Spend Time in the Past at Shaker Village
Strategy: Emphasize Value, Know Your Customer/Product, Take Advantage of Tech
Type of attraction: Museum/Historic Site
Summary: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, located in central Kentucky’s famous Bluegrass region, is America’s largest restored Shaker community.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, located in central Kentucky’s famous Bluegrass region, is America’s largest restored Shaker community. This living history museum encompasses 3,000 acres, 25 miles of historic rock fences, and 34 restored buildings that tell the story of this 19th century religious communal society. But it is the opportunity for immersion in the site by staying overnight that many visitors find most appealing. For Shaker Village, this interest equals revenue.
“We have found at Shaker Village the main source of revenues comes from our Inn,” says Aimee Darnell, Shaker Village publicist. “In an economic downturn the inn is what we are really trying to market. That makes the site an overnight destination. We used to market the site only as a living history museum, but just relying on tour tickets won’t keep the doors open.” Visitors can choose from more than 70 guest rooms and private cottages in 13 restored Shaker Buildings. Rooms are decorated in Shaker-style furniture with modern amenities.
“What we are trying to do is create an experience. When you can tie a guest to the property in some way and make them feel a connection, that is when it’s special and they are going to return over and over again. Marketing the experience is the focus,” Darnell says.
To reach an audience for Shaker Village and its overnight accommodations, she is focusing online. “We have pulled a lot of print advertising – the way of the future is online,” Darnell says. The effort includes developing a social media plan. “I am trying to get fans to be very interactive through an ‘Ask the Expert’ section, where our fans can communicate one-on-one with specialists in different areas.” Shaker Village is also inviting fans to write about their visit to the property.
“We have also started a ‘What is your favorite thing about Shaker Village?’ post several times a week,” she says, where guests talk on video about what they like the best. So far the top “favorite thing” answer is food.
That answer matches up with an offering called “Seed to Table Dining.” Guests can enjoy meals prepared with ingredients that are grown in the site’s three-acre garden and/or purchased from nearby farmers. The dining experience is further enhanced as guests can look out of the dining room window at the garden and know their food was locally grown.
Another food-related offering that is gaining popularity is the garden-side dining series. Guests dine in the middle of the garden with the site’s chef and also get to meet the gardeners. “Of course we hope they will book an overnight stay when they come,” Darnell says. “We think the experience is a good value. Room nights start at about $100. Suppers are $85 each for a four-course meal with three wine pairings. Lunches are $42 for a three-course meal with one wine pairing. Both meals include complimentary tour admission to Shaker Village (a $15 value).”