A century-old traditional Ontario resort hotel, Viamede Resort, and adjoining Mount Julian, have been Stoney Lake landmarks since 1885. Today, after extensive upgrades and renovations throughout the property, Viamede Resort is one of the finest full-service hotel and conference centres in Ontario and prides itself on doing things, well… differently.
How do you align the expectation of a diverse vacation audience with a vacation experience and one-of-a-kind property in the Kawarthas that’s anything but typical?
Viamede Resort is eclectic and unique, and so is the guest experience. While many resorts are designed to provide guests with ‘familiar’ styles, design details, and activities, Viamede sits outside the crowd, offering something closer to an invitation to stay at a customer-service focused commune. The property is beautiful, the amenities include two pools, incredible access to the clear waters of Stoney Lake, and the accommodations range from resort rooms to cabins. What makes it different? Well, the on-site farm and locally-sourced, foraged, and raised cuisine of Chef Kevin McKenna to name a few.
At the heart of the resort’s eclecticism and unusual programming approach is its bold, bright, and creative owner, Ben Sämann. A gifted entrepreneur, Ben has curated Viamede to offer guests a pass to explore and enjoy every experience the place could possibly offer—and he is passionate about making them feel like they share in it. When you offer a stay that includes access to Viamede Farm with its hand-selected menagerie of fowl, Tamworth pigs, and rabbits to water fights and campfires for kids to live music and a perfectly-appointed ice shack for gatherings in the winter, it’s a challenge to craft a marketing narrative that properly promotes the experience to holiday planners.
So, what if in trying to promote Viamede to people searching for a typical ‘resort’ holiday, we took an entirely different strategic approach? Unusual in its class, Viamede isn’t trying to collect and mimic a typical ‘Canadian’, ‘chalet’ or luxury experience. It holds firmly, and resolutely its own culture, and welcomes guests to interpret and put their own stamp on the property. With this in mind, we opted to focus the design and marketing strategy on developing the personality that drives the resort brand, and went from there.
In travel and hospitality marketing, web is your most crucial platform. Potential guests bring the full force of their needs, desires, and expectations to their research process, using all available imagery and information to inform their decision. And, when their experience does not match or exceed their dreams, you’ll read about it on TripAdvisor.
Beyond satisfying core site development requirements for a responsive website built using a WordPress CMS, and achieving AA WCAG and AODA compliance standards, the user experience was created using a ‘show-don’t-tell’ design philosophy, using environmental and food photography to serve users a truly immersive visual and sensory experience.
The copy throughout the site is accessible, friendly, and willfully unpretentious, casting aside the overuse of luxe adjectives for humour and realism—the brand voice is as comfortable with itself and as human as its guests.
With multiple guest audiences from couples to brides to corporate parties in mind, we started with the content design, aiming to strip the site of flat content (like expressionless bullet lists) and replace it with interactive, modular content featuring images that together present the scope and scale of the resort experience.
Regular content pages feature expressive photography with sidebar links to associated content pages to improve the user experience by cross referencing related content based on the guest’s navigation pathway.
Viamede Resort has seen a steady increase in bookings and a perceptible positive difference in guest satisfaction. They had their first open winter season this year, and the local community’s response to the resort’s original—and boldly different—guest experience has been nothing short of overwhelming.