The New Era of Hotel Marketing Strategies

by Jennifer Dunphy

Jan 31, 2013

Over the past five- ten years the marketing landscape has experienced a major paradigm shift and many hotels have struggled to keep up with the pace of the ever changing world of new media. In order to compete in todays era of online marketing hoteliers must be creative, flexible, and most importantly adapt quickly.

 

 

 

This week we are continuing with our series on the shifting online marketing landscape and the impact that it is having on tourism and hotel marketing. I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Waight, the online marketing manager for The Lodge at Chaa Creek, located in the rainforest in beautiful western Belize.  He shared with me some of the successful strategies that they are implementing to keep their property booked and make sure that they are staying in front of their potential guests. Being that they are not merely a hotel, but a true destination retreat for travelers, honeymooners and nature lovers, their marketing reflects their unique targeted audience. Read the interview below to see what strategies you may be able to incorporate into your own online marketing strategy and increase your hotels bookings.

 

 

Vayu Media: What is the size of your hotel/B&B or resort?

                                         

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is comprised of 23 luxury palm thatched cottages at The Lodge and 10 comfortable camp casitas at the Macal River Camp.

 

Vayu Media: What makes your hotel special?

 

Chaa Creek:  Chaa Creek is special because of the fact that we are not only a hotel but also a destination. We are located within 365 acres of rainforest reserve in the foothills of the Maya Mountains along the banks of the Macal River in Western Belize. Within the rainforest reserve, we have a Natural History Museum, Butterfly Farm, Restaurant, Bar, a Maya Medicine Plant Trail, Swimming Pool, Fleet of canoes, hilltop spa, an organic farm, horseback riding stable and numerous trails for hiking, bird watching and mountain biking.

 

Vayu Media: What special amenities does your hotel offer ( spa, excursions, pool, vineyard, etc)?

 

Chaa Creek: Our hotel offers the following amenities: hilltop spa, restaurant, bar, luxury swimming pool, 365 acres of rainforest reserve, Maya organic farm, Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm, Natural History Museum, stables, Woodwork shop, and a Conference center.

 

Vayu Media: What are your busy seasons? Slow seasons?

 

Chaa Creek: Busy season is from December to April and slow season is from May to November.

 

Vayu Media: Do your marketing campaigns change to cater to the seasonality of your hotel?

 

Chaa Creek: Yes, our marketing campaigns change to cater to the seasonality of our hotel.

Vayu Media: How many employees does your hotel have?

 

Chaa Creek: We employ 135 people.

 

Vayu Media: Who is your target market/ideal guest?

 

Chaa Creek: Our target market consists of families, adventure travelers, and honeymooners.

 

Vayu Media: How has marketing your resort has changed over the past 5 years?

 

Chaa Creek: Marketing our resort has changed dramatically over the past five years because of technology! Five years ago, our marketing strategies were based on the old rules of marketing which included advertising in expensive magazines, guidebooks and buying television ads. Our new marketing strategies now include the following: search engine optimization, content blogging, video marketing, social media marketing, and sending media releases regularly to PR WEB.

 

Vayu Media: What are you doing about the changing landscape to ensure that you reach your potential guests?

 

Chaa Creek: We have adapted a new media mindset. We now connect with potential and past guests on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest and other social media sites.

 

Vayu Media: How are you responding to changes online (new companies, consolidations, competition, Google changes, etc)

 

Chaa Creek: Attending numerous seminars on internet and social media marketing created a paradigm shift on how we looked at marketing.  To keep up with the latest changes in SEO, blogging and social media marketing, we have subscribed to Internet Blogs such as Hubspot.com, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, Coppyblogger.com, Webink.com and other popular social media sites.

 

Vayu Media: How would you rate the overall visibility of your hotel to potential guests? (online presence, offline presence, location).

 

Chaa Creek: On a scale of 1 to 10, we would rate Chaa Creek at a 9 since we are setting the new media standards in Belize. Last year for example, our internet marketing work was endorsed by the internationally recognized Marketing Guru David Meerman Scott. You can read about it here

 

Vayu Media: What strategies have you implement for growth (SEO, PPC, Social Media, Banner Ads, Mobile Marketing, Blogs, booking engines, online travel agencies etc.)?

