The End Result

 
Marketing and Communication

Before Steve even arrived in Siem Reap he had been in touch many times and had his team from umi marketing working on our new brand and logo for the Skills Exchange. We had between us developed an idea of a logo based on their experience of design and branding and our own ideas and suggestions. We are very pleased with this new logo and have already started using it on our social networking sites to good reviews.

During the course of the Skills exchange Steve’s team headed by Laurence at umi marketing have developed a new sleek look business card with a fantastic multi option rear of photos of Rosy Guesthouse, Siem Reap, the Angkor Wat temples and the Ton Le Sap lake. Although the business card is a lot more modern then we would have envisaged we are very pleased with it and look forward to getting batches printed; we expect the photo rears to be a talking point!

While Steve was with us he went over the importance and value of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is a site which we already use for the guesthouse and have over 400 fans, we regularly use Facebook to update what we are doing, events in Siem Reap and any special events we are hosting such as our monthly quizzes. Steve introduced us to Twitter, and helped us sign up and explained a few of the dos and don’ts and how twitter can be useful. Simon and I quickly become interested in Twitter and signed up to follow a few familiar local travel or tourism businesses already known to us locally and were very pleased to reach over 50 followers in 3 days of signing up! I find Twitter to be much faster and more exciting than Facebook which can be quite static, but offers a more in depth interaction with people. Following so many people though can be hard to keep track of those tweats that are important or relevant to our organisation. Twitter is definitely something that we will have to work at to understand and use to our advantage; however we can both see the potential. Steve also introduced us to FourSquare and LinkedIn and registered us on Google Maps, for us to investigate further when we have got to grips with Twtitter. Which we are looking forward to investigating later in the year.

As well as the social media sites Steve talked to us about targeted website ads for our business on both Facebook and Google Adwords. These were things that we had not considered before due to feeling the cost was beyond us or a lack of understanding on the process, but which we will fully consider using and testing once our new website has been set up, so potential guests see a fantastic first impression of us. We learnt a lot regarding online marketing and Steve gave us many suggestions for areas where we could investigate further.

umi marketing produced a two sided leaflet for us while Steve was here, following the design of the new website (designed by 2am media) for continuity which we can have printed and display in other guesthouses around Cambodia and in Bangkok etc for potential guests to view before they arrive in Siem Reap. We hope that this will encourage more guests to stay or at least look at us online to see if they would like to stay; in any way it will increase our exposure and get our brand more known amongst travellers and other guesthouse. We have not had a leaflet for our guesthouse before and it was a challenge for us to reduce the wording to fit and also to highlight all of our features and unique selling points to potential guests. As well as these umi marketing has also produced a sign for us to have printed for display outside of the guesthouse in keeping with the logo and brand image, a menu template, a letterhead and a poster for our newly created twitter account to help increase our followers over the next few months. We are very pleased with all of this marketing that has been produced for us, as we would not have been able to produce any of it to the same quality and professional look and finish ourselves; both in terms of the design and in terms of the ideas behind them.

Website

Steve has had the people at 2am media developing a new website for us, which has been in development from before Steve arrived in Siem Reap. We sat down and discussed, while Steve was here, what we wanted from the website and the areas that we wanted to introduce, and what areas we definitely wanted changing from our old original website. Steve explained the best practice ideas for the website including terms and conditions and privacy policy which we didn’t have originally and also the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) and key words and how it affects our website’s rating within internet search engines etc.

The basic design of the website was approved by us while Steve was here and we chose some pictures from our stock of photos, took new pictures of the guesthouse and around the temples and started writing new material for the website.

We have had a booking engine widget embedded on each and every page of the website in prime view to allow potential guests to be able to check our availability and book with as much ease as possible. We have also added several areas to our website which we did not originally have; tours and packages, responsible tourism, a blog and an easy to update gallery. We have been developing our individual tours and packages for our guests and feel that this is an untapped area for us in terms of pre selling packages and tours to guests for their stay in Siem Reap, especially regional tourists, as well as letting people know what tours and adventures are available for booking through us, even if they do not chose to book until they arrive. Responsible tourism is something that we feel strongly about and have been developing our responsible tourism stance since we arrived. We were pleased to finally be able to add this information to our website for our guests to see. We have long been using Facebook as a tool to communicate with our guests but the idea of an on site blog is new to us and one which we took some convincing over! Steve has explained to us the importance of keeping the website updated regularly and the ease with which we can blog on our website and link it to both our Facebook and our new Twitter account. We will have to train ourselves to post regular blogs, but I’m sure that it will soon become second nature to blog an important event in Siem Reap or at Rosy Guesthouse and help to develop our communication with our guests. The gallery is an area that we are happy to have added so we can add updated photos to different sections of our website and show guests why they should come to stay with us in beautiful Siem Reap!

