The Pros and Cons of a Hotel Blog: A Retrospective

By Daniel Edward Craig, Reknown.

In a recent article I argued that it doesn’t make sense for most hotels to start a blog. Blogs are time-consuming and challenging to maintain, often starting in a flurry of enthusiasm and then fading over time. An abandoned blog is like frayed carpet in a hotel lobby: it speaks of apathy and neglect and can be off-putting when stumbled upon.

My comments prompted a minor outcry, though notably not from hotel managers but from third-party web marketers, who were quick to point out the benefits of blogs to search engine optimization. Last year, a Hubspot survey reported that small businesses with a blog receive 55% more website traffic and 97% more inbound links than small businesses without a blog.

If anyone understands the value of a hotel blog, I do. It was four years ago this month that I started the General Manager’s Blog, a first in the industry. Our then-director of marketing, Katrina, came up with the idea, and I’m still mad at her. Nevertheless, I tackled my first posts with zeal, writing in a breezy style that suggested I had banged them out between check-ins. In fact, a great deal of effort went into making them sound effortless.

From the outset I promised to give an insider’s look at the hotel business and to “leave out the boring parts”. As the manager of an independent contemporary hotel, I could get away with being a bit edgy; writing things other hotel managers think but don’t dare say. I covered taboo subjects like relocating, construction and guest complaints. I debated the pros and cons of offering sex toys in the mini-bar. And I vented about a challenging weekend in which a guest received a stream of “nieces” to his room and a drag queen gave her room a makeover … with her makeup.

In many ways, hotels are an ideal platform for a blog. We welcome a stream of new guests each day, and they bring with them unique stories, inspiration and, occasionally, drama. But while reporting on guest antics might be great for attracting blog traffic, it can also frighten travelers away. So I’ve had to walk a fine line, providing enough intrigue to appeal to readers while respecting the privacy of guests. With such a narrow scope, I’ve often found myself staring hopelessly at a blank computer screen, feeling increasingly anxious about the other duties I’m neglecting. It’s a lot more fun to swill cocktails with clients in the hotel lounge.

Given the challenges, it’s no surprise that blogs written by hoteliers are still quite rare. Some of the best I’ve seen are published like an online magazine, rich in imagery and content, with enviable resources backing them. Others are simpler, maintained by the owner or manager of a small hotel or inn, with compelling, quirky stories and an intensely personal feel.

Recently, I came across a new blog for a bed-and-breakfast whose author promised to post something every day so as “not to disappoint” her readers. All I could think was good luck. It’s only a matter of time before she resorts to writing about kittens, what she had for breakfast, and why beige is her favourite colour. I try to avoid this fate by blogging infrequently and writing long posts, exploring topics from various angles.

In this age of social media, a blog provides a platform for hotels to engage with guests. But readers rarely leave comments, and I’m often convinced that no one is listening—and that if anyone is listening, they think I’m a moron. Then, just as I’m sinking into total despair, I’ll receive a gushing comment about how great my blog is … only to realize it’s spam from a timeshare in Goa. Travelers tend to be more active in sharing content on Facebook, Twitter and, of course, TripAdvisor and other online travel communities.

What readers probably don’t know about the OPUS blog is that it’s frequently quoted and republished across the web, has been lauded by publications from Condé Nast Traveler to USA Today, and is followed by travelers, hotel employees and students around the world.

At the end of 2007, I left OPUS to focus on writing. My successor as general manager, Nicholas, a clever fellow, opted to delegate the blog to Katrina. Suddenly Katrina wasn’t so thrilled about her brilliant idea. Rechristening it OPUS Hotels’ Blog, she explored meaningful issues like hotels and the environment and healthful drinking. Needless to say, readership plummeted. (Okay, I’m kidding.) In 2008, I returned as interim resident manager of OPUS Montreal and have been maintaining the blog since, along with working on various other projects.

There’s no question, a blog can be great for SEO and can give personality to a hotel, helping to distinguish it from other hotels. If a property has the skills and commitment for the long haul, I say go for it; we need more hoteliers in the blogosphere. If not, the hotel’s scarce resources might be better channeled elsewhere.

Why does OPUS persist? The blog has become a part of our culture, drawing people to our site who might not otherwise find us and giving our guests a flavour of what to expect before they arrive. Looking ahead, we plan to integrate it further into our marketing and social media activities and to bring back some of its original edge. Our marketing director, Chella, tells me I’ve softened of late. Apparently, I was getting dangerously close to writing about kittens.

Do you have a favourite travel or hotel blog or blogging tips of your own? Share them here.

