McWilliam Park Hotel Combines Local Service, Value & Online To Become The Best – #TYBspotlight
Welcome to our very first
Let’s start by asking you to introduce the McWilliam Park Hotel and your role?
The McWilliam Park Hotel is a four star hotel in Claremorris, County Mayo Ireland. The town of Claremorris is located midway between Galway and Sligo so we are ideally suited for touring the beautiful west of Ireland. There are rail services available from Dublin city and the Hotel is only twenty minutes from the Ireland West Airport which offers flights from nine UK destinations and major European routes.
The Hotel is locally owned and managed and we believe this is important, as it puts a human face to the business and encourages co-operation with other local businesses and organizations. I’ve been with the Hotel since it opened in 2007 and I’m responsible for our marketing including online and social media.
You were recently named the ‘Best Hotel in Mayo’. Why did you win and how has it helped?
To enter, we had to state why we believed we were the Best Hotel in Mayo. We entered because of our high levels of repeat business, happy customers and positive Trip advisor comments. To win was great and a testament to the dedication and hard work of all our staff – many who I am delighted to say have been with us since we opened. It’s a nice boost for the business and we’re using the award in all of our promotional material. We also got some excellent local media coverage as a result of winning.
Our readers are from all over the world. Why should they visit Ireland and why should they visit Mayo?
While it might sound like a cliché: I think the best thing about Ireland is our people and we seem to have re-discovered our easy conversational ability and charm in the last few years. Our coastline has some of the best scenery in the World and is a joy to behold, even in our sometimes stormy conditions. Our national games like Hurling and activities such as sheep dog farm tours have the potential to be major tourist attractions.
Mayo has lots to offer; highlights include the Ceide Fields, the Oldest Stone Age Monument in Ballycastle, the beauty of Croagh Patrick, the quaint village of Cong (home of ‘The Quiet Man’), adventure sports and the Greenway Road cycle overlooking Mulranny & Achill.
Ireland has suffered an economic collapse. How has the tourism sector responded and what else does it need to do?
Ireland has reacted well with several good initiatives such as the lowering of the VAT rate which has helped to improve our competiveness. The Gathering project has given Irish towns and villages the opportunity to create their own events and bring people to their area. Tourism Ireland needs to continue with their marketing initiatives, invite foreign journalists to visit and work on emerging markets like China, India and Brazil.
Give us some examples of steps that the Hotel has taken?
We improved our online presence to deliver a better user experience which has improved our website conversion rate. We’ve also found that integrating our online and offline marketing has delivered an increase in traffic, newsletter sign ups and our social media footprint.
Fantastic Friday was an offer we designed during the winter of 2010: Dinner and B&B at €99 per couple and 3 years later our customers are still asking about “Fantastic Friday” with no additional advertising or promotion. Our Entertainment packages have also proved successful and we’ve had hundreds of people staying for Festival weekends. Golf & Leisure packages are another success and include options like a cruise on Lough Corrib or a spa treatment.
From the point of view of a hotel – what would you say are the pros and cons of the internet?
The Internet is a great resource in assisting Hotels with their Marketing activities. Google allows you to provide adverts to people based on their search patterns and these can be amended during a campaign by the advertiser. You can use e-mail and text based marketing to send offers and reminders to past guests at a low cost and very quickly. These in turn can be shared by the recipients with their networks giving you additional reach.
Online reputation management is critical nowadays. An unhappy customer can do a lot of damage in a very short time. We need to ensure we give guests excellent customer service so that they leave positive comments online. The downside of the internet for hotels is that 3rd party booking engines take bookings away from your own website and result in high commissions for the hotel.
Can you tell us about how you use social media?
I use LinkedIn to find information and make new connections.
— McWilliam Park Hotel (@mcwilliamph) September 17, 2013
Our Twitter account: @mcwilliamph has allowed us to build relationships with journalists from National newspapers and radio including Today FM and Newstalk. I like Twitter’s conversational nature and am guilty of talking about my passions for running and rugby especially at the weekend.
We created a special 2012 budget video offering customers value for money. It was released pre-Budget night so that we could Tweet it to the Irish Media including Vincent Brown in advance of the Budget speech by the Minister for Finance.
Last February we issued our own Promissory Note as a deal was reached with Europe. Our note had good value deals at the hotel and was picked up on twitter by journalists at Newstalk and The Journal. We recently contacted Beatrice Whelan who is one of the organizers of the Irish Blog awards, via Twitter to offer the winners prizes of a weekends stay at the hotel. Having influential people retweet and share our content gives us access to a lot more people and potential customers.
We use Facebook to let our fans know about our events and reward them with exclusive offers and competitions.
Are there any future trends you expect to see becoming more important?
We find an increasing demand for online check in and express checkout, both of which we are interested in developing. Mobile bookings are now critical so websites have to be responsive and allow the guest to book within two clicks. Many believe that direct mail is making a comeback and I agree. The key is mixing offline with online. For example, using radio to get your name out there, whilst also ensuring that your business appears when people search for it online.
Social Media, Trip Advisor, emails and third party web sites are all really big right now but it’s not that long ago, since we spent all our marketing budgets with traditional media and waited for the phone to ring. In other words, don’t rely solely on any one channel as it may not be relevant in 5 or 10 years. The best trend to follow is to keep learning and evolving.
Thanks to David for doing this interview and offering us his insights.
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