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Customer Stories How Visit Big Sky uses Inntopia DestiMetrics to keep pace with larger, better-funded destinations.

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photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

 Oct 6, 2020

Big Sky is one of the most scenic destinations in the world, but those vistas come with unique challenges. The annual budget of the area’s DMO, Visit Big Sky, is a small fraction of other western destinations. Unincorporated and straddling two counties, there are plenty of politics to maneuver around and account for as efforts are made to keep visitation high.

And data about the destination? It’s almost non-existent.

But Candace Carr Strauss, Visit Big Sky’s CEO and the one-woman marketing team making the most of that meager budget, has a secret weapon. Two, in fact. One is named Katie Barnes and the other Ryder Fairbank.

Getting the Data…and More

Five years ago Visit Big Sky signed onto DestiMetrics. The goal was to pool lodging data for their destination in order to generate insightful benchmarks and reports around Big Sky’s performance and how that performance compares to other destinations. And while the tech side of DestiMetrics absolutely delivered, what she didn’t understand at the time was how valuable the human side of that platform – her two account managers – would be.

“Katie and Ryder are fantastic. I think of them much more like an extension of my team than a vendor. They’re always available, always willing, always trying to help me and Visit Big Sky be successful.”

This was especially true when their contract came up for renewal and a large chunk of their bed base left that reporting pool. If they couldn’t maintain enough data to paint a representative picture of performance, the program was at risk of collapsing. Ryder and Katie, true to form, jumped in to help.

“Ryder and Katie were incredible. Before we lost those rooms from the pool they worked tirelessly to try to keep them. Once we did, they quickly pivoted to helping me get new lodging properties signed on, educating them on the program, onboarding them, getting their data ready, and helping them access reports.”

When Ryder heard that a participating organization with doubts about the data’s integrity was in Denver near the DestiMetrics office, he met with them personally at a local coffee shop to walk through the program, better understand their situation, and allay their concerns over confidentiality and data-sharing.

Optimism Amidst Challenges

The challenges for Candace and Visit Big Sky will never go away, but very much to her credit the destination has experienced impressive growth in multiple performance metrics since the start of the program. With the help of Ryder and Katie, she now has access to a pacing report to help dial in the timing of marketing outreach and the rates being offered.. And the new Destination Roundtables that Katie has organized have been priceless.

“These roundtables have been phenomenal at bringing destination leaders together and sharing best practices. I love the way they cascade across the 18 participating mountain resort communities the qualitative with the quantitative aspects of what we are seeing. There is nothing in our contract that says Katie needs to be doing these, but she recognized the immense value they would provide and has taken the initiative to make them happen.”

The success of any DestiMetrics program depends on each participants’ ability to see the value from it. This is something that Ryder and Katie have constantly helped reinforce through webinars, regular meetings, and consistently reaching out to Candace so they’re always on the same page.

“Katie and Ryder are always asking what more can they do.”

Yes, the data is making a huge difference as Candace continues to push Visit Big Sky forward. But that personal, proactive support? It makes all the difference.

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