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Domestic Tourism Email Marketing Case Study: From 0 to 12,000 email subscribers in 4 months!

Andrew at Antbear Lodge in South Africa has had incredible success in acquiring and nurturing the new subscribers on his email list. Take a look at the case study interview here to find out more.

I have been advocating the value of growing an email list as an integral part of your pivot to marketing to the domestic client for quite some time now.

Andrew started out with the basics, ran with it, stuck at it, and has achieved incredible success that he now believes can fully support his lodge in the future.

His vision is that the lodge can relinquish its previous reliance on international arrivals entirely!

Not only that, a focus on domestic generates higher profit margins and a lower break-even occupancy point, and also foments much more of that feel-good factor in the knowledge that your guests have not taken carbon-emitting planes to visit you.

Another incredibly attractive reason for persevering at this, Andrew also expects to close Antbear Lodge’s pages on mainstream OTAs such as once the domestic strategy is proven to be sustainable over time.

This is HUGE!

So, let’s take a closer look at this incredible case study:

Antbear Lodge – Drakensberg region of KwaZulu Natal near to Giants Castle

Owner and contact: Andrew Attwood

Scenario October 2020:

In mid-October 2020, Andrew responded to a question in one of my emails asking where you are at and what you need the most help with right now:

“Our business was almost 100% based on international arrivals and we now are trying desperately to pivot to domestic. The first 6 months of this crisis saw 100% loss of income. I am not sure what our most basic need of help is right now. Perhaps how to generate more local interest but on a very refrained or non-existent budget”.

Scenario March 2021:

It is now early March, and Andrew updated me to say this:

“We now have a domestic email list of 12000 opted in subscribers targeted to our destination. It seems to be growing at 300-500 contacts a day and this has been done on the basis of collaboration. My guess is that I need to grow this list to beyond 30000 and the list alone will generate enough direct bookings on its own”.

Amazing right? I know! How has he done this in a little over 4 months??

Andrew shared with me that he believes the “key to success is collaboration and pure bloody mindedness on my part” 😊

He began by creating a survey to measure traveller sentiment in Covid times to gain information that would allow him to segment his list into clearly defined target groups.

This was a superb way to really dig deep and understand the lodge’s target market.

As an incentive for people to complete the survey, Andrew offered an AMAZING grand prize of a Drakensberg holiday worth R18000 (approx. €985 / £845 / US$1175). This prize includes a 6-day stay that is made up of three two-night stays at three different properties within the mountains.

The intention is to offer the prize four times a year and Andrew hopes that subsequent prizes will include more, and different, suppliers.

As an extra incentive, R1000 vouchers for Antbear Lodge (approx. €55 / £50 / US$65), redeemable against stays at the property, are also given as runner up prizes and are announced at the same time as the main prize-winner.

Talking about the voucher, Andrew says “This works well as the consumer sees it as R1000 cash and the product sees it as R1000 discount, so everyone is a winner”.

Since the initiative began, multiple other mechanisms have been included to distribute the vouchers.

The latest is via a Facebook ad that gives away a Drakensberg Guide in the form of an e-book together with a R1000 voucher and access to a 30% discounted rate at the lodge.

So, what happens after someone completes the survey and is added to the database?

Once the contact is on the list, they are nurtured with an automated email series spaced 10 days apart. This is sent in a newsletter format and offers valuable information about the destination.

It is important to note that Andrew is not selling anything at this point. He is just offering great content that is interesting to the reader. The by-product of this is that he is generating trust simply by being authentic.

An automated email series is easy to set up with the right software. It does of course require time and dedication, but what doesn’t, right?

One important thing to remember is to celebrate unsubscribes and not feel like crawling off into a corner to cry! This should be a joyous event, and not a moment to have a wobble about why someone decided to ditch your content.

As Andrew says, “..People who enter a competition are not necessarily interested in the destination unless they win the prize”.

Unsubscribes mean that the actual list is filled with people who actually want to absorb your content, and that means that is stays as “warm” and interested as possible. It is much easier to sell to warm leads than to disinterested cold ones.

Andrew goes on to explain that after email # 5 the remaining mails are spaced out to every 15 days.

One of those emails (# 7) offers a very comprehensive destination guide to the Drakensberg mountains. The people who download the guide are segmented into a “hot lead” list and are then targeted with actual offers.

All emails include a call to action giving the recipient the chance to contact Andrew for advice. These are cleverly formatted into an availability enquiry by requesting dates, number of people and budget etc.

How is the information and detail about the survey and prizes shared?

Andrew studied various Facebook groups and began to share the details in ones that are located in Antbear’s target locations.

NOTE: The Facebook groups that you share your promotion in must be chosen with care. Be sure to read the group rules as some do not allow for promotional materials to be posted.

Andrew has also gone on to help set up similar campaigns for other destinations that share a similar domestic source market as the Drakensberg mountains.

For example, the one he created for Limpopo and the battlefields in the Northern Cape offered the opportunity to “cross-pollinate” by converting Limpopo contacts into Drakensberg ones.

He also began to re-brand the existing campaigns to include other collaborators. For example, a shopping mall is now giving away the travel vouchers and in exchange, the mall’s name and location have been added to the actual vouchers.

“With each voucher we get another email into the database and the voucher is another incentive for a client to come and stay with us”.

Andrew has also approached people who send out newsletters to ask if they would include the detail of the competition. This has received positive feedback as the great giveaway doesn’t cost them anything and they appreciate the collaborative approach of bringing more people to the Drakensberg location that they also inhabit.

The programme now also allows any South African tourism business to join at no cost and with no commission payable. Each new business is listed as accepting the discount vouchers against the full cost of their services.

How much are you spending on Facebook ads to keep up the momentum?

Andrew shared with me that he was lucky enough to win a R15000 grant of ad spend from Facebook (approx. €820 / £700 / US$975), so he is using these funds to learn to do Facebook ads.

“Right now, I am spending R400 a day (approx. €22 / £19 / US$26), and that seems to be generating about 70-100 leads a day which are added to the contact database and a small percentage of which will hopefully become Antbear customers.

I am also in the process of putting together a group of 10 places that each contribute R2000 a month (approx. €110 / £95 / US$130), which we will then collaboratively spend on building this list for all of our mutual benefit”.

Andrew’s estimate is that, by spending R650 per day (approx. €35 / £30 / US$42) he could collect 200 destination leads a day. He goes on to say that the funnel nurturing these leads can effectively achieve about 15 touch points over 3 months from the time of subscription. By then the subscriber has either unsubscribed or is a follower with a reasonable level of trust. They see and appreciate the value.

This pivot to creating an offer that is attractive to the domestic market has been well-orchestrated and cleverly thought through. Andrew has moved at lightning speed and has clearly dedicated many hours to the development of the processes involved.

Though it might sound complicated, the actual process is logical and straightforward, and the tech required is also fairly minimal:

· email marketing software,

· website and/or an independent site for creating landing pages,

· Facebook account, and

· a programme to design the vouchers.

Andrew’s bloody mindedness has clearly served him well and we look forward to checking in again in a few months’ time to see everything is going.

If you would like to collaborate with Andrew, you can find him here at

If you want to learn more about my most popular coaching programme, Amplify Hotel Marketing, click this link to find out what goes on in that tailored coaching space.

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