Sponsored article by SHR and written by Jason Q. Freed
During the worst days of Covid restrictions in Ireland last year, executives at O'Callaghan Collection – a five-strong group of four-star hotels in Dublin and Gibraltar – knew they had to do something to accommodate the few travellers who still needed a place to meet, dine and sleep. So they put their heads together to come up with some options.
At the Alex hotel in the heart of Dublin, where meetings and events drive a significant amount of business, the company developed "the Secret Garden at the Alex hotel," an outdoor dining space designed with florals, to ensure the hotel had an outdoor dining area for guests. The Garden is now seen as one of the best brunch and alfresco dining locations in the city.
Newly appointed marketing manager Aaron Barry is leading company-wide strategies to focus on local travellers and move to a more digital marketing approach.
"Today, we have to constantly scrutinise our marketing spend and make sure we're getting the most bang for our buck," he says. "The focus for me has been digital because we can better track the ROI on those channels."
We caught up with Barry to discuss implementing a culture of dynamic change and discover which new strategies are proving most effective.
What strategies have you put in place to target local travellers?
Barry: Since the onset of the pandemic, we've focused on digital channels to promote the hotel. The use of these channels has helped us target locals as well. The majority of our social following are domestic consumers, so our organic reach hits a domestic market, promoting local consumption of our experiences. Any paid promotions have been targeted digitally to domestic locations, again reaching locals as opposed to international consumers.
Finally, our massive PR drive for the hotels has focused on Irish media, driving awareness of the hotel and showcasing the quality of our offering. We've worked with local media brands across radio, digital and print, as well as influencers that are aligned with our brand to make sure we're promoting the hotel to the local market. This, along with traditional word of mouth as guests experience the hotel and recommend it to their family and friends, has ensured we're top of mind for the local consumer.
With regard to paid search, what channels are proving to be most effective for you?
Barry: Pay-per-click works best for us, as we find we reach people who already have an intent to purchase a hotel experience when we reach them at this touchpoint – they're already searching for a hotel, as they know they want to purchase this experience. Paid social works for us too, but is more of an awareness and conversion driver.
How are you measuring the success of your direct booking efforts?
Barry: We measure the amount of revenue for our direct versus OTA channels, with a focus on always trying to increase revenue month over month. Our main success metric when it comes to direct revenue is what proportion of revenue per month has come in direct versus via OTAs – we'd want a higher proportion of the revenue to come from direct. That's what we define as success in this strategy.
What technology upgrades have you made to facilitate your new post-Covid strategies?
Barry: We wanted to ensure we were upgrading all our systems as we continue to strive for efficiency in the business. For example, our revenue manager Joanne McDonnell felt Windsurfer by SHR was the best CRS option for the business. Efficiencies gained with Windsurfer not only help front office, reservations and revenue, but also help to ensure the business as a whole is best placed to perform to its full potential and that O'Callaghan Collection is in the best possible position to deliver the best customer service to guests who come through the doors.
SHR on the partnership
"The O'Callaghan Collection is now able to rely on both the latest technology available to them and also SHR's excellent customer service. We are delighted to welcome the O'Callaghan Collection as a valued partner of ours," says Tanya Stallard, SHR's director of business development.
About SHR, Sceptre Hospitality Resources
SHR is a technology company serving the hotel industry for over 25 years. We offer innovative solutions for distribution, marketing and revenue management – helping hotels to generate more revenue, more meaningful guest relationships and save valuable time.
We provide three different AI-driven solutions, a Central Reservation System (CRS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and a Revenue Management System (RMS). All of them work perfectly alone but are truly effective working in concert. The integration between the SHR systems, as well as with several vendors in the market, elevates the value we bring to the table.