An interview with Lux* Resorts Maldives ex-Head of PR  – Executive Interview Series

Meet Dolores Semeraro – former Director of Marketing & PR at Lux*  Resorts Maldives – Industry Expert

Dolores Semeraro has established herself in the hotel industry over the last ten years, becoming director of PR & Communications for Lux* Resorts & Hotels in December 2015, shortly followed by founding her own company which she named Travels & Retreats the following year. Her extensive knowledge of this rapidly changing and ever-growing world of leisure made her a fascinating individual to speak with.

Meet our Interviewer: David Gabriele, CEO of Swayy

Swayy is the leading influencer booking, campaign and relationship management tool for the hospitality industry. Swayy helps venues find, book and maintain relationships with the most influential people on social media, recently winning the Disrupt Awards 2018 at TTE Europe.

Interview Highlights

What are the changes happening in hotel marketing at the moment?

In the past year or so, hoteliers have woken up to a new modern wave of influencer marketing. However, most lack the knowledge and expertise to carry out this digital advertising approach effectively. They are going through what Dolores refers to as a “slow wake-up call“, which means they are not taking full advantage of the powerful marketing tools that are accessible to them, nor are some of them even acknowledging the progressive shift from traditional marketing concepts to new, digital advancements.

Influencer marketing is making its mark in everyday life as we know it, affecting people’s opinions, tastes and ultimately, what they are consuming. Swayy, for one, has indeed recognised and penetrated this market, having developed over the past three years the right intelligence and software in order to carry out successful hotel-influencer collaborations with demonstrative precision and productivity.

Amongst the “noise“, as Dolores calls it, another change that she picked up on was the fact that experts in the hotel industry have seemed to lose touch with the sense of community work. To use her words, “there’s a lot of me-me-me at the moment versus us“, as the necessity to ‘stay ahead’ of the game has become a prerequisite across all big hotel chains. Instead hoteliers should be working together more.

Lux* Hotels’ South Ari Atoll Beach Rouge Club

When will it become mainstream for hoteliers to use influencers?

The leading global hotels currently using influencers as a means to increase sales and brand awareness are: Bali, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Seychelles. Hotels need to be aware of current trends and what their “niche” is at that point in time, otherwise they will fall behind. Dolores mentions that influencer marketing “will definitely be a key part of the niche” in times to come.

How much money is currently allocated for influencer marketing?

The answer is not definite: “it varies greatly“. However, Dolores confirms that the budget spent on marketing communications and social presence will “increase significantly” in the near future, due to the progressive consumerism becoming a result of influencer-public relations on social platforms. Of that, “50%” of the whole budget in market communications will be invested in influencers over the next few years. Hotels are currently still adapting to this ‘new’ instant review system, such as the likes of Trip Advisor, which has become renowned for its momentous success. Influencer marketing adopts this similar imminent feedback approach, in the way that the leisure business can evaluate and monitor their engagement and following, as the process is carried out through a social platform visible to all.

What are the key benefits for a hotelier that has no experience with influencers?

According to Dolores, the key determining factor in separating your hotel from what’s out there already is “personalisation”. You, as a representative of your hotel and its brand, can tailor your niche and target what is the current niche in order to highlight your brand within that niche. Sounds complicated? It doesn’t have to be.

Influencer marketing can do it for you. Collaborating with the right influencer enables you to connect immediately with your tailored market audience, i.e. people with the same values and interests as the carefully selected influencer. This therefore means that thousands of pairs of eyes are looking at your hotel with a view to it being somewhere special and recommended by the person they choose to be influenced by.

Interestingly, micro influencers, i.e. those with a 1-100k following tend to have a more engaged and meaningful following as their audience is more specifically tailored to their tastes and preferences, meaning the feedback as a result is more effective.

How many influencer requests do you receive daily?

The number of requests is undeniably “increasing” as experts and marketing representatives are becoming more accustomed to this digital approach. The biggest issue that comes with this is assessing the credibility of each influencer, an incredibly time-consuming and at times unsuccessful part of the process. Hoteliers are definitely “struggling” with this, as Dolores points out, and some may consider the problem a major setback and enough to give up on this approach completely.

What is the solution? The solution is to educate hoteliers on how to overcome this issue using tools available to them. The key, according to CEO David Gabriele, to alleviate this problematic side of working with influencers is founded in data, which is where Swayy comes in. But as Dolores stresses, the hotel industry is “very reactive still”, and there is a constant sense of “uncertainty” and “insecurity” about how to tackle and nail influencer marketing, which leads onto David’s final question…

What are the three main challenges that come with influencer marketing?

As previously mentioned, Dolores listed the standard problems, which to her were the most obvious and common:

1. Tracking their engagement: audience/ insights/ relationship with followers

2. Chasing influencers: finding the appropriate group of influencers for your brand

3. Being able to trust that there is a genuine human connection between the influencer and their following, i.e. their credibility.

“Right now, with all these hotel openings in the Maldives, it’s becoming more difficult to build a legacy and also to hold onto those that you have earned over the years. It’s a difficult industry right now.

What are your thoughts on Swayy and what value will it bring to the industry?

There is no doubt that the hotel industry is one of the most competitive and fast-paced environments to build and maintain a unique brand image and public presence. The need to adapt to new modern techniques is something hotels cannot ignore. Dolores agrees that what Swayy can offer to the hotel industry, be that big chains or independent businesses, is something of tremendous power and value:

“This will really solve a lot of problems at the property side…it’s great…it’s super detailed and I can see it being of interest to many managers in the Maldives!

Lux* Hotels Maldives, South Ari Atoll Beach Resort

Interested in working with professional, 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.