Take a unique product (a Wizard Chamber) and one niche market (Harry Potter fans and the wider wizarding world) and you have a potion recipe for hotel success.
Georgian House is a Grade II-listed property offering bed and breakfast in London’s Pimlico. An independent hotel, the property has created quite a stir in the market with its quirky offerings, including Wizard Chambers, Pimlico Pictures – a two-person cinema – and its cheese-themed afternoon tea.
We caught up with general manager Adam Rowledge to find out more about marketing and distribution for such a unique accommodation offering.
Your hotel targets a fairly niche market with its Wizard Chambers. How do you target this market?
When they first launched we got phenomenal press coverage worldwide. We only had two chambers originally but we had such demand we created more and now they make up 10% of our inventory. Our Wizard Chambers are normally fully booked months in advance.
The Chambers have their own Facebook page and we do a lot of content marketing and social media. We spend very little on Google Ads and we don’t spend any time on remarketing. If someone comes to our Wizard Chambers page and goes away they are not going to book another wizard chamber elsewhere. If they want to book it they book it.
We are now working to supplement the wizard experience and drive incremental revenue. We’ve recently launched a wizard cocktail, which is a cocktail making experience complete with potion recipe, test tubes of ingredients and lots of dry ice!
It’s quite easy to target the market, although we are nothing to do with Harry Potter or Warner Bros studios.
How do the Wizard Chambers affect how you manage your inventory?
The booking patterns are very different. If we’ve got one room left to sell and it’s a Wizard Chamber people are quite unlikely to book that unless there’s nothing else left in the area. Our regular rooms have later pick up. Our average lead time for a Wizard Chamber is 88 days compared to 35 days for the rest of our inventory.
The reason for the difference in booking patterns is that people tie in our hotel with a total wizard trip. We are located very close to Victoria coach station for the Warner Bros studio tours, and now there is the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, so it can be quite an extensive trip.
Does being niche mean you get more or less repeat guests?
For the Wizard Chambers it’s a bit more of a once-in-a-lifetime event and we see strong demand for those rooms, particularly from the American market. Being a small and very personal property is part of our DNA though, and a reason in itself why many guests return to stay with us time and time again in the rest of the hotel.
We offer custom-made wizard merchandise and now we have our wizard cocktail, so we are always looking to maximise the spend. It’s about offering something that the people who like Harry Potter or the wizarding world will appreciate and enjoy.
How are you driving direct bookings through your marketing?
The Wizard Chambers take our biggest volume of direct bookings. When I first started working here we didn’t even take reservations over our website for those rooms, only via telephone and email, but the availability was hard to juggle.
We have a price differential between direct and online travel agent (OTA) bookings as well as our value-added offerings.
We know we can’t drive the volume of bookings directly and we want to get the volume on our books as early as possible, so we use OTAs. Then we look to drive bookings at a higher price closer to the time.
What channels are you using to promote and distribute your product?
OTAs account for 55% of our business, with Expedia being the biggest one.
Corporate is an area we are just getting into. We refurbished our basement restaurant to create a meeting room, bar and café space and we are now using meetingpackage.com for meeting enquiries.
Our approach to marketing is niche, not one-size-fits-all, we don’t expect it to appeal to everyone. You have to look at who’s the consumer and who’s the purchaser. For example, with our cheese afternoon tea we sell vouchers because we’ve found lots of people tagging friends on this. That’s not the person interested in the cheese tea but it’s an ideal gift for a friend.
Our Pimlico Pictures cinema for two has an old-fashioned pin board. We pin the letters in for the client – whether it’s their name or the company name. They get so excited about the cinema and how it makes them feel. From a personalisation point that gives you the edge.
What segments, other than the wizarding world, are you also enjoying success with?
We’re a leisure hotel. That’s why we have tried to offer additional products such as our cocktail class and cheese afternoon tea.
You have to have something amazing to stand out – that’s the approach we are taking. We won’t create any further themed rooms, there isn’t sufficient demand to support it year-round and it’s important for us to be recognised as a high quality hotel and not just known for one niche element.
When we come to the refurbishment cycle in the main building we will differentiate room categories and price more effectively as we recognise that this is an area where significant gains can be made.
It’s challenging because you have to have the right balance. You can’t have too many things going on as you can just confuse people. We aim for a consistent brand message so people can understand what we are about.