With a population of 1.4 million people, San Antonio, Texas is the 7th largest city in the United States. Not surprisingly, it’s also a very competitive market for hotels, with over 450 scattered across the city, 35 of which are branded as Choice Hotel properties.
But that doesn’t intimidate Sherry Chaudhry, co-owner of Comfort Suites Alamo/River Walk. Located in Downtown San Antonio, this 90-room property is just three blocks away from the famous River Walk and historic Alamo.
Comfort Suites Alamo/River Walk has been a labor of love for Sherry and her husband over the last 20 years. “We started scouting for properties in 2000, and it took 8 years to build” said Sherry.
The Comfort Suites Alamo/River Walk opened its doors in 2008. Not long after, Sherry became involved with Choice Hotels at a corporate level. She has served on the Choice Hotels Owners Council for the last 7 years, and has been the Director of Region 10 for the last 4.
Region 10 comprises of 545 Choice properties across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Her role on the Council is to understand what’s happening in the digital world, to help other Choice Hotels better market their properties online.
“There are over 6,000 Choice Hotels, and 60% are owner operated. A lot of us grew up in a different era of print and billboard advertising,” explains Sherry.
“We’re lost when it comes to digital marketing and how to manage online programs. We need to re-educate ourselves and retrain ourselves.”
Sherry’s own property was facing a lot of the same challenges as others under the Choice brand. “There’s been huge changes in the hotel lodging industry over the past 8 years, which has reduced a lot of demand,” explained Sherry.
“The biggest things we see changing are social media, online advertising, and the growing dominance of OTAs, which take up to 20-30% of our revenue off the table. We need to reclaim that and encourage people to book direct.”
To do this, Sherry knew she needed her own individual property website, and went with Buuteeq (now known as BookingSuite) to build her one.
However, she soon realized it wasn’t driving the direct bookings she needed. “We couldn’t create special offers or really showcase what we had to offer. It was also very expensive to make any changes,” said Sherry.
As a result, most of Sherry’s reservations were coming through Choice.com and OTAs, which created some additional challenges.
“I was paying money for our brand to market for us, but there are 35 Choice Hotels in San Antonio. I want my advertising to go directly to my individual website, not to all the Choice properties in our area,” explained Sherry.
Sherry also noticed a higher cancellation rate among bookings that came through these channels. “With the OTAs especially, my cancellation rate was about 25%.”
Sherry knew she needed to find a better way to increase direct bookings on her own website.
With Vizlly, a Digital Marketing System for hotels, Sherry found the solution she was looking for, and more! Comfort Suites Alamo/ River Walk now has a stunning visual-first website that captures the relaxed atmosphere of the property and vibrancy of the local area.
Designed with SEO best practices in mind, Sherry’s website is now ranking in search results and getting found by online travel shoppers.
“Since we launched with Vizlly, I haven’t spent a dime on advertising. All of my website traffic has come from organic search.”
Sherry and her team have been creative in their SEO strategy, targeting long-tail keywords that are less competitive to rank for. Their special offers, for example, are geared toward local events that people are searching for, like the San Antonio Rodeo, as well as well-known local landmarks, like Trinity University, the Alamodome, and of course the famous River Walk.
Setting up these special offers in Vizlly is so easy. “It only take me minutes to create the code in Choice’s rate code center, copy the URL into Vizlly, and push my special offers live,” said Sherry.
Sherry now has a visual, yet functional, mobile website as well.
“When I first saw Vizlly, I was absolutely amazed at the product, especially its mobile offering. Given that 50-60% of last minute bookings are now made on mobile devices, this is so important.”
The Comfort Suites Alamo/ River Walk opted for a mobile responsive website from Vizlly, which ensures a consistent viewing experience across any device, whether that be desktop, tablet or smartphone.
A nice bonus to Sherry’s Vizlly subscription was the inclusion of Facebook Apps. Now visitors to the property’s Facebook page can view Guest Rooms, Special Offers, Features & Amenities and Things to Do in San Antonio all from within the Facebook platform.
“Our Facebook page looks amazing and so professional. It integrates with our website, so people can cross-over between the two, or even make a direct booking with us right there on Facebook.”
Despite all these benefits, the number one reason Sherry chose Vizlly was because of the Storytelling Specialist that came with her subscription. “That sold me within about 5 minutes,” said Sherry. Sherry’s Storytelling Specialist worked with her to better understand her property’s unique value and her objectives with the website. They then crafted the website content and built out everything – the website, mobile website and Facebook Apps – on Sherry’s behalf.
“For the hours it would take me to do it myself, this service is absolutely crucial,” said Sherry.
“Most limited service properties like me just don’t have the time to do it ourselves, nor can we keep up with the ongoing changes happening in the digital marketing industry.”
With Vizlly, this isn’t something Sherry needs to worry about anymore. All of our Storytellers and Success Coaches are CHDM certified, and well-versed on Google’s SEO best practices.
Sherry also has access to valuable analytics in Vizlly, to see where her traffic is coming from, what devices people are using, and what initiatives are working or her website. “
To be able to see these results and talk to someone on how to make improvements, it’s just a great resource. This is something that every single property in the United States should have – all limited service hotels.”
In just 3 months since going live with Vizlly, Sherry has had over 5,000 visitors to her new website, one-third of which are using a smartphone or tablet to access her mobile site.
And these visitors are highly engaged. Sherry’s website has seen a 33% purchase intent rate, meaning that one-third of all website visitors are clicking through to her booking engine to check rates.
This is translating into more direct bookings. In 1 month alone, Sherry saw 25 new reservations come through her Vizlly-powered website – a total of 56 room nights that generated $7700 in additional revenue, without paying any commissions. Best off all, unlike her OTA bookings, there were no cancellations from any of these direct bookings.
These fantastic results mean that Sherry has already doubled her ROI with Vizlly – and she’s only just getting started! If she continues on this track, Sherry is looking at an estimated 24x ROI in 1 year.
“Vizlly is very reasonably priced for limited service hotels,” said Sherry. “It’s absolutely the best expense you can make on marketing and advertising for your hotel.
“Vizlly is the number one thing that’s going to drive business back to your property.”