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September update: the Tudor Farmhouse hotel – tapping into technology

18 September 2009
September update: the Tudor Farmhouse hotel – tapping into technology

IT in the sleepy Cotswolds is not as sleepy as one might expect. Hari and Colin Fell have used the web to promote their business - specifically Google AdWords - for the past five years. These have been "brilliant", says Colin, but, having been the first in the area to capitalise on them, the rest of the local competition has now caught on. So the Fells have moved on to bigger and different things, namely a blog and Facebook.

Hari's blog, "Life of a country hotel" was started over the summer and gives a running commentary of the comings and goings at the hotel, including progress of the new vegetable garden, current offers and promotions and charitable activities. "It is quite exciting but it can be time-consuming. I think the more you do, the more you get," says Hari.

They've started advertising the blog on their Facebook page and have set up a Twitter account but Hari admits, "I haven't really been using it, as I'm not really into tweeting on a daily basis."

However, the biggest recent benefit of the internet has come from a tip from Nina and Gerard Basset at TerraVina, who Colin says "have been enormously helpful and supportive since I went down to see them".

They advised the Fells to sign up to Sawdays Guide and Paddyburt.com, which Colin has done. This is driving between 300 and 400 visits a month to the website and is partially responsible for the 25% rise in hits - now about 3,000-4,000 a month - compared with the same time last year.

Colin says: "Both online guides give us the opportunity of marketing not only the hotel but are a good opportunity to advertise our value-added offers via their electronic mail-shots. The advantage of these guides being online is that you are automatically visible and taking enquiries rather than having to wait for the new guide to be published - although we will be in the next printed edition of the Sawdays guide, too."

The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel website was originally written by former restaurateur Robin Jones at Croque en Bouche about two years ago. Over the summer the Fells have updated the site with new photography and a revamped home page which is now more "transactional" - displaying buttons which link into offers promotions and the blog.

"Our Accomres reservation system links directly to the booking system on the hotel's web page so every online booking feeds straight into the booking system in real time," Colin adds.

Mentor Robin Hutson says: "Colin and Hari have embraced technology well from the marketing perspective and are now looking into how it can help with yield management. As always they are willing to learn and push themselves to become more professional all the time. We have agreed to spend some time looking at yield management on my next visit."

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Entering a team in the Monmouth Raft Race has created a wave of excitement at the Tudor Farmhouse. The hotel's handyman, Gordon, has been busy building a raft from barrels and pallets to compete in the six-and-a-half mile race down the Wye from Monmouth Rowing Club to Whitebrook. Colin Fell will be on the team raising funds for the St David's Foundation Hospice Care. Any donations can be made to www.just giving.com/tudortiddlers. The team plan to post photos of the race on Facebook and their blog once completed.

On the more formal business side, August turned out to be a much better month than they had been predicting. "We sold more room nights than last August," says Colin. "Bookings for September and October are also looking fairly healthy."

The Fells are also looking forward to their first wine dinner which they've arranged with their wine supplier Fingal Rock for 25 September.

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