Our website has just gone live and we will be tweaking it and expanding on the content over the next few weeks and trying to post regular blogs. The website is built using WordPress, a programme which we are not familiar with, but which we hope we will pick up and get to know in the coming weeks.

Accounts and Administration

As neither Simon nor myself had any formal training or background in accountancy, the accounts and records for the guesthouse were of own our design and we had many unanswered questions and queries regarding what should or shouldn’t be recorded, what analysis we should take from the accounts and what to do with the mounting paper records!

Steve sat down with us and went through how we currently record our accounts, records and what analysis we take from these records. From this he suggested which processes were sufficient for our needs, which needed to be more in depth and where, and which were surplus to our needs or redundant for the analysis we were doing and the size of our business.

We also were introduced to the idea of making a budget for the coming year to predict how much room revenue (i.e. all revenue from the sale of our rooms) and other revenue (i.e. all other revenue) we would achieve using the last two years records as a basis as well as our own gut feelings and experience of working in the industry in Siem Reap for 6 years. Steve helped us to put this together and use it as a tool to try to beat least year’s actual figures. For January 2011 we beat our room revenue total by 8% and our other revenue total by 39% which was encouraging and indicated that our budget for other revenue needed more analysis before the next budget and we hope to break this down further next year. Our other revenue currently includes our travel services, bar and restaurant, and all other sale items which covers a wide scope. With Steve’s advice we are planning to separate our other revenue section further in our accounting and record our bar and restaurant sales as separate sources of revenue after we are familiar with the new system of recording results to build on the advice given for future months and years.

Steve also set us up with a business booked forecast sheet (BBF) which will help us predict how close we are to achieving out target budget for each sector for each month based on the actual sales thus far and any booked items, at any point of the month. He also covered which paper records we need to keep for records, and how long for, and which records we did not need to keep thus streamlining our filing system and clearing out our office somewhat!

For me this is the most important area that we received assistance on as this has given me a clearer insight on what accounts and records need to be taken and referred to daily, as well as what we can do to develop our accounting system in the future and plenty of ideas of what to do with the more in depth picture of our business a few months down the line; which areas are performing well, which areas need development and which areas could have sales pushed more.

Conclusion

As the Pilot Skills Exchange draws to a close, and Simon and I are reflect on all that we have learnt and gained from the project, albeit it a whirlwind for the two weeks that Steve was here and the difficulties involved with online communication only both before and after Steve was with us regarding all of the marketing material/website etc, we are both very happy to have applied and very grateful to have been chosen to participate. We feel that we have learnt lots from both Steve and his team with the design processes involved in each separate item, as well as more information than we thought we could take in regarding online social media, marketing and targeted ads. The suggestions and push in the right direction in the office is invaluable and yet completely logical and something that we are already putting into practice and seeing results from since Steve has left. The accounting advice given was explained to us in a way that we could completely understand and is something that we will be able to build on and develop in the future and that I am very keen on developing further as soon as we are familiar with the first steps taken. As a result of talks with Steve during his time here, and understanding more about organisations working together as the project went on, Simon and I became open to the idea of joining the StayWyse organisation and its benefits to those in the travel industry and have started the application for joining as the first individual member in Cambodia.

I hope that Steve from umi Hotels, his teams are umi marketing and 2am media also gained from this project and that there was something they could take from it, I’m sure they hadn’t worked with Khmer script on signage before! I know that Steve has developed some connections with several local charities here which he is keen to strengthen now back in the UK. We are glad that others in our community of Siem Reap have also benefited from the Skills Exchange.

We would like to thank all involved in the ISTC Skills Exchange project, especially Laura Daly, STAY WYSE Associations Manager, and Steve Lowy, umi hotels founder for their enthusiasm and hard work and support throughout the project. I hope that there will be many more Skills Exchange projects in the future for other organisations to benefit from the experience that those in the developed world have to offer to those working in the developing world. We will be following the projects with interest.