Ruffles gets a little Pepper as Mantra diversifies

A marketing services agreement with five-star Gold Coast Hinterland retreat Ruffles Lodge is the latest strategy by Mantra Group to beat the tourism doldrums through diversification.

Ruffles will now be branded under the Peppers banner, a move Mantra CEO Bob East says ‘fills a gap in the portfolio’.

“We see it as being a well-structured property that will bolster the representation of our Peppers brand. Ruffles is a good owner-operated organisation, the quality is there and it will be good for the brand; and the brand will be good for them,” says East.

For Mantra it’s more about visibility than added revenues.

“We don’t want a percentage of their revenues. It’s a two-way benefit where we only receive a commission on bookings we create for them through the brand exposure and association with Peppers,” says East.

“With traffic of more than 50,000 people per day, it largely comes down to the power of our websites.”

Ruffles Lodge owner John Nicholls expects an increase in occupancy rates by at least 10 per cent as a result of the new Peppers branding.

“It means a lot for Ruffles. They’ve been onto us for a while now and only paying a branding fee is a good arrangement from our point of view,” he says.

Mantra Group owns 100 of its 140 hotels across the Mantra, Peppers and BreakFree Resorts brands with Peppers Retreats not majority owned by the tourism powerhouse.

East says the group has ‘no interest’ in owning the smaller retreats as most would not survive without the careful attention paid to the properties by the owner-operator system.

Mantra is diversifying by adding smaller retreats to offset its long list of high-rise beachside properties such as Q1 and Circle on Cavill.

“Quite simply put, the resorts and the retreats offer different experiences. We are targeting the same Mantra customers but are making sure they know what they are going to get with each location,” says East.

“When you go to Ruffles and get a degustation menu, reading books and a fireplace, you know you aren’t going to be sharing with 100 other families like a Peppers resort, but you will get the same quality and service associated with the brand.

“The strategy is to have the same customers taking their wives to retreats like Ruffles for a relaxing getaway, and then bringing the entire family to a resort like Peppers Salt at Kingscliff.”

While some industry insiders are tipping further decline in tourism, East says the different categories must be further dissected before such forecasts can be made. He says local destinations will always be popular and as consumers get more cash flow, the industry is sure to improve.

“Inbound tourism will continue to improve slightly. I don’t see the strength of the Australian dollar being a major disadvantage and domestic travel will be boosted with the significant increase in conferencing that is expected,” he says.

“The biggest challenge will be the rise in outbound tourism. It’s well known that Australians are prolific travellers and love their overseas holidays. What’s less known though is that Australians still need their local holidays. People will always take the family for a weekend beach getaway or travel to Sydney to see a show. The local tourism industry is not going to go down.”

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