Do You Believe These Hotel Myths?

by Susan on March 31, 2014


Believing these myths about the hotel business is hurting your hotel and your career.

Myth #1: Hotels are about hospitality, not money.  

Ha!  I’ve had people say this to me in several different ways over the years.  Line staff say, “I don’t care about the money; I just want to give good service.”  Hotel brands say, “We are about providing the best quality service.” [implied is the part about we don’t care about the money.”]  I even had someone on Quora tell me that hotels are typically slow to innovate because we aren’t a “money” business.   To this I say nonsense.

Why in the world would you have a business that wasn’t for money?  If you just want to give people great service and a place to stay, open a homeless shelter.  Great service is the product we sell, not the reason we exist.  We exist to exchange a place to sleep for cash, and our job is to get the highest dollar amount we can for that place to stay every night of the week.

Myth #2: It’s wise to let other industries lead the way.  

I started working in hotel sales right at the beginning of the OTA revolution.  In those days, we weren’t even allowed to have internet access because the powers-that-be thought we would download porn or shop all day (both valid concerns in this business!).  I watched as we got our asses handed to us month after month as Priceline and the others scooped up the internet buyer and charged us a hefty fee for that pleasure.  I was there when an entire industry dismissed OTAs as a fad, or stuck our collective head in the sand, or fumbled around just not getting it, and I think this experience has made me a crusader for innovation in hotels.

A lot of hoteliers will tell you that it makes more sense to let industries with bigger margins (hospitals, college dorms, etc.) test major technical advances first.  The behemoth hotel companies often watch and wait for someone else to rip out their old cabling or install Wifi repeaters.  Everyone is afraid to go first.  I think they should be afraid to go last.

What happens when the next game changer comes along?  As one of my mentors, a start-up vet with several successful exits under his belt, likes to say, “Twenty years ago, you could have an idea that no one else has had before.  Now, if you have an idea, chances are there are all kinds of people – in the US, in China, in India, anywhere – with the same idea.”

My point is that when Priceline came along in the late 1990s, it was unique.  It took other sites a long time to figure out how to replicate and improve upon that experience.  Now, travel apps are one of the fastest-growing and most highly-funded sectors in the marketplace, and you can spend all day every day learning about the new ones and still not get it all.

Myth #3: The royal “we” is the best way to talk to guests.

Ugh.  This is the toughest to fight and the most pervasive.  Knock, knock: Consumers have changed.  They don’t want your brand persona to be a distant, cold, formal voice explaining the features and benefits of your property.  They want to know the real deal – what happens behind the curtain, who the people are that make this thing tick, and what the secrets are to getting the absolute most out of their experience.

Now, certainly, the static pages on your website might be better suited to a first-person plural perspective (although, consider being spoken to directly by a concierge or chef – might be a cool experience!).  But your day-to-day interactions and social media posts need to connect.  Consider introducing a few different voices on social media, and let each of them speak in their own voice.

Myth #4: Everything about your website.

Hoteliers, your websites suck.  All of them.  They are boring, and they all look alike.  You build a site and expect it to sit there and stay the same for two, three, or four years.  Ick.  Here are some quick suggestions:

  1. Less stuff on the page.  Your navigation is too complicated, and there is too much on your home page.  How about one big image that evokes the spirit of your resort?  Why not three pages: book, things to do, and hotel amenities?  I don’t want you to divide the activities into several sections (recreation, restaurants, whatever); I want it to be easy.
  2. Optimize for mobile.  The numbers are clear; more and more guests are booking via mobile, and many of your short-term bookings are happening on a phone when the traveler is less than 60 miles away from your hotel.  Does your mobile site reflect that?  Sure, we shouldn’t book a hotel reservation while we’re driving, but can we?
  3. No personality.  Dear Big Brands: We still want each of your hotels to have a personality.  They really don’t need to all sound the same.  Sure, offer a consistent experience that rewards my loyalty with a hair dryer at every single property every single time, but don’t use robot-speak to greet me or an all-consuming scent machine to overpower me when I walk through the door.  Even on business, I want to know what makes this place unique.  What is it about the people of Town X that separates them from the people of Town Y?  (It’s not your freesia berry tea musk scent, I promise.)
  4. No people.  It used to be important to leave the people out of your photography, because it made the photographs dated in five or ten years.  Yep, hotels hold on to – and USE – photos for that long.  Photography shouldn’t be a museum piece.  You need accurate, beautiful photographs of your facilities, but you also need up-to-the-minute pictures of people enjoying your accommodations.
  5. You are not newly renovated.  You have to stop saying newly renovated after a year, maybe two.  A renovation that happened five years ago is neither new nor something you should draw my attention to.


Tell me, hotel friends: What am I wrong about?  What am I missing?

What is the biggest myth your hotel is holding onto?


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