As promised, Hotel Insight are pleased to publish the following interview with Mark Cribb from the Urban Beach Hotel in Bournemouth. I profiled Mark’s hotel in a recent post on this blog and explained how impressed I had been with both the concept of the property, and their effective use of social media. I believe this is a successful model that others could incorporate so I hope you find this interview useful.
- Q Mark, please introduce yourself and your role at Urban Beach Hotel.
With a degree in Leisure Management and having had a career running health clubs and leisure centres in London and a golf course in the New Forest I established the Urban Beach in December 2005.
Q We connected via Twitter, talking about free hotel wi-fi! Do you find Twitter a useful way to communicate to potential guests and other businesses?
Twitter is of increasing importance to us. It’s still pretty small scale in our marketing programme but I believe its potential is immense and ultimately social media as a whole will dominate our marketing blend. We have permanent searches running on Twitter for a number of relevant phrases from Bournemouth Hotel / Bar / Bistro / Boscombe etc and we’ll try to engage with our community in a positive way whenever opportunity presents. It’s really not about the hard sell, but more about creating a relationship and communicating our industry observations that we hope may be of interest. We only started using Twitter around 6 months ago and actually use it more @theurbanreef than @urbanbeach to learn the ropes, but are getting better at managing both accounts. Our facebook account still feeds our twitter account for the @urbanbeach but we will turn this off shortly and manage the accounts separately putting into practice what we have learnt through @theurbanreef which use to be set up in the same way.
Q Social Media is a growing marketing medium – tell us what Urban Beach are doing and what’s been most effective.
We have active accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Facebook has been running for a few years and has been by far the most effective for us. I attribute a fair amount of our initial growth to facebook and it really helped us communicate our brand values to our customers. Its two way interaction again helps us reinforce our placement within in our local community. Its worth nothing that facebook has really helped the bar and bistro more than the rooms themselves. Hotel bars are rarely cool so facebook helped us communicate that we are so much more than just a hotel for visitors to our local community. It also helps our hotel guests understand our passion too. With 1000 ‘likers’ a little message out about Sunday Roasts or Live Music Tonight always gets a good response.
Q What’s 2010 been like for Urban Beach Hotel and how do you see 2011 shaping up?
2010 has been a good year, but for us our growth over the past four years has been significant. 2010 has been about consolidation since there is less room for growth. It’s worth noting that we took revenue in the hotel from £58k to £1.1 million in less than four years. We are now at the stage where there is little growth left in revenue but much we can do to run a more efficient business and reinforce our brand and loyalty with our regular customers. Social media helps us achieve this and we are very optimistic about 2011.
Q If you could sum up Urban Beach Hotel with three words, what would you choose?
Passionate, ethical, soul.
Q What would you tell hotels who do not currently have any social marketing about how to start this and the best practises you have learnt?
I think the key is to start slowly, stay true to your beliefs and be honest, but at the very least make a start. It’s not a matter of life and death for a business, but it has so much potential, climb aboard since in a few years it will be the norm. It’s not going to solve all of your marketing problems in one swoop, but over time its opportunity through a creating a genuine loyal following is immense. Don’t’ judge the success on followers or ‘likers’. It’s about quality not quantity. Build a community, keep in touch with them and embrace their message to you even more than your message to them.
Q What do you make of Four Square ? Do you use it for Urban Beach ? Any feedback on this?
I like the concept. The idea of being able to reward loyal visitors and the competitive aspects of visitors being able to become mayor of the venue also sounds like great fun. We have an account, but we’ve done nothing to manage it yet. Facebook was the first for us to run with, Twitter is pretty recent and Four Square will probably be next. However, perhaps facebook places will take off and reduce our need to offer further medium. At the end of the day managing all these things take time and ultimately need to show a return. At the moment we can’t invest the time in Four Square , but we may do soon, after all winter is coming.
Q TripAdvisor is probably the most used tool when a traveller wants information on a hotel. With this in mind, how do you manage guest comments and how much attention do you pay to this channel?
We love customer feedback through any medium from Social Media to our Website or through Trip Advisor. I find tripadvisors lack of transparency a bit rude and unprofessional. We fell out when they moved us from the hotel to B and B section of their website without explanation. When I called to enquire as to why they told me to write a letter to an address in America . I’ve tried a few times but never get a response. We’ve also had feedback left from guests who have never stayed. So, whilst we use to actually promote the website in our room packs and on our website, we now monitor feedback and respond where necessary, and are fortunate enough to have amazing reviews, but we don’t proactively promote or support the site.
Many thanks to Mark for sharing his experiences so far. For more information on what Mark’s doing at the Urban Beach Hotel, please visit their website by clicking here.