Acquired by the Kang family in 2013, Ireland’s Fota Island Resort and The Kingsley proudly encompasses The Fota Collection. The word ‘Fota’ is synonymous with tourism and is nationally recognised as a brand within its own right.
‘Sleep, play, taste, relax’ – that is the mantra for the renowned Fota Island Resort. Nestled within the 780-acre island, the luxurious, 5-star property neighbours Fota Wildlife Park, the only wildlife park in Ireland, and is home to three championship golf courses. The resort has 131 welcoming rooms and suites – many of which overlook the golf course, woodlands and open parkland. It also has 2, 3 and 4-bedroom lodges which are ideal for family breaks. The resort, which is on a private island, also has an impressive indoor swimming pool, 24-hour gym and luxury spa. Unsurprisingly Fota Island Resort is an ideal wedding location; they hold close to 100 ceremonies a year – a key part of Fota Island Resort’s overall revenue.
Due to the wide range of activities on offer, the guest demographic is just as eclectic: during the school holidays the resort consists of primarily family business. Outside of these periods, the resort sees a varied range of leisure guests of which roughly 70% are Irish, and 30% corporate international.
Year to date, the property is up by over a quarter in direct booking revenue compared to the same period in 2018. Avvio E-commerce Manager Richella Ryan says: “During our partnership, Fota Island Resort has seen a strong increase in direct conversions. They’ve also hit the ground running with Metasearch since activating this as part of their digital marketing strategy. With a well-optimised account that uses all the main channels, their Metasearch platform has seen a high volume of bookings, and generated an impressive 6% cost-per-acquisition!”
Despite their obvious differences, there’s a noticeable symmetry between the two hotels – in fact, the two websites seem to complement each other rather than directly compete. The Kingsley encourages guests to ‘Stay, eat, network, revive’. The 4-star 131 room hotel is perfectly located with easy access to Cork city centre. Like Fota Island Resort, The Kingsley offers an extensive health club and luxurious spa to their guests. The hotel also provides a scenic backdrop, with many of the rooms overlooking the Lee Fields and river. They, like their sister hotel, Fota Island Resort – albeit on a smaller scale – host numerous weddings throughout the year in their conferencing facilities.
Their guest demographic, unlike Fota Island Resort is corporate-focused, often supplemented by group leisure, weekend leisure guests and event-based. They typically have a shorter length of stay and a significantly shorter lead time. In this regard, The Kingsley have a more obvious ‘Book Direct’ strategy. Website visitors are offered a complimentary breakfast when booking direct and anti-abandonment tools trigger when visitors attempt to exit the website.
The thought process and booking journey for these two hotels – despite being part of the same collection is rather different; naturally so too are their direct booking strategies. When people are in Cork they’re not necessarily thinking “I need to stay at the Kingsley” but rather “I need to stay in Cork”. So The Kingsley places a strong focus on their book direct strategy, clearly incentivising visitors to book on their own website as opposed to booking through an online travel agent (OTA). In contrast, Fota Island Resort is a destination property. Guests, as a rule, type in “Fota” not “Hotels in Cork” meaning their number of direct bookings is significantly higher than their OTA bookings.
Despite this, The Kingsley is up 12% in direct booking revenue for the first quarter of 2019. Richella says: “The Kingsley is in a competitive location, but their strong book direct strategy coupled with Avvio’s booking engine technology has successfully contributed to the uplift in their direct bookings. They are also embracing Metasearch as an additional platform to drive revenue.”
The Fota Collection’s Marketing Director Seamus Leahy tells us: “Digitalisation has definitely changed the way we do business. Years ago, you’d see a fractional 10% of a hotel’s marketing budget spent on digital marketing. Nowadays as much as 75% of that is dedicated to things like Metasearch, Chatbots, video ads, and PPC. Traditional marketing (such as print) was a one-way communicative stream; we now have the ability to facilitate personalised two-way conversations on social media and respond to our customers in a timely manner.”
What’s in store for the Fota Collection?
Fota Island Resort is three-quarters of the way through their bedroom refurbishment which is anticipated to be finished by the Summer. In early 2020 exciting new work will commence on a refurb of the ballroom area. Similarly, The Kingsley will continue with upgrades to their property, namely the upgrades to their classic rooms. The Kingsley has also recently finished upgrading large portions of their health club.
Their main focus – as always – is to provide a complete guest-centric experience. Seamus concludes: “No matter what platform guests use to engage with your brand, they have the potential to become your advocates. Whether speaking to Aunty Mary on the phone or posting a review on Facebook, your guests define your brand reputation. It is imperative to treat them with the respect they deserve.”