All overnight visitors to Manitoba have something in common – they need somewhere to stay overnight. Travel Manitoba hosted its first Accommodations Summit on April 5, bringing large hotel chains, small hoteliers and bed and breakfast operators together for the first time. In all, 49 participants from across the province, including representatives from Tourism Winnipeg and the Manitoba Tourism Secretariat, came to discuss opportunities and challenges facing the sector, as well as options for leveraging marketing and partnership.
“It was great to meet with other hoteliers, for the first time in my 29 years, to discuss how to grow the market versus just cutting up the pie into smaller unsustainable pieces,” said Daymon Guillas, manager of the Russell Inn.
“What I found encouraging was the participation,” said Bruce MacKay, manager of the Holiday Inn Airport West. “The cross section of individuals and properties was impressive.”
Laurel Sarginson from Evergreen Gate Bed & Breakfast and President of Bed & Breakfast of Manitoba also appreciated the opportunity to “think out loud”, connect with others in the accommodation business and the chance to “hear about their successes, challenges and plans.”
“I was impressed by the stats on social media,” said Bruce, referencing the fact that 73% of participants use social media, with 91% of those on Facebook and 86% on Trip Advisor. There was some surprise at the fact that 27% of participants don’t use social media. Barriers to usage include the inability to dedicate the time to maintain an active social media presence.
A discussion about Trip Advisor yielded some concern about invalid reviews and the negative impact on businesses. However, other participants noted the benefits of truthful accounts of travel experiences and Travel Manitoba encouraged businesses to see the potential of Trip Advisor as a means to connect with guests. Travel Manitoba plans to integrate Trip Advisor into its website for 2014 and has committed to facilitating more discussion around how operators can use it to their advantage.
Participants were also given an introduction to the Hotel Association of Canada’s (HAC) online booking program, which is a national accommodation database offering reservations made directly on a property’s website. The program will feature consumer generated content, third party quality assurance verification and best rate guarantees. The fees to participate in the program range from $295-$495, depending on a property’s number of rooms.
“I am especially interested to see how B & B’s can fit into the proposed general accommodations website,” said Laurel. Members of Bed and Breakfast of Manitoba would be offered a lowered rate in the program which is expected to be fully functional by 2014.
Many participants, including Bruce and Daymon, support the idea of an annual summit to continue the conversation and continue to build on the collaboration within the sector and take advantage of the growth and development of tourist attractions in Winnipeg and across Manitoba.
Participants were particularly optimistic about the move towards online marketing, the group effort of various industry sectors pitching in to sell Manitoba and Travel Manitoba’s commitment to adopting a consistent marketing message – with a new brand set to launch in the spring of 2014.
“I hope that we continue to meet on an annual or twice yearly basis to continue to push growing the market,” said Daymon.
See the full report on the Accommodations Summit.
Travel Manitoba also hosted its third annual Fish/Hunt Summit on April 11. See the full report.