Despite accounting for 10% of global GDP, the tourism industry has been one of the late adopters of big data and analytics. Darren Dunn and Jay Kinghorn have experienced this first-hand – Dunn as a sales manager at various travel agencies, including FarePortal.com and Jay as an associate general manager at the Utah Tourism Board.
“Destinations around the world [are] relying on outdated quarterly and annual reports to make critical decisions on marketing allocation, product mix and coordination with stakeholders such as hoteliers, attractions and local authorities,” Dunn told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The tourism and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic and the industry has not fully recovered. The industry must provide attractive career paths to enable people to build their career and have long-term stability.
In an attempt to inject data and digitalization into tourism operations, Dunn and Kinghorn co-founded Zartico, a platform that provides analytics and visualizations to Destination Management Organizations, or DMOs – tourism boards affiliated with the government that promote the places as travel destinations. In a signage business that lives up to expectations, Zartico today announced it has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Arthur Ventures with participation from Peterson Partners, whose proceeds, according to Dunn, will be assigned to R&D and hiring.
Zartico’s platform ingests geolocation, spend, and event data from partners – Dunn wouldn’t say which vendors – and overlays it with other data feeds (e.g. customer relationship management systems and job boards). Using it, clients can see where visitors to a place migrate and travel at street level and track the effects of tourism on local businesses.
On the analytics side, Zartico uses AI to predict activity, such as the volume of visitors to a certain area, and to extract mentions of travel destinations from unstructured text (e.g., posts on social networks and web pages). These extractions can be used to help customers develop new travel product lines and refine their marketing campaigns, Dunn says.
“DMOs don’t have first-party data, such as customer email addresses or shipping addresses, or conversion data to explicitly connect marketing initiatives to sales and revenue growth,” said Dunn. “Advances in our integrated data model strengthen alignment between our core datasets [for DMOs,] enabling faster, more accurate, and easier self-service insights into spend, movement, marketing, and web datasets.
Zartico’s geolocation tracking might not be suitable for all privacy advocates — or tourists for that matter. After all, it wasn’t until August that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleged that a data broker, Kochava, had sold its clients the precise locations of U.S. consumers, including the offices of therapists. and homeless shelters. A seminal New York Times article showed the various ways in which location data – usually from smartphones – can be used to track a person’s movements, especially when correlated with publicly available records.
“We do not allow our data to be used to target advertising to people under the legal age – for example, alcohol and casinos – or to build audiences for places primarily visited by children such as preschools and playgrounds,” Dunn added. “We [also ] do not allow the use of our data for employment, credit, health care or insurance purposes, and we do not allow the use of our data to target vulnerable or sensitive communities – by for example, by political, religious or sexual orientation – or to identify those located in sensitive areas (e.g. conflict zones, demonstrations, religious sites, clinics, etc.) or to locations. »
Zartico launched in March 2020, a week before most of the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the inopportune timing and competition from competitors including Arrivalist, Rove and Datafy (which specialize in data visualization and reporting) and Placer.ai (which tracks people’s movements), Dunn says Zartico has moved on. to more than 188 customers in less than three years. years. All customers are government entities – think cities, counties, and visitor bureaus – who have actively contributed to Zartico’s $10 million in annual revenue.
Dunn has big plans for the future, including using machine learning to create behavioral models that prevent “overtourism” in particular destinations. Zartico is also targeting new markets, he says – primarily sports venues, municipalities and airports – as it grows its workforce over the next six months from 61 employees to more than 100.
“The pandemic has increased the world’s understanding and appreciation of the impact of the visitor economy. This experience brought to the fore the need for real-time decision making,” Dunn said. “No longer content with mirrors, the destination industry seeks and deserves forward-looking tools. Zartico is uniquely positioned to lead technical transformation due to the rapid pivot to using large, high-frequency datasets to provide situational awareness.
Zartico has raised a total of $24.5 million in capital to date, including the Series A tranche that closed today.