SITUATION: Honey Lake Plantation, situated 45 minutes east of Tallahassee, was an eclectic collection of structures and activities spread across a 6,000-acre parcel in the heart of the Red Hills plantation region. Originally purchased for retirement, a hospitality product eventually evolved from unplanned development of the plantation-style property. Amenities included dining locations, meeting spaces, sport shooting, guided quail hunting, stocked fishing lakes, spa, saloon, pool, a chapel and numerous venues for weddings and events.

PROBLEM: Despite its beauty and abundance of offerings, the property’s occupancy rarely exceeded ‘the teens,’ and was sustained primarily by local weddings and seasonal, individual quail hunts. Ownership was void of hospitality experience, sales direction and audience targeting changed frequently, and annual financial losses exceeded the seven figure threshold. The property invested heavily in an electronic booking engine, OTA participation and development of leisure transient programming, yet segment room nights could easily be counted on one hand.

AUDIENCE INSIGHT: The plantation’s geographic location made it an unlikely transient setting, but ideal for groups seeking a distinct venue and plenty of outdoor activities. Research clearly indicated regional interest from corporate and social groups, as well as luxury destination and local weddings.

STRATEGY: Reposition the plantation as a group retreat, and develop programming and activities that incorporate the assets of the property and create distinction and preference from group audiences.

ACTION: The sales strategy was completely overhauled to focus entirely on selling outdoor group activities. A portfolio of distinctive programmed events, games and contests was created to incorporate and emphasize the plantation-style attributes and features unique to the venue. The group sales kit and website was gutted, removing all references to indoor meeting spaces, and highlighting the unique entertainment concepts.

RESULTS: Sunday-to-Thursday occupancy climbed from 0% to over 40% in just eight months, and ADR increased almost $80. Wedding sales almost tripled, refocusing on high-end destination weddings (that consumed the room inventory) and layering on local weddings that did not require accommodations.