Spotlight: Hawks Cay ReSort

Destinations facing challenge with resilience and creativity

Hawks Cay Resort's Mid-Pandemic Website Launch

Resilience and creativity have always been hallmarks of the travel industry. At Miles, we’ve been inspired by the innovative ways that destinations and organizations are exemplifying those qualities, adapting to meet the extraordinary challenges presented by COVID-19. We will be spotlighting those efforts here each week to help share that inspiration throughout the industry.

Read on to find out why Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, Florida, decided to launch their new website in the middle of COVID-19 when reopening was still uncertain.

Challenge: Double Whammy

Having only just opened in September 2018 after being closed for a full year of renovation due to damage caused by Hurricane Irma, Hawks Cay Resort found itself closed again – this time due to a worldwide pandemic. Unsure about the length of the closure and when travel would return to normal, Hawks Cay was faced with a decision – postpone the planned launch of the new website they had worked tirelessly on or stick to the schedule and launch on time, in the middle of a pandemic.

Strategy: Stick to the Schedule

The resort remained optimistic and wanted to be ready for pent-up travel demand post-pandemic. Plus, with newly renovated competitors now surrounding them following Hurricane Irma, it was vital that they differentiated themselves from the competition. The new site, which focused especially on experiences and displayed deep, rich colors – evocative of the ocean depths – was a large part of that differentiation strategy. The new website launched April 29, before they knew exactly when they would be reopening.

Results: Sunny Days Ahead

Since the launch of their new site, Hawks Cay has been able to gradually welcome guests with a new list of safety measures and the same sunny optimism. Sticking to their April launch date gave Hawks Cay lead time to focus on making sure guests knew what to expect and felt comfortable visiting their resort. Keeping the spirit light during uncertain times, creative signage throughout the property reminds guests to practice safe Dolphin Distancing with images of life-size 6’ bottlenose dolphin like those found at Hawks Cay. Meanwhile, website visitors dreaming of and planning post-pandemic vacations are being greeted with new engaging design and navigation which vibrantly display the experiences that set Hawks Cay apart from its competitors.

And in a bit of recent cool news, Hawks Cay was recognized in the 2020 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards by USA Today as the #1 Best Family Resort in the U.S.!

To learn more, we reached out to Sheldon Suga, Managing Director of Hawks Cay Resort, to ask about the strategy behind the launch of their new site during the pandemic and how they are measuring the success of the launch now that their doors have reopened.

Where was Hawks Cay Resort in the recovery process from Hurricane Irma when the resort began to feel the impacts of COVID-19?

The resort had fully recovered from Hurricane Irma with just the marina, which was the last piece of the renovation, near completion. Unfortunately, that project is on hold for the time being due to COVID-19.

After Hurricane Irma, how did the competitive landscape change?

The competitive landscape of the Florida Keys changed dramatically following Hurricane Irma with several new-build and fully renovated luxury properties that came to market after Hawks Cay reopened. It brought a lot of much-needed attention to the destination.

Hawks Cay is the only resort destination of its kind in the market and we differentiate the property in several ways but focus on the fact that Hawks Cay offers more activities and experiences right on the property than any other resort in the region. People come from all over the world for an authentic Florida Keys experience and we felt that our website really needed to highlight the diversity of experiences and activities offered at our island resort. The goal of the new website is for the user to see as a visual representation of the incredible tropical island experience we offer visitors. 


What was behind the decision to stick with the original website launch timeline in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?

We knew the competition for guests returning to the Florida Keys for a post-pandemic trip was going to become increasingly difficult and the downtime would allow us to use the reopening as the perfect opportunity to launch the new website. The refreshed and enhanced website really offers what people want right now, a place to escape and focus on outdoor experiences. 

How are you measuring the success of the new website in relation to your competitors?

We work closely with our team at Miles to monitor the organic traffic that arrives at the new website. Utilizing tools like the new Google Data Studio allows us to gauge the share of traffic for the destination and ensure the resort is appropriately positioned.

Do you have any advice for other resorts who may be in the middle of projects like website rebuilds or rebranding? Any things to consider when launching new initiatives in the current climate?

It’s important to consider the competitive advantage of a property and use it as a jumping-off point for the creative process. For Hawks Cay Resort, the competitive advantage was our library of images and videos showcasing the property and our endless experiences. Also, due to the rapidly changing landscape amid COVID-19 and the new challenges it presents, it was imperative that we develop a website that we could easily and quickly update.

Are there any future exciting things coming up for Hawks Cay Resort that you’d like to share? 

While it will still take time to navigate how to operate a destination resort like Hawks Cay in the new normal, our team has adapted to the new protocols and safety measures.  We look forward to relaunching some of our usual resort programming including our seasonal Heroes Salute celebration, which will certainly honor the brave men and women who are working on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic this year.

Dive In

Hawks Cay offers amazing aquatic adventures, gorgeous coastal views and much more. Check out the new Hawks Cay website to discover what sets the sunny island resort apart.