The Alex Secret Garden_web-1During the worst days of COVID restrictions in Ireland last year, executives at O’Callaghan Collection – a group of five 4-star hotels in Dublin and Gibraltar – knew they had to do something to accommodate the few travelers who still needed a place to meet, dine and sleep. So they put their heads together to come up with some options.

At the Alex Hotel in the heart of Dublin, where meetings and events drive a significant amount of business, the company developed “the Secret Garden at the Alex Hotel,” an outdoor dining space designed with florals, to ensure the hotel had an outdoor dining area for guests. The Garden is now seen as one of the best brunch and al fresco dining locations in the city.

Newly appointed Marketing Manager Aaron Barry is leading company-wide strategies to focus on local travelers and move to a more digital marketing approach.

“Today, we have to constantly scrutinize our marketing spend and make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck,” he says. “The focus for me has been digital because we can better track the ROI on those channels.”

We caught up with Barry to discuss implementing a culture of dynamic change, and which new strategies are proving most effective.


The Alex Secret Garden_web

Q: What strategies have you put in place to target local travelers?

Barry: Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve focused on digital channels to promote the hotel. The use of these channels has helped us target locals as well. The majority of our social following are domestic consumers, so our organic reach hits a domestic market, promoting local consumption of our experiences. Any paid promotions have been targeted digitally to domestic locations, again reaching locals as opposed to international consumers. Finally, our massive PR drive for the hotels has focused on Irish media, driving awareness of the hotel and showcasing the quality of our offering. We’ve worked with local media brands across radio, digital, and print, as well as influencers that are aligned with our brand to make sure we’re promoting the hotel to the local market. This, along with traditional word of mouth as guests experience the hotel and recommend it to their family and friends, has ensured we’re top of mind for the local consumer.


Q: With regard to paid search, what channels are proving to be most effective for you?

Barry: Pay-Per-Click works best for us, as we find we reach people who already have an intent to purchase a hotel experience when we reach them at this touchpoint – they’re already searching for a hotel as they know they want to purchase this experience. Paid social works for us too, but acts as both an awareness and conversion driver.

The Eliott Exec Room_web

Q: How are you measuring the success of your direct booking efforts?

Barry: We measure the amount of revenue in for our direct versus OTA channels, with a focus on always trying to increase revenue month over month. Our main success metric when it comes to direct revenue is what proportion of revenue per month has come in direct versus via OTAs – we’d want a higher proportion of the revenue to come from direct. That’s what we define as success in this strategy.


Q: What technology upgrades have you made to facilitate your new post-COVID strategies?

Barry: We wanted to ensure we were upgrading all our systems as we continue to strive for efficiency in the business. For example, our Revenue Manager, Joanne McDonnell felt Windsurfer by SHR was the best CRS option for the business. Efficiencies gained with Windsurfer not only help front office, reservations and revenue, but also help to ensure the business as a whole is best placed to perform to its full potential and that O’Callaghan Collection is in the best possible position to deliver the best customer service to guests who come through the doors.

by Jason Q. Freed

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