Your Hotel: Destination or Gateway?

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June 12, 2015
Sales & Marketing
John Burns - john@burns-htc.com

General managers, directors of sales, reservationists and their hotel brand counterparts subconsciously position their hotel as the traveler’s destination. Every piece of collateral authored focuses solely on the property. Descriptions of local attractions are pitifully sparse, and usually entirely absent. This hotel-centric (in fact, hotel-exclusive) mindset, often blinds hoteliers to travelers’ broader interests. It distracts us from incremental service and revenue-generating opportunities.

Once on property a hotel guest finds the concierge (or front desk clerk) to be an informed and enthusiastic ambassador to the hotel’s locale, but that person is not available during the planning and shopping phases of a trip, points when the hotel website becomes a crucial information source and decision influencer.

This begs the question, once a traveler identifies a destination city, do hotel brand websites make any effort to describe hotels by neighborhood? When a hotel is chosen, does the website make a big deal of what is in the nearby area? No, almost never.

I picked a brand and city at random. As I examined its property presentation on the brand website, I found it all too representative of hotel brand websites in general. Once I entered city and date, the site displayed a property list indicating hotel name, address, exterior photo, distance from the city center and an (ideally) attention-grabbing introductory line, in this case: “Embrace the comfort and convenience of this vibrant hotel located in the heart of ___.” (Fortunately a mouse-over feature, if the website visitor happens upon it, completes the sentence.)

There was a features and amenities list but it identified only on-property features, and nothing about the neighborhood. There was a link to a map, but that map showed street names only, no shops, bars, theatres, etc. Digging deeper, a list of the city’s major attractions was available (the zoo, major universities, major league sports venues, etc.), but neighborhood information was absent.

Elsewhere on the website this brand had a selection of information pages for major cities. The listed attractions on those city pages were not cross indexed by proximity with the brand’s hotels in that destination, and the hotel homepage did not conspicuously link to the destination information pages. 

The hotel business has become skilled at presenting our hotels as the traveler’s best choice. Carefully chosen words, photos and video of comfortable accommodation, abundant services and caring people are highlighted, but our focus is almost exclusively within the hotel’s four walls.
 
I suggest that there is a differentiating opportunity available – an opportunity to be the informative, enthusiastic gateway to the experiences that bring the traveler to the city and make that traveler’s stay memorable. 

Embracing this opportunity requires placing ourselves in the shoes of our guests and asking, “What would I like to do in my locale?” Then it requires us to answer that question with the knowledge of the local area. Finally, it requires inserting this wise and welcome counsel into the sales resource most examined by potential guests – the brand website.

Occasional efforts by hotel brands and independent properties have been seen to promote their position as the portal to all that surrounds them. These efforts are a good beginning. I wonder how much difference it would make to a property if it were to sell itself not only as convenient, comfortable and a fine value, but also as the well-informed gateway to all of the services, attractions and experiences that surround it.
 
John Burns is the president of Hospitality Technology Consulting. He can be reached at john@burns-htc.com.

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