This much I know: Derek Taylor, hotel marketing pioneer

05 August 2022 by
This much I know: Derek Taylor, hotel marketing pioneer

As the hotel sales and marketing pioneer turns 90, he tells James Stagg what he has learned in a lifetime in hospitality and why the fundamentals remain as important as ever

The fundamentals remain the same in the hospitality industry. If you were the chairman of Ford, you would expect the production director to produce the cars and the sales director to sell them. In hospitality we make the mistake that the expert hotel director who builds the product is also the sales director. So we end up making mistakes in the way we sell hotels.

The welcome at every hotel is vital. Yet when you drive up to a hotel, frequently you are greeted by a sign saying ‘no parking'. For 60 years I have tried to get the industry to say ‘very sorry, no parking' instead. It's the same with ‘closed' signs. What use is saying that something is closed? It's much better to let the customer know when something opens.

Marketing is about putting the advertising in the right place. For example, in a lift where does everyone look? At the numbers. So why put advertising at the back of the lift, which is behind the customer? It's these little changes that will make a real difference.

Everyone told me that short-break holidays couldn't work. Now it is a market that is worth £6b. When the five-day week gave everyone a weekend, it became possible to invent a new product in 1963. We worked with the railways to sell the products in every station in the country. There were two brands: Stardust mini holidays and Camelot mini holidays. It was the first time anyone had packaged a product in a hotel.

The most important thing is to learn from all of your contacts. When I stopped selling hotel rooms to the likes of Unilever and other major companies, I used to tap their brains to find out what they knew that I didn't.

If you look at a hotel's operation they will know what happened to every portion of a bottle of gin. But if you ask what proportion of emails are translated into definite bookings, I'm not sure whether that exists. We must be the first to pick up the phone or respond to communication to win business.

Headlines are an important sales tool. I introduced them to adverts in the industry. There has to be a reason for a guest to stay at a hotel. We introduced price prominently too and sold a message to guests. The industry still isn't great at selling itself.

The British don't like working in the restaurant or reception. They make excellent porters and wonderful housekeepers, and that's how they like to work. In the 1970s we were desperate for staff and had to look outside the country. Back then, immigration from the Philippines helped us.

Schoolteachers still don't tell their students they should consider the hotel industry. We need to have a campaign so that senior representatives call in at schools and sell the industry. Other industries do with some success. There needs to be an organisation to organise these campaigns.

The growth of the hotel industry can be put down to the total absence of interest from the government. The sector has expanded for 70 years without any problems, and as long as the government can leave us to get on with it then we will continue to be successful.

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