Modern Hotel Marketing and Management for a Four-Diamond Hotel

with Steve Mungall of Santa Maria Suites

Santa Maria Suites doesn’t skimp on customer service and amenities. Included in the resort fees are little extras like nightly wine receptions and complimentary fruit smoothies by the pool.

Since Jimmy Buffett first strummed his guitar on the palm-dotted island of Key West, Florida, it has become every vacationer’s fantasy. And for more than 50 years, Santa Maria Suites has brought this fantasy to life, providing unrivaled customer service in a 35-suite resort just blocks away from Key West’s shores, shopping, and nightlife. General manager and director of operations Steve Mungall says Santa Maria can credit its growth—20 percent in revenue growth each year over the past four years—to an exceptional guest experience. But, the resort has also evolved over the years. As the market has changed, says Mungall, Santa Maria Suites has remained on the cutting edge of both business strategy and customer service.

1. Maximize Efficiency

Steve Mungall, General Manager and Director of Operations

When trying to keep guests satisfied, employees happy, and 35 luxury suites equipped with top-of-the-line amenities, making the most of your resources is crucial. Over the years, Santa Maria Suites has prioritized efficiency, investing in the right ways, at the right time. Keeping a close eye on the upkeep of the facilities and the daily customer experience is the top priority, Mungall says. “Both customer service and an inviting atmosphere are essential to the guest experience,” he explains. “Things like updating soft goods, installing digital cable, and adding sleeper sofas cost money, but have paid off in the end.”

Santa Maria Suites has found ways to run a lean operation, too. In slower seasons, the resort converts its two-bedroom suites to one bedrooms. They also perform daily evaluations on the rates of competitors so that they can price their services properly. And, with an eye toward energy efficiency, Santa Maria has invested in LED signage, a linen and towel conservation program, and water-saving showerheads.

2. Maintain an Online Presence

A crucial part of Santa Maria Suites’ success over the last few years, Mungall says, has been its online presence. The resort’s easy-to-navigate website that features high-quality photos of the resort’s suites and pool courtyard area, has been the perfect go-to for visitors reading the wealth of positive guest reviews from sites like Facebook and TripAdvisor, which named Santa Maria Suites “Traveler’s Choice” among its top 25 US Hotels list. “In the current marketing environment, it’s great to have advertising, but you also need to have a website to direct your audience to the next step,” Mungall says. “Our website has performed very well for us as a ‘closer’ to the sale.”

Other tactics aimed at increasing the website’s presence include a monthly investment in SEO maintenance for the Santa Maria website and pay-per-click campaigns, assuring that when travelers are surfing the web for the best Key West resorts, Santa Maria Suites’ name is an easy find.

3. Use Strategic Advertising

While online user reviews have played a large role in Santa Maria Suites’ marketing, print and electronic advertising have also been crucial to exposing the Santa Maria name to target audiences. The company has focused on reaching the top-feeder markets within Florida, as well as the East Coast and Midwest, where many of its clients hail from. When the resort was first established, it participated in Key West co-op advertising in newspapers, as well as high-end publications. These placements allowed the company to reach a larger audience by highlighting its greatest asset: its proximity to the island’s endless sun and sand, and the excitement of the famous Duval Street.

4. Provide Exceptional Customer Service

What it really comes down to is making sure that each minute of a guest’s stay is comfortable and punctuated by unexpected treats, Mungall says. Santa Maria Suites has spared no cost when it comes to making sure that its clients have access to modern amenities like in-room washers and driers, flat-screen TVs, and DVD players. Included in the resort fees are extras like turndown service with Dove chocolates each day, complimentary fruit smoothies by the pool, and nightly wine receptions. For Santa Maria Suites, the difference is in the details.

The resort has no plans to slow down any time soon. Mungall says they’ll keep looking for ways to maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction. “We plan on continuing our uncompromising service, adding even more services and amenities, and taking our guest experience to the next level,” he says.