Chile, Hotel and Hostel
Tree House Hostel and Hotel Antumalal
buuteeq interviews Sarah White of the Tree House Hostel and Hotel Antumalal in Chile.
Learn more about buuteeq’s hotel marketing and hotel web design: Visit buuteeq for hotel web design
Visit The Tree House Hostel: http://www.treehousechile.cl/en-us/index.htm
Visit Hotel Antumalal: http://www.antumalal.com/es-es/index.htm
Brandon: This is one of our very first Buuteeq interviews with hotel owners. Tell me a little bit about who you are, the name of your hotel, and your location.
Sarah: My name is Sarah White, and I am currently in Pucon, which is in the south of Chile. We’re around eight hours driving south of Santiago, but not quite in Patagonia. We’re in the Lake District. So there is a large, very active volcano outside the window, which is just seven kilometers from the town.
The name of the hotel that I own is actually a hostel called The Tree House. Another hotel with boutique experience recently brought to us is the Hotel Antumalal which is a five star boutique hotel on the outskirts of town.
Brandon: Wow. How long have you had both of those hotels?
Sarah: Well, the hostel that I own, I have had for around seven years. The hotel recently I did marketing and sales role here, and I’ve been involved for the last 12 months.
Brandon: How many rooms does each of those hotels have, and do you share similar clients? Or does each have its own unique type of guests that comes?
Sarah: Very, very different, very much different guests that come. The Hotel Antumalal, which is the boutique, five star hotel, very much attracts wealthy clients. Number one are Chileans, number two people from the States, and number three Brazilians. They come especially in the ski season. The total number we can hold here at the Antumalal is 46 people. That’s across a range of different types of rooms and chalets within the gardens, which add up to 22 beds altogether. They’re 46 people.
The Tree House Hostel attracts the high end backpackers, very much look for those who are looking for other people to meet; like-minded travelers, 25 and 60 years old, I would say, mainly single. We attract many more Europeans, Americans, New Zealanders and Australians and Chileans, 93% to 97%.
Brandon: Wow. It sounds like both hotels can take up quite a bit of time to work on, huh, I bet.
Sarah: Definitely, yeah. That’s true. I am bringing up the idea of a manager running the hotels for me. But, yeah, I’m very much involved there as well with the kinds of attractions and obviously online presence.
Brandon: So, they sound like two very distinct types of properties. What do you think really makes each of them stand out in their own special way compared to other kinds of hotels in the area?
Sarah: Okay. Well, The Tree House has gained quite a large name very, very quickly thanks to the experience that myself and my business partner had with as tour guides. We knew where to market or where to get out flyers, how far to get them, who we should contact around in Peru and Bolivia, south of Chile, Argentina, places that were on the tourist trail from our own experiences. Then, obviously, we reached a point where we were lacking an online presence, and that’s why you guys came in. The Antumalal is unique in the whole of Chile. It’s possibly the most famous hotel in the country.
Sarah: It has been around for 61 years, in that [inaudible 03:35]. It was built using unique architectural design for its time. It was built between 1948 and 1950, using Bauhaus architectural, modernist thinking. It really is a stunning piece of architectural work in its own right, as well as having five hectares of amazing landscape gardens on the end of the lake.
Brandon: Well, they both sound beautiful. I’m sitting here wishing that I could visit both of them right now.
Sarah: We are very lucky. It’s never really a bad day. When you look at the window from The Tree House, you have a direct view of the crater or all of the volcano, which is one of the reasons why we have so many active clients coming to see how it develops because you can climb that volcano to the crater and look at the lava and slide down in seven hours, up and down, to the crater which is almost 3,000 meters. From the Antumalal, we can see right out over 26 kilometers of each of the lakes that we have and over to the other side, which is lush, lush green forest. Yeah, we’re very lucky.
Brandon: How do you find that you usually fill your inventory? Is it with online travel agencies, regional travel agencies, walk-in business, online marketing, Facebook? What’s the most effective channel that you use?
