Artistic approach pays for Belize resort

Engaging travel consumer is becoming intensely competitive and, as a result, new hotels and hotel brands must step up their marketing game. Ka’ana, a luxury eco-resort nestled in a valley between the Maya Mountains of Belize’s Cayo District, has taken an alternative, more artistic approach: using creative direction and directed video footage with an edge to convey not only what the property might look like, but how it feels to be there. Better still, the hotel’s website has placed its video documenting a young couple’s trip through the country directed by noted filmmaker Naoto Ono front and center on its website. It is hard to avoid.

HOTELS spoke to owner Colin Hannan, who along with his partner and brother Ronan decided to diverge from the days of traditional marketing and video with a film to market their resort.

HOTELS: How impactful has video been for you?

Colin Hannan: We felt that in the age of Instagram when anyone can make the photo look good the potential guest is not going to settle and nor get that reassurance. That word reassurance is very important for us because people haven’t been to Belize so they need to be educated. Our videos are a great medium to give people the reassurance because it is much harder to lie on video than it is by photos.

HOTELS: Whom did you hire to make your video? How did you go about producing it?

Hannan: Thankfully, my girlfriend knows a Japanese-American videographer who has done some work with a couple of the Starwood brands. We told him we were very open to his input and lead, and would give him a lot of freedom in making this video. There was a lot of setup on the ground because we had eight days. He shot 11 hours a day, and got 600 gigs of footage, and that is a big upside. So now we have this huge base of video material that we can use moving forward and we have a lot of interesting ideas as to how we can start to use that as an asset and continue to create more video clips incorporating it into our website.

The first and foremost thing that we were really looking for was a signature branding video that someone would be hooked into watching. It would explain that we are a phenomenal resort, its luxury, its high service, and the experiences that people can be guided through that are unique and memorable with a mixture of culture, adventure and nature.

HOTELS: Can you estimate the investment made to create the video?

Hannan: We had a couple of other parties involved as well; we had the stylist as well as the models and we had some rental equipment, but we managed to do the entire thing for about US$15,000. It’s pretty reasonable and we went to a professional firm for a comparison we were looking at US$50,000. You could probably get it down to US$30,000-35,000, which is why it is good to have connections. We tried to throw in as much as possible. The video crew took some time, and we ensured that there was no shortage of food and drinks, and they had a great time. We managed to get the helicopter guy to comp us, so that would have been another US$3,000. We sold him on the decision of marketing these helicopter adventure tours.

HOTELS: How are you disseminating the video?

Hannan: We are on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and we are a part of signature travel networks like Jetsetter. So I have been trying to get the video out through their social media. It is every bit as important to us to post it on our page because we have 4,700 followers on Facebook. In terms of marketing, social media and digital online spaces are exactly where it is going to be watched. It is already shown in presentations and reviews, and people are really interested in us. When we go on road shows or at trade shows we just have it playing in the background. So it is mostly a collateral piece for us.

HOTELS: How many impressions has the video been receiving?

Hannan: Our web hits have gone up in the past month (about 15%) largely because of a lot of the blogs that noticed our video. We get about 300 visitors a day, to put it in perspective. So it’s not massive numbers, but its pretty good for a small resort. Its not that the video has gone viral and everyone is coming to our website to find us; its that the video is finding its way through the Internet into different avenues.

HOTELS: Will you do more video because it is helping build your brand?

Hannan: Our brand is moving toward even more authenticity by incorporating local partners and local people. Authenticity has come through in terms of people behind the project, as well.  So we are developing a page on our website that gives detail on our photographer, our videographer, creative director and graphic designer.

We want to make more videos to give us more of the story of how we came to be.  Now, we are all about exposing the ins-ands-outs of the creation of this luxury resort because it is a fun story and gives legitimacy to the product and resort. It gives reassurance to the people who are watching that we are real people who care about this resort, and that it is the type of resort they want to go to.

HIO: How does video improve your ability to compete?

Hannan: You have those big players and big brands and a demographic that doesn’t necessarily want to go to a big brand or be defined by a big brand, and that is the demographic we need to aim for. I haven’t seen a huge amount of small independent hotels that have done really interesting things in the digital space. We see that as an opportunity to take advantage because we have that eye for detail to do interesting things, especially through our networks and connections.

We can’t do road shows every month and we can’t send out our sales and marketing director everywhere. In terms of digital it is a much flatter playing field. I think it works in favor of the small independent hotels because it gives us an opportunity to get out there in front of a lot more people if we do something interesting and of high quality. The blog exposure, to me, is one of the most exciting things to come out of this video as we didn’t expect.