From well-known hotel chains to an independent hotel, what challenges do you have and how do you overcome them?
Bobbie-Jane: I love a good challenge and the challenges of working in major global luxury hotel chains are quite different from Manathai Hotels & Resorts. However, working as I have for many years in the big chains has been a very good foundation for working with an independent brand. With the chains you have all the rules and guidelines in place but with a new group you have the chance to set up those rules yourself with the benefit of hindsight and tailor make them to fit the brand. This was a very welcome challenge and I was able to use my experience as well as bring in some excellent partners to put together the all important brand positioning and communications components. As an independent we are able to be a bit more flexible and adapt to our destinations a little more but in terms of consistency and standards working with the large chains was an invaluable experience and something we have in place at Manathai.
What PR tools do you use to promote Manathai? What works and what doesn’t?
Bobbie-Jane: We engage the whole spectrum of PR tools to promote Manathai across the world and into all key markets. We are careful to offer a very structured and segmented approach to be sure that we are talking to the right media about say families, couples or weddings and those media are the right fit for our resorts. I feel it is important to work across all available media platforms – be that print, online, broadcast or social media – and engage them all in different ways. Social for example for us is exactly that, a platform to engage, entertain, communicate and have a dialogue, as opposed to hard selling. So we are very focused on building editorial credibility in core markets where we have teams based on the ground who are able to engage with media directly and maintain strong relationships with them to leverage opportunities to drive coverage. What does not work is centralizing PR and not having in-market teams to work on customized story lines and meet media needs rather than trying to sell one story across board.
Do you think there are more rooms for independent luxury brands?
Bobbie-Jane: I would not say we are a luxury hospitality brand in the classical five star sense. What we are and where we feel there is great demand and opportunity is a unique collection of high quality boutique properties that offer guests deep, sincere and authentic connections with the destinations to which they are travelling. We work hard to really bring out genuine Thai hospitality and offer this is beautiful and culturally rich beachfront locations – drawing inspiration from the surrounds and flavors of each destination.
In a market flooded by luxury brands, how do you make Manathai Standout?
Bobbie-Jane: We feel that by offering a uniquely authentic experience it is a new kind of luxury and one that is perhaps more meaningful and lasting due to the connection that we are able to make between guests and Thai culture. We offer two key concepts also that compliment this. One is Pad Thai, a signature restaurant chain that will be found at all of our resorts that really brings to the fore the iconic Thai dish in its many varieties and guises. The other is focusing on children through our Manathai Kids programme which allows for a select range of kids amenities, menus and activities that are fun and learning and that involve Thai cultural activities.
As an experienced marketeer what mistakes have you seen people are making when it comes to marketing their hotels?
Bobbie-Jane: I think you need to get the pitch just right. Don’t over promise and under deliver! That is always the biggest issue I have encountered over the years. It is always better to under promise (but not too much) and then over deliver. Focusing on the details is something overlooked often too but crucial in promoting a hotel and offering an exceptional experience. Embracing the destination and culture is very important too in my book. Overall though for me the key is consistency. Offering and delivering a high quality product that is consistent and of a high standard will win every time. I think a great example of this is Manathai Khao Lak. We recently reached number one ranking on Trip Advisor. A perfect combination of the right product, service, destination and customer enables us to deliver on guests’ expectations.