Sarah: Through The Tree House, it’s definitely the website. Facebook goes a very long way with those types of clients because obviously we’re talking about the younger generation who we know from statistics use Facebook a lot more. The Antumalal, we spend a lot of time personalizing itineraries and meeting people’s needs over the phone and using email. The majority of the reservations at the Antumalal come directly through the website, and I would say around 30% through search engine.
Brandon: Wow. So you really don’t fill your inventory much with online travel agencies at all, do you? It’s mostly just organic search results and then direct reservations through your website.
Sarah: That’s right, yeah. Here at the Antumalal, we have a core set of agencies who work very hard on our behalf in Santiago, and they bring us quite a lot of clients. But we do do a lot of our own advertising and offers and promotions, and that’s where we get a lot of the people. Of course, we’re very lucky to have a lot of Facebook clients, because our number one clients at the Antumalal are Chileans. We get a lot of people coming back year on year, whereas at The Tree House it’s a different kind of marketing with 93% of them being foreign. We very much rely on that word getting around the tourist trail around South America, which is right back where we want to be, even as far as Costa Rica and Rio. We have contacts with hostels there who are at the same level as us. They very much show the flyers, and they pass information on to potential clients.
Brandon: So, with such a dependency on online marketing and your website and your Facebook and social, what challenges did you find before Buuteeq? How did your previous online marketing compare? Did they not do some of the things Buuteeq currently does?
Sarah: Absolutely, yeah, 100% the reason why I was looking for something to change to for both businesses. My own website with The Tree House had been around, right from the beginning, when the business opened. It was the same website. It had quite a bit of Flash on the first page. It was very attractive. It was very, very well designed, and it was certainly very unique, but I couldn’t access anything on that page to change it myself.
I tried to learn. I went through the process of trying to learn Dreamweaver, I believe it’s called. I tried to work out what was going on to even be able to change one of the prices, which shall we say is crucial when you go through different seasons in that sort of town. Without having to speak to the guy who set that website up, I basically just didn’t do anything. So I was very tired of wasted hours trying to make that work for us.
Then, with The Tree House still, talking about that same business, we decided to go on to a WordPress version, mainly because of budget, because there was someone in town who said that they could help us set it up and then help us be able to use that template ourselves in the future.
Brandon: How far along did you get in getting your WordPress website up? Did you actually get a fully functional WordPress site up?
Sarah: No. We got to the point where I was just about have to think how it looked, the branding, and then I reached the point where I couldn’t actually make it work the way that I wanted it to work. It didn’t look very professional. It didn’t move the way I wanted it to move. The photos got stuck when they were downloading, and I just thought I’m wasting so many hours here doing this. I had to put a value on my time and invest that money into a product which will actually do what I want to do in the future. So, that answered your question about The Tree House.
The Antumalal had a very, very good website, which looked very, very similar to the version we have but much more modern now with the Buuteeq touch on it.
I like the fact that when we changed to Buuteeq, we were able to keep that branding, really, because that was very important, the colors, etc. But again, same problem, I was working with a webmaster. Everything sending out by email. Responses were taking time to come back. If I just needed a comma change or a hyphen here or a color change, everything had to be done over the email, and it was just too tedious.
Brandon: So, you mentioned that Buuteeq touch, and you said that you really appreciate the ability to maintain the branding that you had previously and still incorporate it into Buuteeq so that your website is individualized and unique and looks exactly the way you want. What are some of the features about Buuteeq that you appreciate the most? Is it being able to log into the back office and edit these things yourself without having to contact a web designer? Is it the mobile template, social, Facebook? What do you think is the most valuable aspect of our digital marketing system for your hotels?
Sarah: It’s without doubt the ability to go into the back office, put up a promotion from one day to the next, and then take it down when that weekend has finished, fore example, or when that period is finished. Very much that is way above the major reason, it’s the major reason I absolutely love the websites that I have. Two different ways I use it really, very, very different for the two different websites I have.
