What Type of Online Hospitality Marketing Initiatives are Hoteliers Implementing to Keep Their Properties Booked?

by Jennifer Dunphy

Oct 18, 2012

villa selva mar hospitalityWith the economy finally picking back up for many businesses, marketers are once again looking into new initiatives that they can implement within their digital strategies to start seeing some business recovery. The hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit segments during the recession. With people struggling to make ends meet, the last thing on their mind was travel and dining out. Hotel and tourism marketing is crucial for hoteliers to stay top of mind with guests that are increasingly more internet savvy and quick to take to the web with both praise and complaints regarding their experience. So what should hotels be doing to best market their properties on the web and get their guests engaged as brand advocates? Read more to find out.

This week I had the pleasure to interview Jordan Vaughan Smith, with Villa Selva Mar a luxury home rental in Uvita Costa Rica. Jordan graciously shared with us what she has done online to market her property and increase her bookings.



Vayu Media: What aspect of the hospitality industry does your business fall into?


Villa Selva Mar: Villa Selva Mar is a luxury vacation home.


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


Villa Selva Mar: Located in the tropical jungle of Costa Rica, we receive over 17 feet of rain annually and our seasons are based on the weather.  High Season is December to August and Low Season is September to November.


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


Villa Selva Mar: Yes, we run promotions during the high season since heavy rains make it difficult for travelers during the low season.


Vayu Media: What makes your business special?


Villa Selva Mar: Under Costa Rica’s jungle canopy, overlooking Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, surrounded by a wildlife refuge, Villa Selva Mar is where luxury, relaxation and rainforest meet. Nestled inside the 3,000+ acre conservation preserve, atop a ridge the home sits 750 feet above the ocean breezes. It is home to 350 species of birds, toucans and parrots flock in the dozens, monkeys call it home, anteaters roam, dart frogs hop and cotamundis reside. From the 3,250 sq. foot deck you can observe breaching Arctic and Antarctic whales with your personal view of Uvita’s Whale’s Tail.  This is the only place in the world where both Arctic and Antarctic Whales co-exist. A bird lover’s paradise, Villa Selva Mar is a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath 15 acre private luxury estate with on site staff, freshly prepared breakfast, daily housekeeping and laundry, media/office annex, fitness equipment, and a saltwater lap pool.   Additionally, Villa Selva Mar works with a full service concierge to help arrange local tours, private chefs, restaurant reservations, on-site massages and other spa services, as well as rental cars, chauffer’s, international DHL service, etc.


Vayu Media: How many employees does your company have?


Villa Selva Mar: 4


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


Villa Selva Mar: A high-end group or family that is ready to experience the beauty, adventure and bio-diversity of Costa Rica.


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


Villa Selva Mar: Complete re-branding of the property including new name, website and logo.  Social media outreach with Facebook and YouTube, GoogleAds, SEO, listing with several booking engines, high end concierge services and luxury flash sale sites.


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


Villa Selva Mar: VRBO and HomeAway have been our mainstay but that is expected to change as we are looking to high-end concierge services to increase our traffic.


Vayu Media: Do you incentivize your guests to write reviews on 3rd party sites like TriAdvisor, Yelp, etc? How do you do this?


Villa Selva Mar: We are in the process of implementing a strategy.  Our current thought is offering a Villa Selva Mar bathrobe.


Vayu Media: Were the strategies that you implemented “out of the box” or industry standard?


Villa Selva Mar: No strategy is implemented at this time.


Vayu Media: Do you do any offline marketing that ties in well with your online campaigns? If so, what are they?


Villa Selva Mar: Marketing collateral to magazines, travel writers and travel guides that also offer online editions and mobile apps to consumers


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


Villa Selva Mar: GoogleAds generated many PPC with a small budget but did not lead to one inquiry.  Most PPC did not lead to any measurable engagement on the website. On the other hand, HARO has turned out to be an incredible source to promote Villa Selva Mar.

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


Villa Selva Mar: We are only one month in on our online marketing campaigns, but see an increase of traffic and inquiries to the property by 50%.


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


Villa Selva Mar: Waiting to see results in the form of bookings


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


Villa Selva Mar: Ongoing strategy


Vayu Media: What was the ROI of this strategy?


Villa Selva Mar: Not measurable yet


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


Villa Selva Mar: Upgrading our VRBO subscription has seen an increase in inquiries


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


Villa Selva Mar: Booking


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


Villa Selva Mar: WP Booking Calendar plugin


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


Villa Selva Mar: We require a refundable security deposit and the reservation is only confirmed when the deposit is received.  We have not had a cancellation to our property.


Vayu Media: What type of analytics are you implementing?


Villa Selva Mar: Google, VRBO, HomeAway and FlipKey Analytics


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


Villa Selva Mar:  1 booking per 4 inquiries


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


Villa Selva Mar:  1 booking per 12 inquiries


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?


Villa Selva Mar: Average monthly traffic is 275 visitors. With online campaigns, we saw a 50% increase to our website


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


Villa Selva Mar: Yes


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


Villa Selva Mar: Began in 2010, as soon as the home was ready for renters.


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


Villa Selva Mar: Since our marketing endeavors are only a month old, it is hard to question to answer.  I feel that our name is out there and people are coming to our new site, interested in learning more about our beautiful home in the jungle.  Previous guests are open to the new name and changes we are making.  Word of mouth is still key and we hope through Facebook, listing the property with a luxury concierge service, a flash sale site and additional reviews of our property, bookings will increase.


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?


Villa Selva Mar: Once we increase our Facebook fans, we will offer a Facebook promotion

Active blog on the website highlighting things to do in the area, local events, photos of wildlife that frequently visit Villa Selva Mar.

Monthly newsletter to past guests via Constant Contact


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


Villa Selva Mar: Be creative and think outside the box.  Keep an eye on your competition and see what is working and not working for them.  Don’t be afraid to change what is not working (an ad, rates too high or too low, etc) and adjust accordingly.  Listen to your guests- they are your best tool to promote your property.


With so many strategies out there for hotel and tourism marketing, it is critical to remember that a comprehensive approach will always be the best solution. You need to have a presence online where your potential guests are interacting. Whether that may be on the search engines, social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, trip review sites like TripAdvisor, blogs, or through their mobile phones, your hotel needs to make it easy for your potential guests to find you and engage with you. It does not matter how large or how small your hotel is, online marketing is a must have if you want to be found when people are researching for their vacations and then again when they are ready to make their decisions and ultimately their bookings. If they can’t find your hotel, they will find a competitor.

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

Jordan Vaughan Smith at Machu Picchu


Bio of Jordan Vaughan Smith

As low-level bush pilots, we have traveled throughout Latin America from a unique vantage point. We founded a US public charity that combines aerial GIS mapping and on-the-ground problem solving of ecological hotspots and landscapes in transition. With offices based in Costa Rica, we purchased this property in 2003 and finished building in 2007. As conservationists, we chose this property for its unique connection between the mountains and the sea, which provides for an abundant amount of biodiversity in flora and fauna. We thought to incorporate the natural landscape into the architecture of the home so we could enjoy the wildlife and natural breezes provided. We left the forest virtually untouched. Instead of cutting down the trees to increase our already outstanding vista, we maintained the primary forest to attract and live within this realm. This experience is unparalleled – even in Costa Rica.

While we continue to work and travel throughout Latin America, we with our two young daughters, are now living in the US growing the business of our public charity We have the fortune of spending 2 months a year in this piece of paradise.

About Villa Selva Mar

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