Resorts of Ontario: Connect to your network

ROO president Mark Downing (right) presents a gift to past president Greg Elmhurst at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party themed President's Dinner.

ROO president Mark Downing (right) presents a gift to past president Greg Elmhurst at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party themed President's Dinner.

By Don Douloff, Assistant Editor

ORILLIA,
ONT. — Adopting the theme ‘connect to your network,’ the Resorts of Ontario (ROO)
spring conference delivered key insights on how properties can leverage the
power of online, during an action-packed two days April 4-5 at Fern Resort and
Casino Rama.

Outlining
how to take advantage of new technology — specifically, live interactive video
broadcasting via the Periscope smart phone app and Facebook Live — were Gord
Bell, of Beauview Cottage Resort, and Caroline Elmhirst, of Elmhirst’s Resort.

“The
interactive nature of social video is game-changing because viewers can
participate,” said Bell, who, since May 2015, has been hosting, on his cell
phone, one daily Periscope session, of about 15 minutes, discussing, for
example, tourist activities in the area surrounding his resort. Elmhirst
video-streams, for example, behind-the-scenes tours of the resort’s kitchen or tours
of the property’s shoreline. Periscope was introduced in April 2015 for iPhone
and Android.

Bell
observed that customers buy from people and businesses they know, like and
trust, so live video streaming, which lets hosts connect directly with
potential customers, quickly builds that trust. He also noted that social video
streaming doesn’t replace commercially produced video, but, rather, “offers
another dimension.” Key, he said, is for properties to “choose their
hosts/broadcasters carefully, since they become the de facto face of your brand.”

Steve
Roome, of First Page SEO, outlined how to leverage social media by creating
relatable, shareable content allowing people to connect with resorts’ message.
It’s important, he said, to create content that is business-focused and
consistent, and that people will want to share. It’s also crucial to react
quickly, and with empathy, to negative online posts and reviews.

Discussing
ways to market on a shoestring, a panel led by Julia Holliday, Suzanne
Rubinstein and Kevin Forget, all of OTMPC, outlined ways in which properties
can maximize marketing and advertising bang for their buck. For example, roadside
travel information centres display properties’ brochures and other information;
and offer attraction and event tickets and gift certificates, media relations
and specialized broadcast programs, and accommodation, reservation and referral
programs.

Rounding
out the conference was Monday afternoon’s trade show, held at Casino Rama,
where some 40 suppliers displayed their goods and services. Preceding that was a
series of 15-minute supplier roundtables.

Monday
night, Fern Resort hosted the President’s Dinner, which took a Mad Hatter’s Tea
Party theme, complete with appropriately surreal and whimsical headgear and an
elaborate scavenger hunt.

Also this year, members of the Federation of Ontario Bed
& Breakfast Accommodation (FOBBA) attended the conference, as part of the
formal marketing/administrative alliance between that organization and ROO announced
in April, 2015.

Resorts of Ontario announced that Doug Rolling was acclaimed
to a one-year extension of his term as president of the preferred suppliers
board (and will remain on the ROO board for another year). Mark Downing
continues as ROO president as part of his two-year term. New to ROO’s board is
Jo-anne Snyder, of Beachwood Resort, and FOBBA representative Doug Frost, of
Oro-Medonte, Ont.