 

Chaa Creek: We have instituted several strategies to grow our business online. One of our strategies that we use is blogging daily and consistently on our Belice Travel Blog. Another strategy is sending media releases to PR Web which they distribute to other websites and blogs online. Example: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10321632.htm.

 

Vayu Media: What booking engines/travel search engines/ hotel review sites do you feel are important to have representation on?

 

Chaa Creek: We feel it is important to be listed on the following travel sites: Trip Advisor, Frommer’s, Fodors, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, New York Times Travel, Oyster, Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and the national tourism site of the country travelbelize.org. These sites have either featured Chaa Creek on their websites or we have a profile of our business on their website.

 

Vayu Media: Which booking engines/travel search engines/ hotel review sites do you find yield the best results?

 

Chaa Creek: We think that the following booking engines yield the best results: tripadvisor.com,  hotels.com, booking.com, Travelocity.com, expedia.com and bookit.com

 

Vayu Media: Has your hotel ever been featured or advertised in (online or in print) any of the known travel guides (Lonely Planet, Frommers, Eyewitness Travel, Fodors, etc. )

 

Chaa Creek: Yes our hotel has been featured on Lonely Planet, Fodors and Frommers websites.

 

Vayu Media: What other travel related websites or magazines have you advertised in that you found to be effective?

 

Chaa Creek: The only magazine we advertise in is “Destinations Belize” which is the national tourism magazine in the country of Belize.

 

Vayu Media: What type of local partnerships does your hotel have?

 

Chaa Creek: Chaa Creek is located in the rainforest of Belize.We partner with beach resorts in Ambergris Caye and Placencia to offer our guests both rainforest and reef vacation packages.

 

Vayu Media: What outside influences impact your hotel the most?

 

Chaa Creek: Events like hurricanes and economic factors affect our hotel the most.

 

Vayu Media: What has the success rate been with your online marketing campaigns?

 

Chaa Creek: The success rate has been very high, as 80 percent of our guests find out about Chaa Creek using the internet.

 

Vayu Media: How long did it take to achieve the desired results?

 

Chaa Creek: It took us three years to achieve the desired results.

 

Vayu Media: Was this an ongoing or a onetime strategy?

 

Chaa Creek: This has been an ongoing strategy.

 

Vayu Media: What was the ROI of this strategy?

 

Chaa Creek: We have seen an 80% ROI with our online initiatives.

 

Vayu Media: Which online marketing avenue has provided the highest ROI?

 

Chaa Creek:  SEO, Pay per click and content marketing has provided the highest ROI.

 

Vayu Media: What is a defined conversion for you? A booking/reservation? A request for quote? A call? A newsletter subscription? Other?

 

Chaa Creek: A defined conversion is a booking / reservation.

 

Vayu Media: Do you have an online booking system? If so, which one are you using?

 

Chaa Creek:   No we do not have an online booking system however we are currently developing an in-house booking engine that should be launched as soon as possible.

 

Vayu Media: Do you require a deposit and how does this affect your sales/cancellation rates?

 

Chaa Creek: Yes we require a deposit of 30% of the total amount within 21 days. We believe that it does not affect our sales and it decreases our cancellation rates as the cancellation percentage is very low.

 

Vayu Media: What type of analytics are you implementing to track the success of your marketing campaigns?

 

Chaa Creek: We use Google analytics and alexa.com to track the success of our marketing strategies.

 

Vayu Media: What is your targeted conversion rate/ occupancy rate?

 

Chaa Creek: 80% of our bookings come directly from our website and the other 20% comes from travel agents and wholesalers.

 

Vayu Media: What conversion rates/ occupancy rates are you achieving?

 

Chaa Creek: Our annual average occupancy rate ranges from 65-70%.

 

Vayu Media: What is your monthly traffic rate to your website? How much does this increase with each online marketing campaign that you have implemented?

 

Chaa Creek:  We receive 45,000 visitors on our website every month because of the internet marketing strategies that we implement.

 

Vayu Media: Do you have a dedicated person or dedicated team handling your online marketing endeavors?

 

Chaa Creek: Yes we have a dedicated team that handles our marketing strategies.

