Every day that cold razor touched the dry skin at the dawn of another shift, I cursed Mr. Gillette for having invented such an instrument of torture – a bone of the hospitality craft. I decided to do something about it and let my beard grow for this summer. I believe it is something that every man must do at least once in his life, and although it is considered a sin in hospitality, the idea of having a face full of character kept coming back to my thoughts over and over again. In the meantime, besides working as a hotel manager, I also became a travel writer and photographer.
Everything started when I followed through on the opportunity to write an insider’s article about Lisbon for Quantas and decided to develop my travel writing and photography skills. The constant praise for my storytelling abilities while managing Lisbon’s Palacio Belmonte and the Sintra Boutique Hotel, gave air to the possibilities of telling my stories to the world.
At the London School of Journalism, under the inspirational guidance of Paul Gogarty, Sarah Barrel and Duncain Craig, I learned how to write about travel and the art of pitching an idea to publishers. Travel writing is about being able to transmit a sense of place to the reader. I believe this is the fundamental core of good storytelling. You have to be able to “show, not tell” your experience to the reader and always bear in mind that they must be able to replicate your experience. One of my references for out of this world travel writing is, Alain the Botton’s “The art of travel”, especially the section about him watching the planes land at Heathrow Airport. Here you will be able to understand how, through the magic of talented writing, a mundane happening can be made as interesting as a Brazilian carnival parade.
The same school of thought is present in the work of multi-award winning photographer (and my photography teacher at Central Saint Martin), Anthony Webb. He states that far beyond any technical skills, your mind makes the photo, not the subject. It was you who decided that that frame was interesting enough to capture and all he does is guide on how to make it a better photo. Never forget that when you are selecting a group of images you are telling a story, which needs to have an introduction, a plot, and an end. Look at the latest work done by Sebastião Salgado’s – Genesis and you will understand what narrative through photography really means.
There is a lesson here for all hospitality marketing and content managers. Please, think about your customer base when you are writing copy about your property. Go beyond the fact sheet box or describing the facilities and services with soft adjectives. It is never just about a night’s sleep or a meal, it is about a connection that the guest has with your property, no matter how short, and it is up to you to manage the engagement, interest and expectations of their mind-sets.
The same advice applies when choosing photography and images for your property. It takes the human mind half a second to process, select or discard interest for an image. If your visual content is not engaging, your business will ultimately suffer. That is a guarantee. The Dorchester collection presentation video has become my benchmark for all the other hotel property videos in the world and I sincerely advise you to watch it.
Now, on my way to Berlin, I will continue my mission to create engaging content for the travel and hospitality world, hoping that storytelling becomes an ever important part of the “sense of place”.