree more. We can market a destination until we’re black and blue in the face, but if we’re doing it to the wrong people, with the wrong messages, it is a complete waste.

If you’re a member of a tourism organisation or business group, I encourage you to think of market research as one of their most important roles. If your representative bodies aren’t proactive with providing information and data, I also encourage you to talk to them about commissioning research like Pro Busselton did. It was an amazing insight into an audience we all assumed we understood, but clearly we did not.

If you’d like to read through the Beachcomber project report, please contact Sharna at the Geographe Bay Tourism Association.