 

Vayu Media: How long have you been using the internet as a marketing avenue for your hotel? Were you an early adopter, or late to the game?

 

Chaa Creek:  We have been using the internet since 1996 to promote our hotel. We are considered a pioneer of our industry with our internet and social media marketing strategies in Belize.

 

Vayu Media: What type of offline marketing / advertising do you do for your hotel?

 

Chaa Creek: We advertise in the local newspapers only.

 

Vayu Media: Has something surprised you that you thought wouldn’t work but did work for you or vice versa?

 

Chaa Creek: Yes we thought we would never get any conversions from Facebook and Twitter and it turned out to be not true since last year we started getting conversions from these two channels.

 

Vayu Media: Why do you feel that you have been successful with your online marketing endeavors while many hotels struggle with this?

 

Chaa Creek:  We feel we have been successful with our online marketing endeavors because of our consistent and never ending improvement approach. We are always adjusting our strategy and that is what differentiates us from other hotels.

 

Vayu Media: What’s next on your list? Is there an avenue that you have wanted to explore but have not had the time or budget for it?

 

Chaa Creek: We want to provide each of our guests with a video souvenir of their vacation in Belize. We feel that it is taking too long because of time constraint and a lack of expertise in video editing.

 

Vayu Media: What advice can you offer to other hotels that are interested in trying similar strategies?

 

Chaa Creek: The advice we want to offer to other hotels is that they need to change their mindset, technology is now marketing, things have changed, we now live in a new era… and they can start changing their mindset by reading marketing books from David Meerman Scott – The New Rules of Marketing and PR and Real Time Marketing and Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception.

 

As Larry mentions, to insure that they are found online when their potential guests are searching, not only has The Lodge at Chaa Creek implemented ongoing SEO, Social Media Marketing and other online marketing avenues for the past 3 years, but they have had to actually learn these strategies and subscribe to online marketing related blogs even though they are in the hotel and hospitality industry. To have a successful hotel marketing strategy It is critical to know that as the online marketing industry evolves and rapidly changes, so should your hotels online marketing strategy, if you want to stay ahead of the curve. People are traveling and bookings their arrangements every day. The only question is will they be able to find your hotel when they are ready to book their accommodations?

What online travel marketing strategies has your hotel implemented to achieve success within your hotels marketing campaigns? Share your strategies with us below in the comments section.

 

 

The Lodge at Chaa Creek

 

Internationally recognized as one of the world’s top eco-resorts, Chaa Creek is set within a pristine 365 acre nature rainforest reserve bordered by the tranquil Macal River and the foothills of the Maya Mountains. Gorgeous garden paths connect 23 cottage accommodations, an excellent restaurant, jungle lounge and conference centre and lead to the pool, Hilltop spa, Natural History Centre, Butterfly Farm, Maya Medicinal Plant Trail and the secluded Macal River Camp.

Accommodation options include lovely thatched cottage rooms, suites and villas with indoor and outdoor private Jacuzzi and sundecks surrounded by lush tropical gardens. Miles of rainforest trails are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and guided nature walks.

Located within the Heartland of the Maya, Chaa Creek contains over 70 Maya sites, and is close to the richest and most intriguing ancient Maya temples and ancient cities.  Our rainforest to reef packages open up the incredible variety of Belize from the Maya Mountains to the stunning Belize Barrier Reef.

For those seeking a true Belizean experience with a range of options for both adventure and relaxation, and with award winning Green practices, Chaa Creek is the recognized destination of choice. Chaa Creek Website

 

 

 

 About Larry Waight:

Larry Waight is considered a pioneer of Internet and Social Media Marketing in Belize.

He is a highly motivated and goal-oriented professional pursuing a long-term career in internet marketing, social media marketing and website development.

Larry offers more than 5 years track record demonstrating strong analytical and problem solving skills and a follow through with projects from inception to completion.

He holds degrees in International Business, Economics and Finance and a certificate in Internet Marketing Strategies from the Search Engine Academy in the United States.

Specialties:

• Certified in search engine optimization to produce maximum website ranking results in the different search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing .

• Well versed in web analytics, Content management systems, blog marketing, social media, and search engine optimization.

•Intrinsic creative talent and lifelong interest in academia; constantly updating personal persona to maximize professional output.


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