Social media’s marketing benefits highlighted at Resorts of Ontario Conference

BLUE MOUNTAINS, Ont. — If handled properly, social media and onsite media visits can boost resorts’ marketing efforts, according to education sessions presented during the second day of Resorts of Ontario’s annual conference.

Left to Right: Resorts of Ontario — Eric Miglin, Killarney Lodge, secretary; Dianne Hounsome, Bayview Wildwood Resort, vice-president; Greg Elmhirst, Elmhirst Resort, chair; Mark Downing, Fern Resort, president.  Federation of Bed & Breakfast Accommodation — Doug Frost, Forks in the Trail B & B, vice-president; Diane Tolstoy, Inn on the Moraine B & B, membership director.

Left to Right: Resorts of Ontario — Eric Miglin, Killarney Lodge, secretary; Dianne Hounsome, Bayview Wildwood Resort, vice-president; Greg Elmhirst, Elmhirst Resort, chair; Mark Downing, Fern Resort, president. Federation of Bed & Breakfast Accommodation — Doug Frost, Forks in the Trail B & B, vice-president; Diane Tolstoy, Inn on the Moraine B & B, membership director.

BLUE MOUNTAINS, Ont. — If handled properly, social media such as Twitter and hosted media visits can boost resorts’ marketing efforts, according to education sessions presented during the second day of Resorts of Ontario’s annual conference, held April 27-28 at Blue Mountain Resort Conference Centre, in Blue Mountains, Ont.

Kevin Forget, travel promotion officer with Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corp., outlined how to approach media outlets with invitations for familiarization (FAM) resort visits (always personalize e-mails; connect directly with the reporter you want to invite; make the media outlet feel like they’re getting an exclusive story).

Once a media outlet is onsite at a resort, it’s crucial that the property show off its best side, to ensure the most favourable coverage and guarantee maximum marketing exposure, said Forget. To that end, it’s important to provide visiting reporter(s) with the resort’s Twitter handle, so the journalists can “feed the social media beast” and promote the property to a wide audience.

Stephen Roome, with First Page SEO, said resorts need to ensure their websites are mobile-friendly, since it is estimated that in 2015, mobile searches will overtake desktop and laptop searches.

As part of search engine optimization, resorts need to use proper keywords on their sites, “so mobile users can find your websites,” he said. Find out where most of your traffic is coming from and then use that to gauge where your efforts will be best utilized, said Roome.

Sean Billing, general manager of the Delta Guelph, said social media are growing in prominence and that their purpose is for properties “to engage with people to find your audience.” Key to doing that, he said, is for resort properties to refine their brand to find their audience and then identify the best way to articulate their brand publicly.

On the conference’s first day, suppliers hosted 15-minute roundtable sessions covering a variety of topics. One session, hosted by Jason Pulchinski, president of At the Lake Distributing, provided tips on how resorts can maximize their waterfronts to increase their business. Waterfront amenities and activities can work as a value-added service or program, he said, and can generate significant revenue.

A good plan to build up a resort’s waterfront is to allocate money in the property’s building fund every year, he said. As for popular activities, increasingly resonating with guests is stand-up paddleboarding, he said.

Another roundtable, hosted by Eco Motion Solutions, extolled the virtues of battery-powered electric scooters, which can be used to deliver first aid to properties’ remote areas and can provide an amenity for guests, who ride the scooters to tour resorts’ forested trails.

Following the roundtable sessions, 34 companies exhibited at the conference’s annual trade show sponsored by the preferred supplier division. After the trade show, Resorts of Ontario elected its new board members: Justin Allsopp, Andy Vitch, Diane Wilson, Gary O’Neill and Richard Nie.

That evening, everyone gathered in the Georgian Bay Ballroom for the president’s dinner. Outgoing president Greg Elmhirst outlined the association’s accomplishments during his two-year term, which included bringing aboard almost 50 new members.

After Elmhirst spoke, he introduced incoming president Mark Downing, who said he looks forward to growing the industry, “promoting great resorting experiences” and helping properties capture new segments such as meetings groups.

In addition, outgoing board chairman Sheila Maxwell was presented with a plaque commemorating her years of service.