Earlier this week, Facebook went down for hours As if that’s not bad enough for millions of Distinctive Inns of New England’s friends, Instagram, Whats app and others in the Facebook wheelhouse went down too. For many travelers and even innkeepers of the ten Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE), this is nearly as bad as losing electricity. Not entirely as bad, but it does force us to consider the role these social platforms play on everyday life and the marketing of romantic getaways at DINE inns.
I started collaborating with innkeepers to assist with marketing in the early 1990s. The Internet was in its infancy. At that time, innkeepers were asking whether they really needed an 800-number, while relying heavily on brochures to spread the word of the beauty and value of DINE inns. Throughout the 1990s, as the Internet grew more popular, user-friendly and necessary, DINE innkeepers began developing websites.
Immediately upon its launch in 1995, DINE members created not just a brochure, but a small book with a page dedicated to each inn. As the association grew or changed members, pages were added. In addition, a loyalty program was started where stamps were given at each inn and collected toward free stays.
According to one of the founding members, Brian Mulcahy of the Rabbit Hill Inn, DINE was an early adopter of internet marketing. “Our first website was introduced in May of 1996. Bob Rustico from Internet Performance Marketing may have developed the original site. He then became our SEO guru in the early 2000s. After that, New Hampshire based, Glen Group took over from him for some SEO work on the site at the time.”
By 2000, the internet was fully integrated into DINE innkeepers’ marketing, yet 800-numbers and brochures were still in use too. Marketing DINE getaways took on a whole new level with the ability to reach so many people via the Internet. Websites continued to develop and evolve over the next decade as more travelers became invested in using the internet as a planning tool.
Meanwhile, you may remember the evolution of social media started with MySpace.com. Deemed a tool for teenagers to communicate, this initial social media platform caught on quickly with travelers of all ages. On September 26, 2006, Facebook opened to everyone 13 years and older with a valid email address. According to a Google search, in 2008 Facebook surpassed Myspace as the most-visited social media Web site. With the introduction of Live Feed, Facebook profited from the growing popularity of Twitter, a social network that runs a live feed of news service-like posts from members whom a user follows, and social media grew globally in popularity. Suddenly, it was possible to reach millions of people through websites and social media.
Along with the growth on the internet came an increase in cell phone usage. Evolving from the clunky “bag phones” you may remember carrying in your car with practically a full size phone and an antenna stuck on the top of the car roof to phones that double as movie cameras and small computers today, cell phones have exploded along with the age of technology. One DINE innkeeper told me “I couldn’t believe it when the technology pundits told us that one day computers would fit into the palm of our hands.” With the explosion of cell phone use came mobile websites. In keeping with the way travelers search for information, DINE took their website mobile in 2015 or so.
Perhaps the biggest game changer for innkeepers throughout the world was the advent of online reservations. For years, the GDS (Global Distribution System) allowed travel agents to travel companies to book reservations and control inventory online. As additional vendors became involved, suddenly, online reservations were integrated into property management software and travelers could book reservations from an inns’ website 24/7. This meant that innkeepers might awake in the morning and find reservations having been made overnight. The concept was daunting for DINE innkeepers. Fear of controlling inventory, describing rooms to guests (after all, they’re all different), and loss of a “the personal touch” that DINE innkeepers are so famous for, created good reasons for resistance to integrating online reservations. However, as the demand grew for travelers to book online when they wanted, coupled with the ease for innkeepers of automating the reservations process, one by one DINE innkeepers added online reservations to their websites.
Fast forward to today. Brochures have all but gone by the wayside, eliminating the time and expense of designing, printing, distributing and mailing them. Travelers prefer to go online for travel information. Distinctive Inns of New England and its members each have active Twitter, Instagram and Facebook campaigns with regular chances to get updates and feel good messages from your favorite DINE inns. Fear not, however, for those who still prefer the personal approach, especially on those rare occasions that social media goes down, innkeepers are reachable on the phone to answer questions and make reservations. It may go back before the early 19th century but the good old fashioned telephone is still a terrific way to make your reservation at any DINE property.
DINE recently updated its logo to better reflect the depth of the adventures travelers will find throughout DINE country.
Most importantly, when it comes time to booking, whether online or by phone, be sure to book directly with the DINE inn of your choice, not via one of the booking sites like Booking.com or Expedia. This way you’ll receive the most up-to-date information on availability plus the best price too.
In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic
In Maine: Camden Maine Stay Inn in Camden and Inn at English Meadows in Kennebunkport.
In Massachusetts: Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield and Captain’s House Inn in Chatham on Cape Cod
In Vermont: Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford & Grafton Inn in Grafton
In New Hampshire: Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield