Common hotel storytelling problems

Storytelling—getting it right isn’t easy. So here’s everything you need to know about common hotel storytelling problems and what you can do to avoid them.

In the first part of this series, we tackled why we need storytelling in the hotel industry. In this follow up post, we take a look at the most frequent storytelling mistakes hotel brands make—and what you can do to avoid them.

Hands down, hotel websites are some of the most stunning you can find on the web these days. But they’re all – more or less – stylistically moving in the same direction. That means after a while, properties start to look and feel the same to the searcher.

Similar designs – and similar offers – mean it’s harder to differentiate you from the competition.

Add to that, that everyone’s mobile-ready; everyone’s on social; everyone’s offering a room with a bed, desk, bathroom, and TV.

What really sets you apart is your story—and that story is told through your web copy, photos and videos, blog posts, and other carefully curated content shared on your digital channels.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets storytelling right.

Are you making these common hotel storytelling mistakes?

Your website is dated

I know, I know. I just said that hotel websites are some of the most gorgeous ones you’ll find on the web.

While that’s very true it’s also not always the case.  In fact, there are still many non-chain hotels relying on outdated websites.

But what does web design have to do with storytelling? It’s quite simple: story building isn’t just about the words on the page.

It’s about the entire ‘packaging’—everything from the words you use, choice of colours, and hero images you’ve selected through to the service offered and even the way your staff communicate with guests.

So what are you saying with an outdated website? What impression would potential guests get if you haven’t upgraded your site since the early 2000’s? Can you effectively communicate the experience you’re promising with an old-fashioned website?

Read: Why your hotel needs a website

That’s why your website plays an essential role in the story you’re telling—and why there’s really no excuse for not modernising it.

Seriously, there’s no need to suffer from this common hotel storytelling problem!

If it’s the available budget that worries you, consider using free design templates to lower costs. If it’s getting it all set up that’s a problem, there are numerous how-to guides on the web at your disposal. And if it’s the text that has you stumped, consider working with a hotel copywriter.

Untold stories

Whether it’s an extraordinary location, a remarkable history to the property, inimitable design elements, a one-of-a-kind service philosophy, or how the brand embodies an impressive commitment to the environment or local community – those are all stories worth telling.

And yet one of the most common hotel storytelling problems I’ve come across is that of the story that’s only partially told (e.g. you’ve only incorporated storytelling on the home page, other pages are basic) or worse, still unwritten.

You know that no two hospitality brands are alike – but does the potential client agree?

So what makes you different? What’s your strength? What can you claim about your brand or property or dining or service (you get the idea) that others can’t?

When it comes to your narrative, you need to dig deep. Find what makes you, you—uniquely so—and then show it.

Focusing on facts and figures only

A potential guest’s mind is filled with many thoughts. Among them:

  • Is this the right accommodation for me?
  • Will I like the property and its location?
  • Does the brand share my values?
  • What experience can I expect and does their offer align with my personality?
  • What will people think of me when I post about this stay on social media?

If you focus only on facts and figures, the hopeful traveler will never have answers to those questions.

They’ll know that you have 35 attractive rooms and that you’re in a ‘top location’, but they won’t know where you stand relative to what matters to them.

Read: The best examples of effective hotel copywriting

Alternatively, if they somehow do get answers, they simply won’t be moved (read: inspired) by them.

They won’t be able to connect the dots between their current state and where they aspire to be – that is where they are right now relative to the dream of a certain type of vacation. And that’s a loss for your brand, because someone else, perhaps the property down the street, will make their position crystal clear and win that booking.

Search engines first, humans second

Does that sound familiar? It’s another really common problem.

You’ll know when text was written for search engines first – for the ranking process – and the reader second… because it’s just not a pleasant read at all!

It lacks feeling, personality, charm, and even flow at times. Instead, the text focuses on keywords and creating a narrative around them rather than on a story that sparks joy, excitement, anticipation, and inspiration in the reader.

Remember this: Search engines aren’t your customers. People are. That’s why you need to be writing for them first and worrying about optimising for search engines second.

Read: Write content for readers and search engines – tips for small businesses

Carried away

Some hotel websites have too little text, others have far too many. And by far too many I mean pages upon pages of material, most of which no one is ever going to read.

While it’s great that you’ve got a lot to share, keep your web copy focused, clean, and clear. Don’t distract from what truly matters and the core information prospective guests need to commit to booking with you.

Instead, if you’ve got a lot to say, you might find that content better suited for a hotel blog.

Read: Should your hotel have a blog?

A slapdash effort

Here’s another common hotel storytelling problem: Web copy that’s either written in passing, in between tasks, or plain old hurried.

In other words not much thought, effort, or consideration went into its development. Text was needed, so text was written – that’s about it.

There was no time to stop and think about what kind of information would be useful, what would be interesting, or what prospective guests actually need and want to know.

