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The Swan is a 50-bedroom hotel that has been in operation as a hotel since 1422, making it the oldest hotel with continued operation in the UK. Some notable past guests have included Henry VIII, the Princess of Denmark & Winston Churchill!

Located opposite the famous Wells Cathedral, it has unsurprisingly won awards for its magnificent views.

The challenge

The rise of Airbnb coupled with the opening of a Travelodge nearby created the perfect storm where in less than a decade, the bed stock available in the area had more than doubled. This explosion of choice had a knock-on effect of reducing the occupancy rate & RevPAR for the hotel, creating fears for the future.

When the team approached us, we suggested a total refresh of the hotels digital presence was needed, starting with a new website before then reviewing the wider digital strategy.

How the land laid...

We conducted a thorough audit of the hotels existing digital presence, which didn’t take long as the hotel hadn’t actually done much digital marketing up until this point. All we had to go of was the website, a few social media posts & their emails, which had only been used for operational purposes.

As you can see from the screenshot on the right, change was needed if we were ever going to make direct bookings a major revenue source.

Thinking to the future

As a priority, we really wanted to understand how everyone at the hotel saw The Swan & the goals. To do this, we ran a brand strategy workshop, involving lots of post-it-notes, top-level discussions & optimism for the future!

From this, we were able to do 2 very different things:

1. Redesign the hotels brand identity from scratch to bring their branding into the 21st century. You can view their brand site here!

2. Craft a marketing strategy that focused on achieving the teams aspirations for the property, which we will cover in the rest of this case study.

Slimming down the website

We reverse engineered the old website & discovered from a user perspective, it was confusing, repetitive & overly unprofessional (harsh but agreed to be the truth).

From this content, we cut it down into the essential, tweaked the copywriting to be more appealing & placed it into a new design framework. The end result was a 40% reduction in bounce rate & organic ranking improvements (which was partially a result of us undergoing a detailed technical SEO overhaul too).

Created & Captured demand

When potential guests are ready to book, they mostly turn to Google or Bing & search either a generic term (e.g hotel in Wells) or, a branded term (e.g swan hotel wells). To begin with, we covered all possible bases via a detailed paid media build, which resulted in a 7% CPB, more voucher sales & walk-ins.

We then created brand awareness activity on social media, which included 16 audiences, 64 ad creatives & a lot of experimentation.. From this we reached 1k people for every £2 we invested & saw an organic traffic uptick of 25%.

Community-first strategy

The Swan really is at the heart of the community in Wells, often giving back to the community via charity & event participation. We devised a social media strategy that took this & the hotels long term brand goals into account.

We also leveraged paid social to amplify our results, which led to a 350% increase in engagement per post VS the previous normal (not 2020) period.

Emails fit for a king

This part of the story is undergoing but at the time of writing, we have increased the number of opportunities people have to sign up to email marketing from 1 to 12, leading to an average of 10 new emails per day (almost 4k per year!), have overhauled the check-in process to include review collection & upselling, increasing traffic & RevPAR & have made new branded email templates that being used in ongoing marketing campaigns to increase brand loyalty & drive restaurant reservations & direct bookings. We can’t wait to share more soon!

600 Years Young

With a record-breaking season in 2021 & 2022 set to be even better, it’s fair to say that despite increased bed stock in the area, the oldest hotel in the UK isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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