Hi I’m Suellen Hughes from The Kickstart Biz and I’m shooting this video while on holiday on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia.
I’m staying at the Palmer Coolum Resort with my husband and son. We’ve holidayed here for a about 5 years yet this is our first time at the Palmer Coolum Resort. Up until last yer, the resort was known as the Hyatt Regency Coolum.
In this video, I’m going to talk about branding and the importance of customer reviews on online review sites.
In 2011, Clive Palmer, Queensland’s richest man, purchased the resort and subsequently paid an undisclosed sum to remove Hyatt who had been managing the resort for the past 20 years. Initially the resort was to be re-branded the Coolum Golf Resort and Spa.
What value did the Hyatt brand add to the resort?
Well, firstly Hyatt is an international brand, associated with 5 star accommodation. Holiday makers expect a certain standard of accommodation at a Hyatt property. They would likely book Hyatt accommodation in the knowledge and comfort that the hotel would meet their expectations.
Secondly, Hyatt marketed the Coolum resort on their website and in other marketing materials so holidaymakers who didn’t necessarily know the Coolum region, could still find the resort.
There is certainly high value in a highly regarded, international hospitality brand like Hyatt.
So, what happened next?
The resort is now called the Palmer Coolum Resort, named after it’s owner Clive Palmer who himself is a bit a of ‘brand’ name. But is it the right brand for a luxury resort?
The common concern is that Mr Palmer is a miner trying to run a resort, and his lack of experience and know-how in the hospitality industry is showing.
The magnate’s move to stamp his larger-than-life personality on the resort has backfired and a resort that prided itself on it’s exclusive reputation has become a laughing stock.
For example, Jeff the Dinosaur, an 8.5m tall, 20m long, Tyrannosaurus Rex, now resides on the 18th hole of the PGA golf course.
Public areas are festooned with photographs of Palmer, any in poses with celebrities and politicians. and there are even hotel TV channels dedicated to him and his work.
Black and gold signs reminiscent of the generic food brands dot the grounds, advertising “fantastic food” at Palmer Grill and other venues.
He has even opened the Palmer Motorama filled with his own private vintage car collection!
But the question is, has this change in brand been detrimental to business?
Well, it’s early days but signs are not good.
During Australia’s busiest holiday season when other Sunshine Coast resorts were reporting high occupancy rates, the Palmer Coolum Resort is virtually empty. I don’t know for sure what the occupancy rates are but judging by the lack of people at the pool, spa, restaurants and kids club, they can only be around 10% at best. This is a big resort and has never felt over-crowded but this holiday it is almost deserted. I’m not complaining. We have the pick of the resort.
However, that’s a short term view and I worry that unless things change, there won’t be a resort here next year and that would be a real shame. Not only for me and my family but for the 600 or so staff, the local businesses and for Australian tourism.
Lessons for business owners:
A great product is sometimes not enough. It’s important to build the right brand message.
The resort ticks all of the boxes
- PGA Golf Course
- 9 swimming pools
- 6 tennis courts
- Beach club
- Kids club & activities
- 6 restaurants
- Choice of accommodation – family villas, golf villas, standard rooms
Despite all of this, the resort was still empty.
Customers share their reviews, and other customers take notice.
Staff are friendly, service is efficient but some customer reviews on sites like Trip Advisor have been terrible since the brand change. Of the 60 reviews rated ‘terrible’ or ‘poor’, 40 of them were written since the brand change.
We had read the reviews prior to booking and as a result, almost didn’t book. Had we not been before and not spoken to a staff member who gave us the lay of the land, we would have gone elsewhere based on the reviews alone.
It is encouraging to see that the resort management are responding to reviews in a positive way. Let’s hope it’s enough.
If not, perhaps we can take a cruise on Palmer’s Titanic II, a replica of the Titanic currently in construction. Don’t think we’ll take the maiden voyage though!
That’s it for this video. I’m back to enjoy the peace and quiet. Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts on branding and customer reviews.