Montespertoli is a comune of 13,000 inhabitants covering an area 20% larger than the municipality of Florence. All this uninhabited space is filled with the hills Tuscany uses for its marketing strategy; hills that stay in visitors’ hearts and minds when they return home.
It goes without saying that the tourism industry is booming on these hills. There are between 80 and 90 accommodation businesses (hotels and other accommodation services) in the area, offering beds for an approximate total of 1,800 people. While at first glance this number may seem small, when compared to the number of inhabitants in the comune, it becomes huge. Out of these accommodation businesses, some continue to operate as through the internet had never changed the rules of the game, whereas others have fully embraced the paradigm shift without pandering to its collateral effects, such as dependency on OTAs (which sometimes amounts to slavery).
We’re not going to name names, but this morning we received some incredible data from the owner of an agritourism business. From the 15th November she had already received enough bookings for 2015 to cover her running costs. This means that from the 16th November, every additional booking will make her profit-pot a little richer. This data is extraordinary in itself – though it is known that agritourism is one of the sectors least affected by falling consumer numbers – but what made our phone call with the owner this morning impressive was when she told us that she has always refused to work with OTAs. Instead she has chosen to spend energy and resources on social networks, email marketing and “requesting” reviews from clients. She hasn’t completely abandoned the agencies she worked with 15 years ago either: they contribute to a meagre 30% of bookings, whereas the overwhelming majority, 70%, are direct reservations. Which intermediary?
Since the dawn of web 2.0, she has implemented small changes that have had a huge impact. This business has had a social media manager for 6 years now (come on, if you owned a small agritourism business in Montespertoli would you have employed a social media manager in 2008?) who frequently sends out newsletters and is constantly making videos or photo albums of guests’ holidays. These videos or photo albums are sent to clients about a week after they return home and at the end ask guests to write a review if they enjoyed their holiday.
Now, imagine receiving an email containing a video playing a cheerful or tear-jerking tune and showing carefree moments by the pool, the green depths of the Tuscan countryside or a delicious dinner with your family. At the end, a call-to-action: “Feeling emotional? Tell others about it.” Some would perhaps call it “emotional marketing”.
We recognise that this strategy cannot be directly applied to a hotel in the centre of Milan, but it shouldn’t be ruled out altogether. The web is an important tool and it can be used in countless ways. This particular case shows that OTAs are powerful, but that, if properly managed, reputation and sentiment can be even more so.
Speaking of which, have you checked the reputation and sentiment of your business today on the Travel Appeal Index?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]https://www.travelappeal.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/fausto-maglia.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]By Fausto Maglia
His Excellency the Rector of the University of Procrastination. I always strive to optimise the balance between the number of ideas that come to me and those I realise. [/author_info] [/author]