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Pretty much every hotel in the industry uses the same marketing concept.

Beautiful images and features are presented with descriptions and decorative adjectives that mostly relate to interior design and location. There are no real differentiators within specific hotel segments and valuable potential goes untapped. Today, in hotel marketing there seems to be little consideration for what made a hotel originally stand out: Its authenticity and personality, which developed and formed through the interaction of the employees of the hotel and the visitors staying there.

While marketing has changed significantly over the past decade, the perception and value of true hospitality has not.

And yet, despite often times having great visuals most hotel websites are losing out on great opportunities to connect and bond with prospective guests and as a result do not secure bookings.

They fail to create the emotional connection.

Apple, the computer company, is a telling example on how to do this successfully.

Look at the reasons why they are such outstanding marketers – Apple sells technology, but that’s not what they market. People – the way they feel and respond and are understood – are at the heart of Apple’s marketing.

In turn, hotels sell hospitality but at the heart of their marketing are features and amenities, even when their core product is all about people. As a reminder, the term “hospitality” stands for “the quality and disposition of receiving and treating guests with warmth, cordiality, geniality and friendliness”. But what is the focus of most hotel marketing concepts? – Interior Design and location.

Peter C. Borer, CEO Operations for the Peninsula Group and long time general manager of the “Peninsula” in Hong Kong is familiar with demanding clients from around the world. In a recent interview with German newspaper “Die Welt”, he pointed out that spectacular interiors, pomp and debauchery are not all that’s important to his guests. While features are an influential part of the “package”, he highlighted the fact that guests appreciate much more mundane things. Simple gestures – their favorite tea for breakfast, a bouquet of flowers for a wedding anniversary or other personalized offers of attention – keep them coming back for more.

A hotel’s unique selling point is its hospitality

The way it is lived and exuded in a hotel and how it affects its guests. The “experience” that’s made mention of so often and that guests and customers are looking for these days, is just that: To have someone really listen to you and provide you with undivided attention. To feel important and appreciated. To meet someone who seems sincerely interested, and who anticipates what’s needed to make your stay as pleasant and enjoyable as possible.

It is always good to remember that prospective guests don’t buy accommodation or a convenient location. They purchase a pleasant atmosphere, good feelings, answers to their questions and solutions to their personal needs.

In general, hotel marketing focuses less and less attention on this crucial aspect of its product.

This has an impact on a hotel’s employees. They have learned and been trained to sell features for so long that they cannot see the true benefits of the product (their service) anymore. You think this does not sound believable? Put it to the test and call a hotel to find out what the responding representative thinks sets the hotel apart from its competitors. Give it several tries with different departments and various positions. They will probably be stumped and floundering to give you an answer.

In a recent telephone survey 35 upmarket hotels were polled and the question was asked what made them stand out from their competitors. None of the hotel representatives were able to answer the question, but rather listed the physical features of the hotel. Even further inquiries as to the true benefits of the hotel involving the team and aspects of their hospitality offer remained unanswered. Responders’ reactions ranged from polite incomprehension or trying to connect the call to someone who might know the answer to repeating the same answer again and again with impatience and frustration.

This survey shows that even the people at the frontline, the ones with the great opportunities to enthusiastically market and sell your hotel directly to a caller or visitor, have lost touch with what their product really represents.

 If your employees believe that features and amenities make all the difference in terms of guest satisfaction, the next unsettling question for you is this: “How much do they think they can or have to contribute to making the guest experience a pleasant and memorable one”?