 

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16 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of a Hotel Blog: A Retrospective”

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  1. Now, how could I NOT comment on this blog post? I will admit to being a 'blog stalker', yet have always enjoyed your blogs – filled with great info – but honestly? I read them for your tremendous dry humor and memorable epigrams.

    Please keep writing. You make the world a happier place.

  2. InsideMsa says:

    Daniel you have done it again..you have gone ahead and said it! l do agree a blog is a hard one to maintain and l think a lot of people don't understand that it takes a lot of time and effort and l give you marks for being able to still post entertaining stories and avoiding the part where you tell it all which will off course put off clients especially since hoteliers are supposed to be secretive about all the issues whether scandalous or not that happen;speaking of which privacy is a code of practice that is agreed upon without swearing or signing on it anywhere to my understanding. Thanks for the tips they help….now we must think content content share you brain just a but please ha ha ha

  3. Daniel Edward Craig says:

    Diana: It's great to hear you enjoy my posts. But a confession: I had to look up the word "epigram". Great word. It's now part of my vocabulary and I'll be dropping it at every opportunity.

    Inside Msa: I'm not sure whether the hoteliers' oath to privacy is an unwritten code or an act of self-preservation. As you know, when it comes to celebs dishing the dirt is the quickest way of ensuring they don't come back … NOT that I've ever done that or ever will. Cheers.

  4. Daniel, that was another great post!
    I agree many hotels don't really 'get it' when it comes to creating or maintaining blog posts. And, an abandoned blog is a sure no-no. But that's just one side of the coin. The hotels need to look at weighing both sides.

    Look at it this way – A blog with at least a weekly post about your hotel, your location, your latest events around, your latest deals, etc can be great fodder for real-time search. The same post could be used on your twitter and facebook with an additional viral scope. Just why would any hotel want to miss out on this great opportunity? Spare some time, hotels – it isn't rocket science!

  5. Eric Hoffman says:

    Hi Daniel,
    As someone involved in the tourism industry (not hotel though), I readily concur with the SEO, in particular 'long tail search' benefits that a blog provides. The commitment certainly can be a bit of a challenge, but it's not any different from having to answer your email every day, or write up weekly summary reports, it's just another item on the docket.

    I do think that with some proper planning – an editorial calendar – the need to scramble for topics becomes a bit less difficult. And there are a ton of topics that a hotel can blog about and ideally a blog can be used to raise the engagement level with its guests. Use the blog as a way to solicit ideas, put up a survey, push guests to review sites, or pull reviews in…the possibilities are huge.

    In any case, the web is where people research, and ever increasingly book their travel, so if any travel business wishes to remain relevant they need to constantly evaluate their web presence and IMO a blog is an ideal way to stay in front of customers.
    Regards
    -Eric

  6. Daniel Edward Craig says:

    HotelMarketing5 & Eric Hoffman,
    Thanks for tips & words of encouragement for bloggers. I especially like the idea of an editorial calendar. Oh, to be that organized rather than driven by panic and fear … And HM5, you're right, there's no need to complicate things. Sometimes we forget that.

  7. Wow, this certainly is an exhilarating post. Real cool writing style, it's a shame that you lost your spirit on blogging for awhile there. Though, I must agree that sometimes I don't feel like maintaining a blog. It's a great thing that there are other helpful bloggers like HM5 and Eric that simply inspire ideas that make blogging really worthwhile. Best of luck to all!

  8. Daniel Edward Craig says:

    SYA, glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck with the blogging, and thanks for writing.

  9.  Daniel you  have very critically analyzed and  throws a wonderful set of advices .i  agree with your  idea of hotel blog to make it simple and not complicate the things

  10. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and by no means seem to get something done.

  11. Hi  Daniel Edward,
    I am supported your hotel blog ideas. Thanks for writing. I hope  you also write many hotels blog whose many helpful to us.

  12. Daniel, even i agree that hotel blog needs to be simple and not complicated.

  13. Hello Daniel Edward,
    Great blog posting about hotel.

  14. thanks for providing the useful information related to hotels. because I love traveling and different kinds of hotels.I really like your blog. Thanks a lot  for your posting.
     

  15. Hotel disney says:

    Thanks for providing the information.I really like your blog. Thanks for your posting.
     

  16. Lincoln Motel Pasadena says:

    I agree totally. There is nothing like a well written blog to make your readers sit up and take notice. This is in fact a great way to attract new customers. One of my friends has this habit of reading up interesting blogs on the city he is planning to visit. He also reads customer reviews and blogs on the hotels before selecting any.
    More info visit: http://www.lincolnmotelpasadena.com

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