The Tree House, for example, it’s very much come along, get a free beer if you book before 5:00 today if you can. So it’s really super, at that moment, I need to make that decision and put that out there, and then people respond very well. I incorporate those kinds of offers using Photoshop into a photo that comes up on the main slide show as you log onto the home page as you open the home page.
With Antumalal, it’s more to do with offering personalized packages according to the season, according to the weather also. So or if we can see that there’s some days of rain coming, even though it’s not winter, we can quickly put up an offer, including a massage and a free light, healthy meal after a use of the spa if people stay for two nights, something like that. It’s just reacting very, very quickly is what is the most important to me, according to the weather or according to the season, according to the bank holiday weekend.
Brandon: So have you noticed any direct benefit since switching to Buuteeq? Like do you have any statistics that you could share, an increase in direct reservations or Facebook reservations?
Sarah: I am currently actually working on that. We have only had The Tree House site up and running for I think it’s three months now, and the Antumalal two. So, I am collecting the information from the back office, which again does create an offer very, very good analytics to use. But I would say for now it’s only recommendations and comments that I had from guests at The Tree House. I’ve had people come saying I have come with you guys because I couldn’t make anybody else’s web pages work. You’re way above the rest and it’s in different languages, and actually download and I can look at it on my iPad or my iPhone.
Brandon: So the mobile templates are really important to you.
Sarah: They are, especially for the hostel because of that age group. I think in terms of the Antumalal, it’s becoming more and more important. We are seeing a huge increase of people traveling with iPads, and that literally has been in the last four weeks. I would definitely say in the last four weeks.
Sarah: It’s very strange how you see those trends coming through, but we can measure that quite well, because at the reception we have had more and more questions as to how they log onto our Wi-Fi using an iPad, because you have to go in and configure something.
Sarah: It certainly is indicative of the people traveling and using those mobile applications, yeah.
Brandon: What made you want to become a hotelier in the first place?
Sarah: Oh, good question. I stayed in so many backpacking places myself that I decided I could take the best of all of those places I had seen and put it into one. I saw the ideal property for sale and had enough to put down on a mortgage, and that was it really. It was that kind of not wanting to give up the traveling and stay in one place and enjoy it at the time. Then moving into the Antumalal to me was a challenge which went a little bit further than running a hostel, because obviously this is a very famous hotel and it requires a very different kind of marketing. So, it’s tied in with the master’s I’m studying on responsible tourism marketing. It very much fitted in with what my career move really, my career decision.
Brandon: Do you have any tips for aspiring hoteliers?
Sarah: Go online as much as possible. I’ve tried [inaudible 14:11] paper versions and paper options. I do agree that they work, especially if you make them very personalized, people’s names, for example. When you send actually a letter or I don’t do that too often with a hostel, but hotel I certainly do. But the future is definitely in making a website work for you.
I spent a lot of time seeing how I can improve, and the websites through Buuteeq for both hotel and hostel have just made my so much easier. It’s very, very easy to use, and I can’t imagine ever going backwards. What’s quite exciting about working with you guys at Buuteeq is that I know that as the whole market develops and technology develops that you guys will develop forward as well and you pass those advances on to us. So not only are we getting a great site right now, I feel like I’m also getting the best of the new technology knowledge that is around in the world at the moment because you guys will pass it onto to us if it’s beneficial for a site.
Brandon: Well, we at Buuteeq are absolutely thrilled to have both of your properties, and we’re so glad that we were able to help you with your online marketing. Thank you very much for your time today and for helping us with this very first interview that we’ve done.
Sarah: Wow. Thank you very much. Well, I hope to see it. I’m looking forward seeing it being put up on the website. Thank you very much for offering a product that has, like I said earlier, made my life so much easier. For that, I definitely appreciate you all.