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Resort "Best Practices Study" Reports Growing Value in Online Marketing;
Resorts Stay Connected with Guests via Social Networks and Blogs


MCLEAN, VA (Jan. 12, 2009) – Today, resorts are seeing the value of engaging prospective or recurrent guests online through social networks, blogs and review and photo sharing sites. More than 35 resorts participate in HSMAI’s Resort Marketing Special Interest Group “Best Practices Initiative”; the most recent study from this group, Online Marketing and Social Media, was conducted earlier this year to analyze online marketing approaches today. Comparisons were drawn to a similar study completed in 2005. The research will be discussed in-depth at the Ninth Annual Resort Conference from May 3 – 5, 2009, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. ( 

“In addition to outlining five categories to define a successful online marketing campaign, the study found resorts are also increasing engagement with their customers through online mediums,” said Cindy Estis Green, managing partner, The Estis Group, and author of the report. “It is evident resorts are seeing direct correlations to conversations taking place online and consumer’s travel decisions. Additionally, it creates a means for resorts to tune into customers needs and wants on a timely one-to-one basis, adding value to their stay and meetings, particularly in the current economy.”

While the current economic woes and bailouts point to an even greater use of online marketing, the research conducted in Spring/Summer 2008 still reveals interesting benchmark trends for this important sector of the hospitality industry. The “Best Practices Study” found that:

  • 2008 online marketing budgets were much more effective in comparison to 2005. In 2008, revenue generated for every $1 spent was $23, compared to $18 in 2005.
  • Resorts increased spending online from an average of 10 percent of the marketing budgets in 2005 to 25 percent in 2008.
  • One-third of the resorts surveyed received revenue in direct proportion to their spending or better. So, if they spent 20 percent of their marketing budget on online activities, they earned 20 percent or better of their total room revenue through electronic channels.
The results back up other findings in the travel industry as well. According to J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Independent Travel Web Site Satisfaction Study, the percentage of travelers making online airline, rental car and hotel reservations has increased 15 percentage points during the past year.

Many resorts have gained tremendous momentum with limited marketing budgets when experimenting with social media. Steamboat Ski Company, a member of the HSMAI Resort Best Practices Initiative, launched a social network and forum for its consumers as they opened their 2008-09 season. “The level of participation in its first weeks alone made it clear how essential a tool it will be to our outreach and CRM efforts, especially as we battle for our share of wallet in these tough economic times”, reported Katie Brown, Director of Sales and Online Marketing Systems. The Reefs, a boutique resort in Bermuda, shared their success stories with the Best Practices group as they described their popular photo contest that has drawn hundreds into a dialogue with management and with fellow Reefs advocates. 

“Online marketing has taken a central role in resort marketing,” said Estis Green. “Resorts are depending on their online presence to convey their brand message, provide information, facilitate bookings and most importantly forge long term relationships with their customers. This online presence and the many cost effective tools of engagement now available will be essential to success in the 21st century.”

The study also outlines five categories to create a successful online marketing campaign: Web site design and management, techniques for building traffic, E-mail campaigns, customer engagement techniques and social Media and Web 2.0 activities.

Full results of the study are available to subscribing resorts. A summary will also be featured in the HSMAI Marketing Review Spring issue.

The Resort Marketing special interest group, (, is a group of HSMAI members who advance the resort sales and marketing discipline and the professional development of its members through information sharing and education. This group was formed to create forums for information exchange such as at the annual Resort conference and publishing newsletters and articles related to the resort sales and marketing specialty. It also guides the Best Practices Initiative, of which this report is a product. 

The Best Practices Initiative is an optional service of the Resort Marketing special interest group based on an annual subscription that provides for two research studies per year, an annual subscriber meeting and various ad hoc efforts driven by the subscribers. More information along with the list of participating resorts can be found at

HSMAI is the hospitality industry source for knowledge, community, and recognition for leaders committed to professional development, sales growth, revenue optimization, marketing, and branding. With a strong focus on education, HSMAI has become the industry champion in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry, and bringing together customers and members at annual events, including HSMAI's Affordable Meetings®. Founded in 1927, HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprising more than 7,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. For more information on HSMAI, contact the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, 1760 Old Meadow Road, Suite 500, McLean, Va. 22102; (703) 506-3280; fax (703) 506-3266, or visit the website at 


 Rachel Rosenberg

Also See: Getting Back to the Basics: The Hotelier’s Internet Marketing Action Plan for a Difficult Economy / Max Starkov and Jason Price/ June 2008



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