Although representing At 10% of global GDP, the travel industry is one of the latest to embrace big data and analytics. Darren Dunn and Jay Kinghorn have experienced this firsthand — Dunn as a sales executive at various travel companies, including FarePortal.com, and Jay as an associate managing director at the Utah Office of Tourism.
“Destinations around the world [are] relying on outdated quarterly and annual reports to make critical decisions about marketing allocation, product mix and coordination with stakeholders such as hoteliers, attractions and local government officials,” Dunn told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The tourism and hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic and the industry has not fully recovered. The industry needs to provide attractive career paths to allow people to build their careers and have long-term stability.”
To try to bring some data and digitization into tourism operations, Dunn and Kinghorn co-founded Zartiko, a platform that provides analytics and visualizations to destination management organizations, or DMOs — government-affiliated tourism boards that promote locations as tourist destinations. With the sign business performing as expected, Zartico today announced that it has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Arthur Ventures with participation from Peterson Partners, the proceeds of which Dunn says will go towards R&D and employee development and hiring.
Zartico’s platform ingests geolocation, cost and event data from partners — Dunn wouldn’t say which providers — and overlays it on top of other data streams (eg, from customer relationship management systems and job boards). Using it, clients can see where visitors to a location migrate and move 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 in a certain area, and extract mentions of tourist destinations from unstructured text (eg social media posts and web pages). These insights can be used to help clients develop a new travel product line and refine their marketing campaigns, Dunn says.
“DMOs don’t have the first-party data, such as customer email addresses or shipping addresses, nor do they have the conversion data to explicitly link marketing initiatives to sales and revenue growth,” Dunn said. “Advances in our integrated data model strengthen the alignment between our core data sets [for DMOs,] for faster, more accurate and easier self-service insights into spend, traffic, marketing and web datasets.”
Zartico’s geolocation tracking may not appeal to all privacy advocates—or tourists, for that matter. After all, it wasn’t until August that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleged that one data broker, Kochava, was selling customers the exact locations of U.S. users. inclusive in therapists’ offices and homeless shelters. A seminal A story from The New York Times showed the different ways that location data — typically from smartphones — can be used to track a person’s movements, especially when linked to publicly available records.
“We don’t allow our data to be used to target ads to people under the legal age — for example, alcohol and casinos — or to create audiences for places frequented primarily by children, like preschools and playgrounds,” Dunn added. “We [also ] do not allow our data to be used for employment, credit, healthcare or insurance purposes, and do not allow our data to be used to target vulnerable or sensitive communities – for example by political, religious or sexual orientation – or to identify those in sensitive areas ( eg conflict zones, protests, religious sites, clinics, etc.) or in places.’
Zartico launched in March 2020 — one week before most of the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite inclement weather and competition from rivals including Arrivalist, Rove and Datafy (who specialize in data visualization and reporting) and Placer.ai (which tracks people’s movements), Dunn says Zartico has grown to more than 188 customers in less than three years. All customers are government organizations—cities, counties and visitor bureaus—that have actively contributed to Zartico’s $10 million in annual revenue.
Dunn has grandiose plans for the future, including using machine learning to create behavioral patterns that prevent “over-tourism” in certain destinations. Zartico is also looking at new markets, he says – mainly sports venues, municipalities and airports – as it ramps up its headcount over the next six months from 61 employees to more than 100.
“The pandemic has heightened the world’s understanding and appreciation of the impact of the visitor economy. This experience brought the need for real-time decision making to the fore,” Dunn said. “No longer content with rear-view mirrors, the destination industry seeks and deserves forward-looking tools. Zartico is well-positioned to lead the technical transformation due to the rapid shift towards the use of high-frequency arrays of big data 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.