AMT Hotels Group (Acqua Marcia Turismo) was and is one of Sicily’s most iconic luxury hotel chains. A company now on a path toward mega success, though, was not long ago a business at a crossroads. Allow me to present another facet to a series of posts dedicated to revealing PR, marketing, and advertising ROI and strategy, in the months and years to come.
The owners of this majestic Acqua Marcia Turismo (AMT) brand, faced with either getting out of the hotel business or rebranding and a digital convergence strategy, chose the latter along with the edgiest digital hospitality marketing, the resurgence of which equals revenues twice what they were before WIHP hospitality marketing stepped in. But this is not so much a story about our friends at WIHP as it is about templating the future of business.
Ugly, Useless Billboard Business
My previous articles in this hospitality series have discussed PR manipulation of media for the purposes of visibility and ongoing traction. Part of that focus has been Nordic Choice Hotels, a highly successful brand owned by billionaire Petter Stordalen.
We’ve no need to regurgitate the publicity metrics for him, not here. But something he said about forbidding pornography at his hotels bears witness to all those hotels out there with “ghastly”, unoptimized websites:
"Pornography Is a Tacky Ghost from the Past" - Petter Stordalen -
Well, the website AMT Group had before employing WIHP was simply tacky where providing any semblance of those lovely hotels for visitors on the web. The screenshot of the “before” site (at top), actually does not do justice to how antiquated even five-star luxury can be. The AMT hotels are not just “any” accommodations; among the Leading Hotels of the World, these palatial stays are the best in Sicily. I am always amazed at how resistant hoteliers are to revising their most basic channels of booking.
AMT clearly understood the need. Below you can see the full screen imagery of some of these, starting with what evangelists of guest experience call the Zero or First Moment of Truth. In the case of website discovery and booking, chances are these days AMT’s hotel websites are in line with the latter, direct bookings coming just as the decision to buy has been made. The “Terrace Suite" full width imagery you see after the ugly "before" shot, this is one big reason AMT garnered a 180% increas in revenue, and the graph of direct site bookings below tells more.
The exact figures have been hidden to protext the hotel, but the ratios are what matters. Converting through slick portals proves far more effective than awkward ones, regardless of price considerations. More on that later, but for now website design is a key hotelier focal point.
The “Engaging” Back Story
AMT Group began using WIHP sites and strategies in late December of 2012, and early January of this year, as is fairly clearly denoted in the bar chart. What cannot be seen however is the real world effect such success has, not only on a hotel group’s investors, but on the most critical element of any business’ success, the people who make hospitality happen. When all is said and done, even if successful marketing did not outright save the legendary service AMT has offered these decades, it surely empowered the company to reward and better support their staff. A statement from WIHP’s Senior Key Account Executive in Italy, Simone Puorto, reflects this too:
“Business is business, and we all agree this is true. However, it’s often easy to overlook that each hotel is made by the people who work there: receptionists, bartenders, janitors, etc. Helping companies to increase their revenue is our job, our mission, so it is normal to focus on the purely economic aspect, but by doing our jobs exceedingly well, this has an impact not only in terms of turnover, but also directly on the lives of employees. A hotel that increases its revenue increases the quality of life of all the people who work there, starting a virtuous circle.
Call me sentimental, but I like to think the work of WIHP in "philanthropic" terms to, and I am thankful of having the opportunity to help AMT to achieve these results.”
For some of you reading this, such sentiment may seem corny or hyperbole, I assure you it is not. We work with WIHP and other groups like them, and if Brian Solis speaks of speaks of making guests “fall in love with you all over again”, hoteliers and everybody else need understand all of us in social are sharing what we really believe in. Puorto is the traveling evangelist-slash caretaker of marketing excellence for Italy, just as Brian Solis rivets crowds with Altimeter Group social-digtial-science, and just as I am evangelizing “next” to you here at Social Media Today. There’s no subterfuge going on, WIHP marketing produces a 14x ROI for every marketing dollar spent by a hotelier – ask them to prove it.
This back story has “social” written all over it.
Proving PR for Hospitality (cont.)
As for AMT Group and how public relations and even advertising affect digital businesses? As in the Nordic Choice case, AMT is a good study to focus on to solidify the channel mastery to come. The Brandwatch tool I’ve been using comes in handy to illustrate once again.
Creating a query for AMT in a dashboard (below) it instantly becomes clear WIHP’s association with Tripadvisor glean’s social mentions I classify as quasi-social instances. Not to be too technical, some of the peaks you see in this graph are TripAdvisor or OTA reviews etc., while other “mentions” result from legitimate press release distribution. The 180% percent revenue the hotel group observed via largely PPC and other direct strategies will likely be affected similarly by ongoing pure-social and other media and PR endeavors. Good news travels pretty fast these days, especially in the hospitality sector.
Finally, all this marketing and public relations, advertising and ROI talk is actually no new news. The experts cited herein, myself, and particularly the readers here at Social Media Today, we’re no strangers to new marketing funnels, new digital business paradigms. The problem though, as my friend Chris Brogan comments below, is that businesses of every kind are resistant, slow on the uptake. And the big problem there is, these “fast times” don’t allow for slackers. Think about Chris’ metaphoric address on this via Twitter moments ago:
“If you aren't installing the right phones, you're missing some important calls. Not EVERY network, but at least the biggies.”