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How Dolce Hotel group is reinventing itself to draw the leisure market

How Dolce Hotel group is reinventing itself to draw the leisure market

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

If there’s one thing the recession has taught marketers it’s the lesson – adapt or die. It’s about altering or expanding your offering to tap into new markets and take advantage of new opportunities.

Dolce Hotels and Resorts operates conference centres and corporate hotels and is a leader in the Meetings Incentive Conference and Event (MICE) sector.

For meeting planners they’re top of mind with properties in the US and Europe built around conference and meeting facilities. But for leisure travellers the group has never been on the radar – until now.

For the group’s Marketing & PR Director Europe, Xavier Louyot, the MICE market is being challenged on a number of different levels.

One big problem is that planners are leaving the organisation of events more and more to the last minute. Another is the growth of online communications for face to face meetings.

On top of these, the ROI on events is increasingly being called into question while companies look for locations that can offer a business environment as well as delivering the ‘bling’ factor.

Dolce International was founded in 1981, but on the back of research which showed planners in the UK and North America were unaware of the full depth and service of the company offering, a re-brand was implemented in 2008.

Dolce Hotels and Resorts was launched to raise awareness of the extended product portfolio and has been backed by a £100m investment to improve the properties and offer a greater experience to users and visitors.

The new look resorts are now more aligned to operational strategy and encompass the three brand ‘circles’ of: nourishment, connectivity and community.

“We’re currently bringing the three brand ‘circles’ to life, incorporating them into the workings of the Dolce concept, “Louyot told

“It’s about bringing the brand experience and promise into operations across the group while also focusing on the unique offerings at each of the hotels. We’re backing that with significant investment in our service culture.”

The company focus is still very much on the MICE market offering ‘meeting inspiration’. “It’s what we do best,” Louyot added.

But a shift in marketing now aims to fill quieter periods at the resorts such as weekends and holidays by expanding the group offering.

In addition to the meeting facilities, a number of hotels have spas and golf courses. Those outside city centres have vineyards and gardens, so Dolce is able to position them as alternative getaway destinations for urbanites.

“Everyday companies choose us for meetings purposes and experience our facilities. We’re now trying to translate this so the users now recommend us as a leisure resort to their nearest and dearest,” explained Louyot.

“It’s about cross-selling across the group and raising awareness of the other destinations using our meeting users to generate leisure visitors.”

Marketing strategy has involved identifying different ‘tribes’  - urban, family etc. – and positioning Dolce as a place that allows people to escape to and reconnect with each other.

Clever ambient has included appliqué media being used in bathrooms, with script appearing to have been written in lipstick reading, “I’d like to share new experiences with you.”

The concept, created by marketing agency ETO, is that that the message was penned by the businessman’s wife reminding him to take his partner on a future vacation.

Additionally, Post-It Notes have been used carrying a “Next time take me with you daddy” message in child-like writing accompanied by a picture of a stick figure. These are then strategically placed on headboards.

The reverse side of meeting place cards for the boardroom table have also been used to carry repetitive suggestive messages: “Don’t think about the spa”, “Don’t think about the swimming pool” and “Don’t think about the golf course.”

All are low cost, but are proving to be highly impactful tools. (See the video below for illustration)

Outside the bedrooms and meeting rooms, B2B marketing is led by post and email as well as advertising in specific publications to reach meeting planners.

Digital marketing involves PPC and plans include pushing the vacation proposition online with work Louyot hopes will become viral via social networks.

A recent Facebook promotion asked fans to propose dream vacation experiences at one hotel.

‘Tell Us Your Story’ encouraged fans to create a personal vacation plan for taking full advantage of the 214-room hotel’s facilities, including its two restaurants, lounge, day spa, fitness center, outdoor pool and tennis courts.

The Grand prize was the very vacation package created by the winner, with a value of up to $4,000.
Good customer service remains at the crux of the business and is shaped ongoing feedback from customers on properties.

“Good customer service relies on understanding the customer base – its lifestyle habits and demographics,” Louyot explained. “A brand must have the vision and strategy that staff can buy into and get excited about.

“You can have the most exciting marketing in the world if there’s a discrepancy with the actual brand experience then it will never work.”

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