Hotel Online  Special Report

Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation
Through Print, Signage & Internet


Destinations Unknown

By John R. Hendrie, February 2005

“Hey, Marge, did you see that sign?  Uncle Ollie’s Bizarre Farm, featuring Dancing Piglets.  It’s the next exit.  Wake the kids.  They’ll think this is great.”

We have all seen these signs on hillsides and roadways throughout America.  They intrigue the traveler.  After all, travel should be educational and adventuresome.  But, what lies ahead:  twenty miles of rough road, broken fences at the entrance, faded directionals (if any), a pot-holed drive, dilapidated building, a strange stench, and the wizened Uncle Ollie.  Actually, Marge, keep the kids in the car!

These “come-ons” reflect upon our destinations and communities, and they frame an expectation for the Visitor, which is often dashed.  You expect a certain liberty taken with rural promotions of sights and scenes, many of which are quite remarkable, but others should be dismissed. But, this is Americana. We certainly expect an increased integrity as to what is being advertised when we travel the Interstates with their rigid, uniform signs, informing us of food, lodging, gas, and occasional attractions.  We understand the State has some rules for these postings and the postee has paid a fee.  But, I wonder.

The East Coast corridor North of Boston is rich with heritage, history, spectacular views and fine dining.  I live close to an Interstate which serves that tourist path, and I found two signs of the highway approved type, which almost caused me to drive off the road in amazement with the audacity of the message.  The first sign noted two Attractions:  an Orchard and a General Store in a neighboring town.  I knew both.  My definition of an attraction would include experiences of some note – education, recreational, entertainment, cultural, craft related.  I do not believe that an orchard fits any of those categories, except for perhaps a city dweller.  Now, a General Store might, if it reflected the cachet of Vermont or serving as a outpost in the West.  I buy my paint, nails and garden supplies at this one.  The only unique part of their business is a popcorn machine.

Visitor expectations dashed!

The second sign caused me real pause, and I applaud the very ambitious efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, however laced with benign fraud.  That sign announced a specific town on the coast as a Resort Destination. I also know this town, more through disparaging descriptions.  As my business involves serving the destination market, I am familiar with the ingredients which make up a Resort.  Most are “wrapped around” an attraction; there are multi-fold activities for all family members; all types and levels of accommodations are available; and dining options run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime.  This particular Resort town, faded and threadbare, met one of the criteria – it was on the Atlantic Ocean.  Visitor expectations dashed again!

Yes, we must promote our businesses aggressively; we must be illustrative in our language and descriptions.  We want to attract Visitors, engage them with our remarkable hospitality, have them experience the “Wow”, and, of course, return regularly.  But, we also must be honest in what we present through the internet, print, and even signage, because we frame for the Visitor an expectation.  Many travelers through our areas are not familiar with the landscape, and they must have faith in what we present and represent.  If we mislead them, even with good intentions, we are responsible for that poor experience and the resultant damaged image for our community.  On your next trip, locally, look around, and you will see exactly what I mean. Are we responsible for wasted time, hyped nonsense and memorable disappointment? The travel “war stories” abound!

By John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.

Also See: Hospitality Trade Associations: What Have You Done for Me Lately? / John Hendrie / February 2005
I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005
Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005
Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004
Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004
Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004

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