Your web copy has to sell your product: guest rooms, conference rooms, events, meals and drinks at your F&B establishments. If you aren’t grabbing attention, inspiring, setting expectations, and driving action then you’re doing it all wrong.

To get it right, you need time.

You need to understand who your clients are and how to appeal to them before you can even start writing. You can’t achieve that if you’re fitting writing in between all sorts of other activities like checking in on guests, manning the front desk, sampling the new menu, and managing the entire property.

In other words when you sit down to write, focus on writing and writing only.

Storytelling stars and what you can learn from them

So now that you know what you shouldn’t do, are there any storytelling rock stars worth emulating?

Absolutely!

Plus, as you’ll see from these examples…

You don’t have to be large hotel chain to have great stories.

In fact boutique hotels, independent properties, family-run accommodation often have the greatest stories to tell! ‘Small’ does not mean uninteresting.

A large budget isn’t a prerequisite for getting things right.

You just need ideas, time, and the drive to turn them into something interesting for your target market.

You aren’t limited to your website.

Go on – apply storytelling techniques to whatever channels and means are available to you! Whether it’s on social, through videos, or with regular blog posts, there’s always an opportunity to share a story.

So let’s get to it!

Commit to storytelling

If you’re going to tell a story, go all the way—incorporate it everywhere, on all pages, regardless of the type of information.

Remember that facts wrapped in a compelling story are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone. Also, it’s really not storytelling if you’ve only bothered with it on your home page.

Visit the Shinta Mani Wild website and you’ll see what I mean by going all the way. Their web copy doesn’t just set expectations – it’s also beautiful, down-to-earth, atmospheric and really engaging.

They could have given basic information on the best times to visit but instead, they’ve painted a picture of what each tropical season brings and the highlights that await me.

I’m not simply told that there’s local cuisine to be enjoyed. There’s a story about how ingredients are sourced, what kind of unique treats I will get to experience, and who are involved in making these meals come to life.

They don’t just describe what makes each specific tent (their version of guest rooms) special but also introduce readers to their Adventure Butlers, who are ‘part guide, part friend, part magician’.

Everything sets the mood, sparks wonder, and builds excitement. That can only be achieved through exceptional storytelling!

Go beyond words

When it comes to effective storytelling, it’s equally important to show and not just tell. That’s where quality photography and videos come in.

By incorporating visual media, prospective guests are better able to envision themselves at the property. They can go beyond imagining and actually see what the place looks like; take a peek into behind-the-scenes happenings; and even hear – in the staff’s own words – what kind of service and quality to expect.

The Ritz Carlton is a stellar example of this put into action with their WOW Moments series of videos.

Shine the light on what makes you unique

Among others, telling a great story involves:

  • Knowing who you are and what makes you special;
  • Understanding who your ideal customers are as well as what drives them;
  • And tying the two together in an organic, authentic, cohesive, and clear manner to appeal to prospective guests.

When you manage to do that, you’re able to craft a memorable story that resonates with the type of customers you want to have at your property.

What you’ve written has your own individual voice; it exudes your distinct personality and charm, so it’s never a boring, repetitive or generic read. It’s actually interesting!

You put the spotlight on what differentiates you from all the other accommodation options on the market.

And you’re able to naturally position your brand relative to the competition.

Stories are everywhere

“No one will find that interesting.”

“That’s too boring to share.”

“I’m out of ideas.”

Those are some of the most common (plus relatable) excuses you’ll hear for why your team hasn’t been able to whip up new content for your blog.

They’re excuses because stories can be found everywhere. Day-to-day activities, behind-the-scenes happenings, specific features at your property – they’re all sources of content.

You might see it as a stunning view from your rooftop infinity pool, but a prospective guest sees magical sunset moments enjoyed with their loved one—cocktail in hand, of course!

Whether it’s your organic vegetable garden, the chef’s daily trips to the local market, local fruits that are in season, details on select pieces of art at the property, or the great lengths housekeeping go to, to ensure safe and clean surroundings – there’s a story worth telling in everything, no matter how mundane.

There’s nowhere better to see that in action than on Mashpi Lodge’s blog.

Their blog invites you to explore their world – their property, the team that makes everything happen, the surroundings, and more. Beyond being a fascinating sneak peak of what to expect, it gets you invested in the property—and excited to experience everything for yourself!

You don’t need every piece of writing to provide thrills. Posts can be introspective, insightful, educational, fun, or simply useful – like Mashpi Lodge’s Cloud Forest Fruit Cake recipe!

Content is king and the awesome posts you share on your blog will be your best asset when it comes to the art of soft selling.

Another notable mention is Marriott’s collection of travel tips and more.

Read: Business blog content strategy – where to start

To conclude, you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain by incorporating storytelling in your hotel’s digital marketing strategy.

So how many of these hotel storytelling problems have you made? And more importantly, what are you going to do to fix them?