Meet Sara Sanders, General Manager of Puri Mas in Lombok
Sara Sanders is the General Manager at Puri Mas Boutique Resorts and Spa in Lombok, the Indonesian island. She has 14 years of experience in the luxury hotel industry, so she has an exceptional knowledge of the market.
Throughout the course of our chat, we discovered that the team at Puri Mas did not use social media influencers as part of their marketing strategy. So, we wanted to find out exactly what the roadblocks and challenges were to them using influencers, and what the General Manager of a renowned luxury independent hotel would like to see done about it.
Here to find out more is today’s interviewer, David Gabriele
David Gabriele is the CEO of Swayy, winner of the TTE Europe Disrupt Award 2018. Swayy is the leading tool in hospitality striving to clean up the industry. Swayy gives venues the power to find, book and maintain relationships with social media influencers.
Who do you usually aim to appeal to at Puri Mas?
Puri Mas is located on the beach of Mangsit Bay, a little way out of Senggigi, the tourist hub in Lombok. The resort prides itself on its eclectic range of rooms, their facilities and their exceptional service. They also value peace and privacy, and don’t host children under twelve. As a result of this, their demographic usually consists of honeymooners, singles and couples whose children have grown up.
What’s happening in the market in Lombok at the minute?
Following the earthquakes in Lombok, Sanders tells us that their occupancy at the time of the interview, 12th December 2018, is exceptionally low: just one room filled out of their potential forty. Things are not good sadly. Blog posts like this one describing Senggigi as “a bit of a dump…not worth a stay”, also aren’t helping.
They currently have no ongoing collaborations with social media influencers and could severely do with finding them to help pick up the business.
However, because of the challenges Sara and her team have faced trying to manage the collaboration process manually themselves, influencers to date have not been a core part of the marketing mix. Who blames her? It really is a lot of hassle trying to manage this manually (and this is exactly why Swayy was developed).
Could you outline the challenges you faced trying to manually run collaborations internally?
For Sanders, one of the big sticking points is that the hotel receives generic email requests from influencers. These messages, sent out en masse, show a distinct lack of research into the venue and what they have to offer. If an email fails to even mention the name of the hotel, then the collaboration “just doesn’t seem credible”. Trying to do this ourselves, the hotel is dependent on waiting for inbound requests.
In addition, when evaluating an influencer’s potential, it is “very difficult to work out who could be useful” to the hotel. Sanders states that it is hard to identify the ‘heavy’ influencers, who have real power and can actually make a difference, as opposed to the people just looking for a free holiday.
So, do you believe that finding the right people to help is the biggest challenge to influencer marketing?
Sanders notes that it is hard to maintain the balance in a collaboration. On the one hand, it remains crucial that an influencer genuinely enjoys themselves during your stay. On the other hand, inviting an influencer to stay at your venue has to provide you with good value, and content that can be re-used and will promote your property. “The collaborative relationship has to be mutually beneficial at all times, and finding the formula on our own that consistently leads to this is incredibly difficult”
An additional element added to this complex equation is expectations on both sides. An influencer needs to have a knowledge of the hotel and area that they are visiting, in order to make the most of their time and best inform their audiences.
From a hotelier’s point of view, it becomes very tiring when influencers continually fall short of expectations, either during or after their stay. Managing this manually is just not viable as it takes up so much time. “It becomes very frustrating for us when they put the effort into a collaboration, and the only return they get is a selfie by the swimming pool“. An influencer needs to have clear goals for producing content that will aid the hotel in their marketing efforts, else the collaboration has been a waste of time.
Sanders says that other hoteliers should be mindful of working with the right people, and of being clear on deliverables from the outset. Across the industry, she argues, hotel management teams share the same sentiment: that they do not want to give if they are not going to get back. That’s human nature after all. “Ultimately, we need to stop the relationship between influencers and venues from being a one-way street across the industry”
What is your current approach to finding influencers for potential partnerships?
Puri Mas does not currently have a dedicated influencer marketing strategy, mainly owing to the fact that Sanders does not want to manage this process manually internally, and the dire economic times currently prevent her from even considering Swayy: “The focus at the moment is just trying to cover our staff bill given how low current occupancy levels are“.
Looking in further detail at the manual process which is so cumbersome, if an influencer approaches the venue, they begin by checking engagement from the audience by hand. Looking at likes and communication, for example, allows them to begin to judge the kind of demographic an influencer appeals to, and how much of their audience is genuinely interested in the content that they produce.
This process of evaluation, Sanders says, takes variable amounts of time and effort for members of her team before a collaboration can even be confirmed. Following an influencer’s stay, there is a further expenditure of time tracking return-on-investment rates. It is difficult to determine whether an influencer is truly increasing future booking and helping to meet revenue targets. “We don’t currently use any form of tracking links” like the ones you can use on Swayy.
We also covered the pain points affecting luxury hotels working with social media influencers in more detail here; along with our suggested solution(s).
What would be the Holy Grail of influencer marketing?
Influencers being specific in their message to the audience.
When an influencer creates content to promote a hotel on their Instagram, they should be promoting the aspects of the venue that the hotel deems most important.
Here at Swayy, we know that these challenges are not insurmountable…
We showed Sanders our platform, which allows hotels to book Instagram influencers to stay in their venues. These influencers have been pre-vetted for fake followers, audience and engagement and deliverable results. The hotel retains full control over their required deliverables, which makes the filtering process painless and efficient.
Here was her feedback:
“It could work!”
Sanders particularly noted that Swayy allows you to be specific about the messaging and content an influencer produces in collaboration with your brand. This means that you have control over the elements of your business that you are most interested in sharing with consumers. For Sanders, this would mean being able to promote what is wonderful about the island of Lombok. Working with influencers with a clear goal would give Puri Mas and its team the opportunity to show off the aspects of their hotel, and their island, that are closest to their hearts.
Sanders says that she “would jump at the opportunity to work with real influencers that have real impact.”
For more top tips from industry experts, check out our recent interview with Jérémie Lannoy – Director of Marketing & Communications at W Hotels
Interested in working with full time, pre-vetted hotel influencers? Click here to find out how Swayy can help you. If you are an influencer interested in a collaboration, read up on what we can do for you.