Adirondack Base Camp header image

Bad Apple Season in Saranac Lake

September 19th, 2008 · 6 Comments · Destination Marketing

Bad AppleIt’s apple season in the North Country.  Did you know that I live in the McIntosh Apple Capital?  Well, it’s true, I’m surrounded by apples.  At this time of year, cider and donuts RULE.

Funny thing though, I’ve always had this silly song in my head every time bunches of apples are mentioned.  I always thought that this was just a way to get a girl on the rebound.

One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch girl.
Oh, I don’t care what they say
I don’t care what you heard.

A recent review of the Hotel Saranac sparked my interest:

Not worth staying here…Part of the Historic Hotel Society- not sure how or why. My husband and myself were very unhappy with the hotel and the town. Would never go back. We had such a lovely day in lake Placid and would stay in one of the many hotels there if we ever go back. I was truly surprised by the appearance from the moment I drove up and parked the car.

Not so much of a surprise if you’ve been following this historic hotel’s saga, but the linking of the “hotel and town” caught my attention. These folks had a negative first impression which seemed to impact their remaining experience in what I consider a quaint little village.  So much so that they proclaim that they will “never go back”.  To the hotel or the town?  Maybe it doesn’t matter.

“Tourism is everyone’s business”

Coincidentally, the folks at Highland Business Research asked this question yesterday, “Beware of bad apples – are other businesses spoiling your customer’s experience?”  Almost every saavy marketer knows that satisfaction is a direct result of meeting or exceeding customer expectations.  Much of traditional travel marketing is all about helping the consumer reduce or eliminate uncertainty in their purchase decisions.  This has always been the most difficult part of any travel experience – having to make a purchase decision before consumption.  Now with the proliferation of consumer-to-consumer tools, the previously conquered and divided masses can talk to each other before venturing into the unknown.  This bit is spot-on:

Bad experiences stick and people want to get them off their chest by telling others about them.  And they now have the tools to tell a bigger audience than ever.  The ripple out is a problem because it takes more than an equal amount of good experiences to offset the damage from a very negative one.  Additionally the negative experience anchors satisfaction low, so that the visitor is also likely to rate the other tourism businesses that they encounter lower than they would otherwise have done.

They give 5 possible responses to “bad apples”:

  1. Just let market forces take their toll.
  2. Provide a band aid, moral support and try to outshine the negative.
  3. Name and shame – let the customers do the talking?
  4. Apply the carrot of training/rewards and the stick of policy at a national or regional level.
  5. Lead by example to drive sector, community or destination level quality control activities.

I’m a free-marketer, so #1 is my choice, but often that doesn’t work quickly enough to stop the rot or it doesn’t work at all.  But, you could say that this very post is an example of HBR’s preference of “Name and Shame”.  As an “official” DMO (Destination Marketing Organization), we have our hands tied to an unfortunate “objective” promotion of our assets.  Could we feature reviews on our site?  Not while funding for our activities is subject to political considerations.  Too bad, if the Hotel Saranac’s reviews were available, not only would we be assisting market forces, this whole unfortunate experience could have been avoided.


Reflecting on the value of a Saranac Lake icon

“…the town has essentially lost what was once the crown jewel and social center of Saranac Lake, and the experience reaffirms the importance of protecting a community’s history.”

Tags: ····

6 Comments so far ↓

  • City Mouse

    Interesting coincidence – We were just talking about how you can’t go anywhere at night in SL without running into a few staggering drunks.

    SL does have some rough edges, and this guest could have *easily* been privy to some of them. Wandering off Broadway at 8 or 9pm on a Friday night ain’t pretty. Combine that with the fact that there is very little to do at any time of the day, and compound it with a negative hotel experience. Would you go back? I wouldn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love Saranac Lake, and it’s town to me. But a destination, it ain’t.

  • TourPro

    All American City

    It wasn’t long ago that it was voted “All American City

    There is so much potential lost in SL.  What to do? Image is so important – for tourism, business development, quality of life, and most importantly civic pride.  Someone must care about the Saranac Lake brand.  Who should lead the way?


  • ADKinLA

    Sorry to hear that the Hotel has gone downhill. It has been considered via reputation as a really good hotel for years.

    In terms of your question about the SL brand, it certainly has been built up as an artist’s mecca over the last few years in various Tweets and articles about all the galleries and events there. In terms of a larger marketing strategy, might I suggest something out of the box?

    Maybe market SL with LP as a kind of a Twin Cities of the ADKs. I believe St. Paul markets itself as a hipper/artier counterpoint to Minneapolis and perhaps people will want to spend time in both towns instead of just one or will gravitate to SL as a “Woodstock” of the ADKs. If those are good ideas, maybe they should hire me to do the marketing :P!

  • TourPro

    I have to be careful with my commentary regarding LP. They do a fantastic job, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

    That said, I think there are political barriers to cooperation between the two villages. It’s further complicated by the fact that SL exists on the border between two counties – Franklin and Essex.

    Your suggestion about co-marketing both places has some precedent. The SL Chamber currently represents businesses in both places, but their activity has recently come under some criticism. I also don’t think the folks in LP – citizens and marketers, care much about the fate of SL. They have their thing and have little motivation to include SL (unless there was $$ to be gained, SL contributes little to the promotional tax-base).

    SL does present an interesting branding challenge. I don’t think locals there agree on what they should be – that’s a first-step. Mayor Rabideau (former Mayor of Plattsburgh) seems to have some ideas, but his management style does not engender much passion or buy-in.

  • Sewa R Arora

    .The icon was saved by new owners.
    .Hotel was bleeding money.
    .Major surgrey has to be performed
    .Spend $300,000 in renovation of rooms still bad review Why?
    .Imagine the conditions of room before renovations
    If did not buy the hotel it would have been closed.
    .Changing time, you have to change.
    .Came on tax role of the village
    .Being here for 5 years inspite of economy and bad rap from locals.
    .By giving us bad rap they are cutting their nose to spite rheir face
    .If their attitude ‘never going back’ then no reason for us to open food and beverage outlets.
    .Part of glory can come back to Hotel Saranac
    .Local has to accept the fact that new owner own the Hotel
    .New owner has the right to operate the hotel the way it is profitable
    .We live in free economy.
    .It is not any body business to tell other how to run
    We have 75 years combined experience in the field
    Arora Family
    Hotel Saranac

  • Sewa R Arora

    Oh I did not address bad apple.
    Apple was damaged
    Soon was going to be rotten
    Rotten smell would have spread thru out the village
    We performed the major surgery
    Surgery brought about diffirent shape
    And its taste is excellant
    And it is in good financial conditions

Leave a Comment