Does any hotelier really blog yet? While tripping though the Madupatty Tea Plantation in Munnar I stayed at a very small resort catering to 30 people. Given the season it was almost deserted with a small tour group of Brit's staying there. This cottages style inn was a perfect quiet getaway and as the Innkeeper told me they sort of like to keep it that way. Partially because the property with 60 acres of Cardamom and Coffee was more a labor of love than a business. As I know from New Zealand lodges; this size of venue can make big profits difficult. Still we got to talking about blogs and marketing.
I'm convinced that a blog would serve this small establishment well. With limited online presence today (listed on a couple of travel sites) their business is coming primarily via referrals. As it should be, the food and atmosphere was fantastic. In fact one of these sites allowed comments and one related to this establishment was very negative while others like me are resoundingly positive. So as part of a little brainstorming we discussed some options and opportunities for blog content that would create a perfect conversational opportunity.
John's question to me was where would the content come from... we are only a simple hotel. I quickly replied:
Content you have... Menu's, a favorite recipe (the desserts were very British and quaint) updates on their building plans and new rooms / cottages. News about the staff, news around the surrounding area. It doesn't need that many posts; just a way to keep it fresh. Note the seasons, the weather patterns etc. Plus most importantly... do what he was doing with me. Talk to visitors. That's why he's now building cottages with larger decks. It was requested by guests. Tell the visitors stories of Top Station, Masala Chai, the local town etc. Keep it simple and keep it short.
Guestbook entries. Turn a comments blog into guestbook updates. It's common practice in these resorts to ask you to sign the guestbook and leave some feedback about your stay. In fact I'd go further. Ask visitors if I could take their picture (plenty of great back drops there). Then just upload to flickr, tag with windermeremunnar. These too can be brought back into the blog.
It really made me think about creating a simple "post visit" handout... how you can share your pictures, share your visit and keep up to date on Munnar etc. Let them know how to subscribe etc. Create a Facebook group for who's visited etc. Great method for marketing later on. I've never gotten one of these from any hotel. I think it is time.
I'd understood that many of their visitors were in the retired state however all those I saw had digital cameras. I'm sure many of these visitors are already sharing photos. If so... it is time to give them the "tag" windermeremunnar so it's easy to find pictures of the surrounding area. It already returns pictures. See Google.
Which brought our discussion around to Google. I'm a big fan of search results. While John wants to stay under the radar there is already plenty about Hotel Windermere Estate on the web. It's slightly buried. Anyone with some diligent search skills who's looking for a place like this will turn it up. Still the booking was sight unseen. What was persuasive were the comments from others. Like this one:
"The place was a true find right in the heart of tea country. It was an incredible experience complete with the owner personally saying goodbye. " Bernadette, United States (12.01.06)
That would be so much more powerful on their site. These are comments picked up by the booking agency after the stay. Just imagine what is already in their guestbook. The comment above really captured for me the "owner" saying goodbye. We also discussed how you can check for tags, posts, links etc. Subscribe to Google news, the local news, technorati etc. Easy to set up, it probably is worth paying more attention. If you are the hotelier and I've blogged you you probably want to follow-up with a comment. It's that personal touch that really matters. Linking blogs to their stories will create an even better rating and ranking.
In the end the best reason I have for them creating a blog is to provide me with the opportunity to say... Go to www.windermeremunnar.com you will see what I'm talking about. That would help me evangelize them and result no doubt in more referrals. I frankly think it is time for almost every little hotel to have some form of blog. More many a good blog would probably mean I can't afford to stay there any longer. Anyway, I think John was choosey about his guests. It was a pleasure to stay there.
When your family's name is on the building or you are the person clearly identified with the company, everything you say or do affects the business, good or bad. In this fascinating information age, you certainly have to be transparent.
I can't get too excited about his blog; it's to do with the tone and I don't think it is really designed to engage in conversations, or capture the experiences of people that stay in Marriotts. With the coming explosion of geo-tagging of photos and more, there is a huge opportunity to be bring our stories and images back into where it happened. Example I was at Airlie last year. We tagged our photos all the same. It created a great group collection. I'd think many conferences would run the same. It's easy to create examples of public content. It's being created in venues like this everyday. The challenge for organizations like this is to bring the content and the content back in to a hub of experiences and then help us get the gist of it.
Part of this blog post was to prove that blogs matter to small hotels. I told John I'd get a listing and visibility on Google. I checked today on Madupatty Tea and found all my pictures uploaded yesterday now outranked the tatatea.com/madupatty site.
Also a word of caution. Munnar is off the beaten track. 120 km from Cochin it took almost 5 hours slow and twisty drive to get there. While there you can take a quick tour of a micro working tea plant at the tea museum. Don't forget to get a genuine Masala Chai. There is trekking in the environs although my guess is a two or three days is all you will need. Although it could be a perfect place to go and write a book for a few months