The Hotel Guy – Do We Sell or Do We Shill?

by Alan Campbell, Featured Contributor

Do we sell or do we shill in the Hospitality business? I asked myself that question a couple of days ago while taking a leisurely walk past the sphinx guarding the Luxor Hotel.

I stopped in front of the sphinx and faced it head-on, squarely, to see if for once it would smile at me, even the slightest of smiles, but it didn’t.

It remained inscrutable as ever, even more so as the Royal Guardsmen standing watch at Buckingham Palace.

Hotel HospitalityHis eyes, though, seemed a little more wistful than usual.

The reason for that, perhaps, may have something to do with the feeling I get from time to time that we in the Hospitality business have lost sight of what we are supposed to provide our guests, our customers, our visitors.

What exactly is it then we are supposed to be selling?

I suspect strongly that too many in this business spend most of their time number crunching and pouring over list after list of reports, requisitions, and complaints.

The daily barrage of paperwork, though important to keeping an establishment solvent, has nothing to do with what you sell, though; if anything, it gets in the way of what you are supposed to be selling.

Too many hoteliers, as well as restaurateur’s—the shills in the business—see people as cash cows only, rather than as human beings wanting, desiring, dreaming of something that they believe your venue can or may provide.

The shills, unfortunately, outnumber the sellers, especially where there is a lot of venues competing for customers.

It is in this kind of environment that second-rate hoteliers and restaurateur’s, unable to overcome their own shortcomings, find it easier to shill what little they have to offer rather than invest in ideas and programs that sell what customers are eager to buy.

Every hotel worthy of the name has a website these days, but, in essence, they are all the same; almost as if they all got together and decided to use the same cookie-cutter pattern.

Many of these websites, though not most, actually show pictures of people enjoying themselves, while the rest show static poolside/seaside/landscape scenes devoid of any human presence.

The people, in those that show them, all seem too young to afford the hotel they find themselves in; out of place.

Is that because they are all stock photos?

Is that what we want to sell: stock stays; static, lifeless scenery?

Or do we want to sell dreams, fantasies, experiences, adventures, and ideas that make memories that last a lifetime.

Because that’s exactly what customers are looking for, and if they can’t find or experience what they are looking for at your venue, they’ll go to another, and another, if necessary, until they do find what they are looking for.

The solution, of course, is to clone Mr. Roarke of Fantasy Island and have him greet every guest with a bright-colored umbrella-clad fruity drink as they arrive at your hotel, in anticipation of the fantasy that awaits them.

Short of that, what is the answer?

How do we get the customer to be content spending a large amount of money with us, and make him feel that it was worthwhile?

If all we do is shill for rooms, it will never happen.

We must never forget that just like Fantasy Island, we are in the “memory-making” business, where dreams, fantasies, and experiences come to life.

Like the essence of “Hollywood”, we are dream merchants—we sell the illusion, we sell the possibility, we sell the dream, and when the customer leaves, we leave the customer with the realization that his money was well spent.

Does your property provide those dreams? Or do you just shill rooms.

I will discuss in future articles how to accomplish many of those fantasies, dreams, adventures and such that keep customers, young and old, repeat and new, coming back.

Until then, ask yourself: “What would Mr. Roarke do?”


Alan Campbell
Alan Campbell
ALAN is a highly accomplished, results oriented Hotelier with many years of experience in developing and delivering strategies and implementing solid organizational cultures that addresses the needs of the customer, colleagues, owners, community and industry. He has been in Las Vegas for over 30 years and has worked for the major strip hotels. Alan has spent some time in California, Los Angeles where he worked for the Radisson and Sheraton hotels. He considers the hospitality industry the best job in the world – it is the only place that both king’s and Paupers will visit you. Alan is also a featured contributor for, the “Global Hotelier’s Community.”

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