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What Destinations Can Do About Apple’s Location Data Overhaul



Nikolai Scholz
Director, Product Management,


Say goodbye to location mapping and targeting as it is today on the iPhone, iPad and other Mac devices.

Apple recently announced some new changes with the next release of their operating system iOS 15.

With the use of the iCloud Private Relay, they are now going to hide the IP address of a person that surfs the web on the Safari browser. For many Destination Management Organizations, this represents a new hurdle, as the IP address is commonly used to identify and target by location.

With this change the IP Address is now going to lose most, if not all, of its value.

Location targeting will still be possible, even on Safari, but this shift represents a limitation on the volume and accuracy of IP Tracking.

It’s a change that DMOs should re-assess as it pertains to their own marketing efforts. For example, a DMO that wants to target travelers visiting from a neighboring state will lose the ability to target Apple users on macOS 12 and iOS15.

This type of targeting will continue seeing future changes -  it’s likely that other browsers like Google Chrome make similar announcements. Building a strategy that isn’t solely reliant on IP address is a smart investment in the future.

Expanding beyond IP addresses

There are a lot of reasons why DMOs and many other marketers rely on IP addresses for location based targeting.

The IP address is easy to access, and really scalable; it’s easy to use it to target people all over the country and globe.

However, the truth is it’s not actually all that accurate. One estimate shows the IP address is only about 50% to 70% accurate for someone’s city, and only slightly better for their region or state. If we estimated right in the middle, say 66% accuracy, that means one out of every three people targeted is actually located somewhere else. That’s a third of the budget wasted.

With the relative ease and scale that the IP address has offered, this fact has often been overlooked, but now that Apple is putting the squeeze on IP addresses, these combined factors should be enough to prompt DMOs to find alternative approaches. One great option is “consented location data” which is a fancy way of saying “location data a DMO can use with the travelers knowledge and permission.”

Perhaps most importantly, consented data represents a true one-to-one relationship with a potential visitor. Luckily, consumers are willing to provide location data in many situations (i.e. in the terms and conditions of a transaction or by using location-specific services such as delivery apps,) and DMOs can be the beneficiaries of that.

Assessing consented data options

Gaining access to opt-in location data (i.e consented data) comes with a few challenges. First, gathering consented location data requires some new strategies and partnerships on the DMOs’ part. DMOs should have a data collection strategy that not only asks travelers for their location, but also partners with other companies that do.

With privacy regulations in place including GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California and many other similar state laws, DMOs have already started to create an “opt-in” strategy for collecting visitor insights, and that’s great. Collecting location data can be incorporated into that strategy. For example, when travelers search on site, ask them if they’d like to receive offers targeted to places they plan to visit.

The data a DMO can collect themselves is great, but DMOs will also need partnerships to replace IP addresses at scale. Starting early on this journey will help ramp up scale before it causes any decrease in the amount of visitors a DMO can reach.

DMOs should start by creating a traveler journey graph to see what channels and resources travelers access when researching a site. DMOS can start with a “data skeleton” that identifies travelers entering the destination as well as their start and end of stay (usually through flight and hotel booking data).

Next, add source data for the travelers’ origin or home. Finally, flesh it out with important information about their in-market behavior and preferences such as concert, museum, shopping and restaurant data.

Before reaching out to find new data sources, DMOs should take a look at what they already have access to, and what their local region is already collecting.

Some DMOs may have huge attractions (for example, Hershey in Pennsylvania, U.S.) that are experts at gathering location data, while other DMOs might have much more distributed visitor profiles where location data isn’t already being collected by the bigger destinations, but might benefit from a data consortium or partnership.

Next, it’s time to fill in the gaps with additional partners that can offer a combination of quality and scale. With the traveler journey graph as a guide, assess partners for how effectively they can help reach travelers in key locations and on key channels.

Building a consented-data location strategy does take time and effort, but the results are worth it. When DMOs are in charge of their own visitors and their data, they have more control and more accuracy, which can deliver better campaign results.

The good news is that DMOs can get going down this journey today, and they don’t have to do everything at once. Even a small step towards collecting location data can make a big difference.

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