An idyllic getaway, situated just on the banks of the breathtaking Lough Eske in South Donegal, Harvey’s Point Hotel offers more than just your typical night away. In an unforgiving industry, it has built its success on repeat and return visits, word of mouth and glowing online reviews. However, with no substantial footfall and located deep in the local countryside, owner Deirdre McGlone has had to be smart about marketing and making sure the customer experience is key.
Facing this challenge, Deirdre says the business has used its rural location to its advantage.
“We have no passing trade so we have to reel them in. We have to really give compelling reasons to come to Donegal in the first place. In this busy world, people really need to escape and get away from it all."
Offering more than just your average hotel stay is intrinsic to the Harvey’s Point brand and it gives Deirdre a marketing unique selling point.
Guests at Harvey’s Point can make their stay as relaxing or as action-packed as they wish, from walking tour guides around Lough Eske to beauty treatments and gourmet dining in the hotel. It makes selling the hotel as a renowned destination much easier and Deirdre is proactive about getting out to meet her potential customers. She even travels to the USA once or twice a year.
She feels strongly that small businesses have to be tactical with their marketing spend to find their niche customers.
“We don’t have a huge budget so we have to be tactical and we have to collaborate with partners like Donegal Tourism, Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and others in the industry. While our budget is never enough, we have to use it wisely to get our name out there.”
While Deirdre understands the appeal for visitors of hotels based closer to the cosmopolitan city lights of Dublin, especially for international travellers, she’s also confident in the ability of Harvey’s Point to find its intended audience.
“Ultimately the biggest part of our marketing is that every guest that leaves is an ambassador for us. We’re promoting the destination at all times. When I’m in the United States, we’re promoting Ireland firstly, the North West, the Wild Atlantic Way, then Donegal and only then after all that, Harvey’s Point. So it’s a collaborative effort”
Harvey’s Point also has to compete as a family-run business against some global heavyweights, the large international hotel chains located across Ireland. She acknowledges this challenge with typical, honest candour.
“Certainly from a financial point of view the budgets aren’t there. In terms of group purchasing or group marketing, larger chains have more power and clout. With a family business, the biggest challenge is managing costs and overheads to stay afloat and then finding enough money to keep re-investing, because a family business can be vulnerable financially”.
She’s also quick to point out the personal effects it can have too.
“It can be quite lonely as well, and it can of course impact on your family life, so that’s another element that has to be considered. Smaller, family hotels have had a lot more challenges just to survive and to grow. It’s quite an uphill battle at times.”
As someone who has worked at the heart of Donegal’s roaring tourist trade for the past 30 years, Deirdre is also keenly placed to observe the changes in the market over the last three decades.
“Typically in Donegal years ago, when I was a child, people came to Donegal for two weeks. Now when they come from places like Northern Ireland, they only stay for two days. The season was much shorter then, but now you can’t maintain staff for just six weeks so the challenge is to fill the rest of the year, to make being open all year round sustainable and at least try and make it as profitable as possible.”
And while seasonality has a huge effect on trade, remaining profitable is also dependent on keeping business costs down. With energy consumption being one of the most significant running costs for any hotel, Deirdre is aware of both the impact of energy and the importance of managing the costs.
“At the end of the day, we are running this big sprawling hotel so it’s a big cost to us. We want all the lights on but we also want to make sure there’s awareness among the staff as to when they need to be switched off too. I know the impact that the lights make. Lights, to me, symbolise that Harvey’s Point is open for business.”
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