If Hospitality is About People, Where are They in Hotel Marketing?

Marketing image shows family on beach

After almost 25 years working in the lodging, tourism, and hospitality industries, there are very few things that surprise me, and never-ending change remains the only constant. On top of this, technology has forced the industry to rethink how it connects visitors and guests on a regular basis. The industry must continue to seek new ways to eliminate friction from the digital transaction economy. Challenging, but exciting times, no doubt.

Yet no matter how much our industry evolves, the need to inspire customers remains the same. Humans by nature long to be moved emotionally. In the instances of travel, tourism, and hospitality, they want a picture painted for them—an image so vivid that they can see themselves in that picture. Doing so creates a true sense of place and can result in a greater intent or desire to experience that destination first hand.

What still surprises me is the notion that it is generally acceptable to market properties, destinations, and experiences to customers without actually showing real people enjoying those experiences. That choice simply ignores the natural human desire to see one’s own reflection in a particular setting. I recently witnessed this issue first hand at a top-flight resort hosting a major international sporting event—a weekend full of social media posts, television commercials, and bumper footage leading in and out of commercial breaks, but no actual people shown enjoying those experiences. Why would anyone want to stay at an empty resort?

The best piece of advice I can give to the purveyors of hospitality experiences is to first find out what that experience means to your target consumer. What is your story that makes you unique? Rather than marketing the rooms, the conference spaces, restaurants, spas, pools, and any other amenities as empty, be sure to depict people in the images or videos so that guests see themselves enjoying what makes your destination or property so special.


While it’s cheaper to produce marketing materials, web content, social media posts, and videos with no on-camera talent, there’s always an alternative to professional models to fill larger spaces anyway. Professionally planned and shot, real events or experiences with actual guests is another possibility—which admittedly has its own challenges—but has the advantage of being authentic and not staged. Technology is so advanced now that a young staffer with an iPhone can capture content for your next marketing campaign. But doing so without the depiction of the human experience will not inspire guests.

Not every marketing initiative requires a six-figure budget to produce, but every outward communication is a reflection of your brand. What you stand for, the sense of place you create, and what you promise your guests will experience when they choose you over another property is so crucial to the consumer decision-making process. Inspire them, illustrate your true experience, and don’t be afraid to highlight the people and places that bring those experiences to life—your staff and the local businesses that set your hotel or resort apart.


About the Author
Paul Whitbeck is the managing director of Greenhaus.

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree. When OTAs and hotel websites created the need for factual photography, showing WISIWYG hotel rooms and amenities, aspirational, personality-driven images were relegated to customer generated content.

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