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Vila Galé Group chooses diversification and digital to recover from COVID

The Vila Galé Group is the second largest Portuguese hotel group and one of the 250 largest hotel companies in the world, with more than 8,000 rooms and 18,260 beds. It has around 4,000 employees. It has beach, resort, countryside and wine production hotels, city hotels and more related to business, events and meetings. Business diversification, cross selling and digital transformation were the three aspects chosen to recover from pandemic. Recently, Vila Galé created two business areas, with Vila Galé taking over business development, management of tourist developments and real estate activities, and transferring the remaining businesses to Casa de Santa Vitória, which manages agricultural, agro-industrial, forestry and livestock. Also, it has developed a line of boutique hotels, the Collection, which are mostly historical heritage. Historic buildings, which had already had other uses, such as prisons, convents, hospitals, were converted into hotels. This brings a new life and dimension to hotels. It has been investing in the digital transformation of its operation, to bring the brand closer to its customers and facilitate the booking and follow-up process, but also to multiply the points of contact and make known other complementary services to the hotel business. In this digitization process, one of the most important steps was the development from scratch of the My Vila Galé portal, which allows guests to check-in and check-out, read the menus of the hotels’ restaurants and bars or the proposals of the Satsanga spa. A tool created during the Covid-19 pandemic to respond to the increase in direct bookings in the hospitality sector. «During the pandemic, we noticed a predominance of direct bookings, as they were associated with a lower risk and more direct contact with the hotel, which allowed customers to quickly resolve any setback that arose, or cancel the reservation. Therefore, we immediately sought to respond to this trend and then consolidate it, not least because consumers now have a greater predisposition for online commerce», says Catarina Pádua, Marketing Director of the Vila Galé Group. About two years ago, Vila Galé also launched an online store, through which it is possible to purchase new products similar to those found in the group’s hotels, from textiles to electronic or sports equipment. «The next objective is to increase the number of touch points through which customers interact digitally inside the hotel, which will mean new targeted marketing opportunities», adds Catarina Pádua. Combined with omnichannel communication, with emphasis on the commitment made to digital, this strategy has allowed Vila Galé to increasingly position itself at the forefront of digital transformation in the hotel sector. In terms of communication channels, the hotel group’s strategy involves reconciling various platforms and channels, both online and offline, namely social networks, press, search engines and affiliate networks or press trips, in addition to partnerships with third parties, for example through sponsorship or support for sports and cultural events. In addition, Vila Galé’s own means of communication stand out, such as the My Vila Galé portal, the websites (including those dedicated to the Group made wines), the newsletters and the online store, as well as the magazine “Feel”. Available in Portuguese and English, this magazine is published every four months, highlighting in each edition a destination where the brand is present and always seeking to make known the gastronomy and local experiences. The “Feel” magazine is distributed in all hotel rooms and sent in digital format to all loyalty club members. In Villa Galé’s plans is also launching a travel blog, initially with content from selected travellers, but which will eventually also include content created by other users. Moreover, and despite this omnichannel strategy, digital is today Vila Galé’s main communication channel, which uses various platforms and distribution partners to communicate and advertise its products, such as, Hotels. com, Expedia, among others. «Our online communication is segmented according to a matrix that combines several factors, such as: stage in the conversion funnel, that is, starting with those who like to travel, then moving on to those close to the reservation and, finally, those who simulations have already been carried out on the Vila Galé website, for example; but also customer interest (research for family trips, business, venues for events); where you are doing the research – and, here, the existence or not of direct flights has a strong impact; and strategic markets for the group», explains Vila Galé’s Marketing director. Vila Galé’s communication mix also includes several actions with brand ambassadors to promote its offer of experiences. These are figures known to the public who represent not only each experience in itself, but also the values and characteristics of the brand: family experiences, seasonal experiences, cultural experiences, wine tourism, ecotourism, romantic experiences, golf, diving, spa, surfing and equestrian experiences. «This association was very well received and the balance is very positive, resulting in a greater awareness of our proposals», explains Catarina Pádua. In addition, Vila Galé has been working and valuing its social networks – such as Facebook, Instagram and also TikTok, where it is starting to take its first steps – in order to keep its followers informed, interested and connected with the brands. of the group and trying to respond to all your questions and comments. In this context, the company has been investing in influencer marketing, associating itself with influencers in the area of travel and lifestyle or those identified with family and children themes, taking into account the positioning of the brand. «We look for partnerships that are advantageous for both parties and we measure the return through various indicators, such as new followers that can bring to our pages, interest that the brand awakens when it is publicized on the pages of influencers and even the reservations that they bring when we choose to attribute promotional codes», adds the Marketing director.