Hotel Propeller Blog

How Coral Tree Guest House Thrives by Focusing on a Niche Market

One thing I truly love about working on the web is I get to meet and learn from folks from across the world!  And today’s interview is the perfect example.

Barbara Ann Kinghorn, of Coral Tree Guest House, located in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, joins us to share her experience running her accommodation business.  Aside from their heavy reliance on their website for marketing their hotel, what I really found interesting here was their focus on niche markets — primarily families with small children — and how this helps to attract their target customer.

This is part of our Hotelier Interviews series, where we’re inviting Hotel, B & B, and Resort operators on to tell their story of how they run and sustain their business.  If you’re interested in being interviewed, submit your request here.

Welcome, Barbara…

Can you briefly introduce your hotel, where it’s located, the local attractions, etc.?

CORAL TREE GUEST HOUSE is THE child-friendly, pet-friendly, wheelchair-friendly guest house in The Friendly City!” Picture us at the bottom right-hand “corner” of the continent of Africa.

We’re in Port Elizabeth, one of three cities making up the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. So we can offer visiting families both Beaches and the “Big 7” – lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino AND whales and great white sharks – safari experiences in a safely malaria-free area for little children, either at one of the many private game reserves in our area, or in the Addo Elephant National Park, about an hour’s drive from us.

How long have you been in operation? What led you to the decision to start your hotel?

Six years ago, my husband and I decided to create something that we would have loved, when we had three children aged 1 to 3, forty years ago: The Flat is a place where a family with little children will be welcomed with open arms into a safe, cheerful, family-friendly environment with books for all ages, games, puzzles, a Wendy House full of toys, a jungle gym and sand pit and videos and DVDs for rainy days.

The Suite came later – a private, grown-up space which is perfectly suited to business people’s needs, or for romantic getaways. It has many wheelchair-friendly features which make The Suite appropriate also for guests who come to Port Elizabeth for medical treatment.

What has been your most effective method of marketing your hotel and attracting guests?

“We cater specially for niche markets, each of which requires special furniture & decor, planning & logistics and cleaning solutions.”

We cater specially for three niche markets: families with little children, travellers with pets and people in wheelchairs, each of which requires special furniture & decor, planning & logistics and cleaning solutions.

So, our target markets on the Internet find us through these key words: child-friendly, pet-friendly, wheelchair-friendly accommodation in Port Elizabeth. We don’t even bother with print media any more, since we have had zero ROI from it in the past.

How have you used the web and social media to promote your hotel?

To date, our website has brought us most of our guests, who have engaged with us by phone or email but we are in the process of re-inventing it to harness the potential and need for instant feedback required by Social Media and the Mobile Revolution.

What is the most challenging aspect of running your hotel business? How do you overcome this?

South Africa is a long-haul destination for most “overseas” families and flights are not cheap, especially in the present economic climate. This was our most lucrative market, but it has shrunk – so our challenge at the moment is to find ways of making our accommodation affordable for local families.

What was one thing you learned from your experience operating your hotel, that you didn’t know or expect before starting out in the hospitality business?

I did a 10-week “Internet Super User” course online in 2010, to help me with marketing the business.

And thank goodness I did: I look back at the crotchety “I’m a Luddite and proud of it” sixty-something that I was and I’m ashamed of my old self. The Internet opened my eyes and my horizons and transformed me into a life-long learner. This unexpected ROI has enriched my life beyond all my expectations.

1 Response to “How Coral Tree Guest House Thrives by Focusing on a Niche Market”

  1. Brian July 24, 2012 at 9:29 am Reply

    Great followup discussion from other Hotel owners on niche marketing over on LinkedIn, here:

Leave a Reply