Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Resort Planning » Why you should start with your target market in mind

The problem » your potential visitor can’t distinguish your resort from the next

Imagine you’re dreaming of where to book your next holiday.  It’s winter, you’re over it, and you just want to escape with your partner somewhere sunny to relax, preferably at a beachside resort.  All your friends have been bragging on facebook about their amaaaaazing holiday in Bali, so you decide you wouldn’t mind experiencing Bali for yourself.  You start searching TripAdvisor for beachside resorts, and BAM! you’re inundated with thousands of listings - and endless photos of impossibly glamorous couples gazing lovingly at each other while sipping cocktails in an infinity pool.  Ok, so you get that there are a lot of infinity pools in Bali, but what’s so special about any particular resort over another?

Resort planning, resort brand, target market

Now imagine you’ve just been employed to market a brand new resort.  Obviously, you need to showcase something special about your propertyt (other than the infinity pool), but truth be told, what you’ve got to work with is just one of many beautiful resorts in the destination.  Damn – why didn’t those architects design something unique from the outset?

Now imagine you’re an independent resort owner.   Despite having one of the most upmarket properties in the destination, you’re reduced to discounting in order to stay afloat in this competitive market.   This increases your occupancy rates, but your RevPAR (revenue per available room) isn’t where you’d like it to be.

The challenge » incorporate a distinguishing brand feature into your resort design that appeals to the right target market

The solution » It’s too risky to wait until a marketing team is employed to develop your resort brand after the resort is built.  

Back at the concept stage, these are three things you can do to distinguish your resort from the next:resort from the next:

» Know your primary target market
·        Never think that the whole world is your target market.  When you promise something for everyone, you typically end up appealing to no-one.  What’s more, you end up throwing good money after bad trying to market to the whole world on a limited marketing budget.
·        Seek expert advice on what the primary target market is for your destination.  For example, at Tourism Queensland (a state tourism organisation), we have loads of research and insights into which target segments provide the greatest opportunity for each Queensland destination.  By picking a target market that already has your destination in their holiday consideration set, you’ve won half the battle.  Now use those consumer insights to understand exactly what they’re looking for – their underlying needs and wants.

» Design your brand
·        Excuse the obvious, but make sure it appeals to your primary target market.  To use a cruise ship analogy, an Active Explorer (consumer segment) is likely to choose an exploration cruise over a Disney cruise.  So if your target market is Active Explorers, then your brand would need to promise a holiday that’s about pushing boundaries and providing experiences that allow your guests to challenge themselves via physical activity. Their focus is on exploring the extremes of their physical environment and themselves, not about sipping cocktails in your infinity pool.
·        Make your brand different from the competitors in your destination.  Again, it’s valuable to seek expertise on this, because so many resort brands seem too bland to truly stand out from the crowd.

» Use the brand as a cornerstone for your resort design concept, not as an afterthought.
·        The brand should translate into signature experiences guests can expect that they won’t get elsewhere.   People remember meaningful experiences, personal encounters and defining moments of their holiday before they think about your specific hotel features.  So help them create those experiences, encounters and moments through your clever design.
·        Be creative in bringing your brand experiences to life in every design feature possible.  Let the colour, fragrance and design of your landscaping bring your brand story to life.  Let the pavement surface under bare feet enhance the guest experience. 

Here are some examples of resorts I’ve visited where the brand is distinctive, and cleverly integrated into all design aspects of the property.

Pulau Besar, Malacca, Malaysia

Resort planning, resort brand, target market

This island resort is no longer around, but back in the 90’s my travel agent passed me a brochure that had me intrigued from the front cover to back.  It was a hand-painted treasure map of sorts, promising an adventure on a mysterious island full of Malay folklore.  It spoke of sacred and historical sites waiting to be explored.  I immediately booked a weekend away, headed up to Malaysia, and hopped on a charming fishing boat (of questionable seaworthiness) to take me from the mainland over to this tiny island.  The resort was fairly basic, but true to its brand.  The traditional architecture and locally sourced artefacts spoke of another era.  Come to think of it, so did the food.  But the most memorable of experiences was reading the directional signs each morning and deciding which site to explore first – there was the Shrine of Seven Princesses, the Gua Yunus – a mysterious cave once inhabited by an old silat-practicing man, and a wishing well that could magically turn salt water into fresh water.   Pulau Besar was a great example of harnessing the power of story-telling, and integrating it into the design, marketing and operations of the property to give it an edge over other resorts.

QT Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Resort planning, resort brand, target market

One of the newest properties on the Gold Coast is QT Gold Coast – this is the first in a suite of designer hotel experiences set to open across Australia under the QT brand over the coming year.   The brand promises “something unique and untraditional, from our fun and quirky custom design to incredible food and bar experiences”.   And the design delivers on the brand promise to a tee.   I love the character of this property – the swanky staff are dressed like they’ve just stepped off a Pan Am flight from 1963.  The décor is playfully chic.  Step into the lift and check to see that the life-sized bikini-clad guest smiling from the back wall isn’t actually a mural.  Ditto for the toilet doors (a little creepy).   

Resort planning, resort brand, target market

I’m a big fan of their signature marketplace Bazaar Restaurant.  It truly is “something unique and untraditional”.  Each market station is hosted by a passionate chef, eager to explain the intricacies of their creations.  Favourite pickings: mini bubblegum fairyfloss, sherbert chocolate and cooked icecream. 

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Resort planning, resort brand, target market

Spas, like plunge pools, tend to be cloned around the world.  But this lifestyle retreat tucked away in the Gold Coast Hinterland has a distinctive “Australian Lifestyle” character integrated into its design, operations, and specifically, its spa.   Unlike many other Australian spas (often heavily South East Asian inspired), Gwinganna’s spa complex features local materials, with an elevated outdoor deck and a lounge overlooking a native spa garden.  The landscaping throughout the resort is minimal – meaning that they’ve retained most of the natural vegetatio

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