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Rob Perkins Writer

Pictures can only tell half the story (Image source)



Many luxury hotels will naturally devote plenty of attention to the design and imagery of their websites, yet will often neglect the quality of the copy around those images.


It doesn’t matter how good the photographer is, a picture can only ever tell someone what a hotel looks like. Photos can show the plunge pools outside every villa in your resort, but they can’t tell prospective guests how they will feel as they take their morning soak. A photo can showcase the dishes created by world-class chefs in your resort’s restaurants, but it can’t stir their imagination in the same way that evocative descriptions of aromas and flavours can. Not can a photo completely invoke the tranquility of dozing in a hammock strung between palm trees on a private beach.


Effective copywriting for luxury hotels is just as essential as beautiful images. Here’s eight valuable tips on how to write better hotel copy, and what to avoid.


Sell the benefits, not the features


Any luxury hotel worth its salt will have an impressive range of features such as designer toiletries, rainforest showers or multimedia entertainment systems. Rather than simply listing them, your copy needs to show why they matter.


Using the five senses, sell the experience of staying in your hotel. So not just the thread count in the sheets, but how it will feel to sink into them after a full day of activities on the beach.




Suites with spacious, shaded balconies


Your suite’s ample private balcony is the ideal place from where to enjoy the island’s famously vibrant sunsets.


Which sounds more convincing to you?


Luxury hotel copywriting

It’s not enough to list features in your hotel copywriting. You need to show the benefit. (Image source)


Find what makes your hotel unique


Very few luxury hotels are fortunate enough to have no direct competition nearby. In fact the world’s most glamorous or idyllic destinations are often crowded with high-end properties and resorts.


If you want your hotel to stand apart from your competitors, then you need to find what makes it truly unique.


Chances are, that’s not going to be the size of your swimming pool or your proximity to the ocean.


But it might be the way that you’ve incorporated local materials and craftsmanship into your hotel’s decor, or that the property is rooted in history and tradition. It could be that only you can offer candlelit meals for two on the beach with a personal butler, or that your thatched villas are better than any other at providing romantic castaway seclusion.


Sometimes it may take a while to find it, but you can be sure there is definitely something unique about your hotel.


Listen to what your guests are saying


The scope for user-generated content in the tourism and leisure industry is vast. Where once your hotel might have solicited feedback in its guestbook, today you can retrieve valuable information from your social media pages, your blog or TripAdvisor among many other sources.


Paying attention to what your clients are saying before, during and after their stay, and how they are saying it, is a golden rule for the hospitality industry. It ensures your standards of customer service always go above and beyond.


But if certain comments, questions, criticisms or compliments are appearing frequently, these should necessarily inform the copy on your website. Addressing issues, or answering questions right there on the page establishes authority and increases the likelihood of quick conversions.


Getting the tone of voice right


Many of the travel brands I’ve worked with on hotel copywriting have a long-established tone of voice they use in all client communications. That consistency helps shape a brand’s identity, but for a freelance writer coming in from the outside, mastering the tone of voice and then replicating it fluently is often the trickiest part of the job.


How does a hotel judge if it’s addressing its clients in the right tone of voice? How does it decide whether to adopt a personal, chatty tone or go with a more formal approach?


I suggest subscribing to the same types of magazines, newspapers and blogs as your clients do. People will often gravitate to styles of writing that they like and with which they can identify. So if you’re reading the same things, you can learn what kind of language is going to work for your hotel.


It should go without saying that the tone of voice you use on your website should carry through into every piece of literature you produce, from paid ads to brochures, inhouse magazines to menus.


Avoid clichéd language


I’ve seen plenty of copywriting briefs for luxury hotels and travel companies, and what almost all of them tend to have in common is a firm instruction to avoid clichéd expressions and turns of phrase wherever possible. Some even go as far as to list a few of the worst-offenders including: hidden gem; crystal-clear waters; bespoke and exclusive. These terms are so overused that they’re practically meaningless.


If you want to market your property as a luxury hotel, then you need to explain exactly why it fits that description. Detail, rather than banal meaningless language, is what readers are looking for.


Descriptions should be vivid but packed with solid, useful information. Specify the qualities of the bedding you use, exactly what can be seen from the infinity pool, the ingredients used in your spa treatments, and the technique your chef uses to make his steaks so irresistible.


Professional hotel copywriter

Sometimes cliches can be hard to avoid. (Image source)


Focus on conversions


The best luxury hotel copy can inform, entertain and inspire the reader. But it should always have one very clear focus – increasing conversions. Whether it be driving bookings, growing the subscribers for your newsletter or generating useful client feedback, marketing materials need to do their job or they need to be replaced.


With that in mind, there should be a specific purpose for every page on your website. The copywriter needs to understand that purpose, and ensure that every word on the page is contributing towards it.


Straightforward, easy-to-understand copy featuring persuasive and clear calls to action encourages the reader to take the next step in the process, and brings you one step closer to your conversion goal. Anything needlessly extraneous can be lopped away, and the space given to copy that is more effective.


Maintain a blog


Sometimes the facilities you offer and even your rates will be secondary to where your hotel is actually located. Many travellers will choose their hotel at least in part because of what’s in the surrounding area.


If your hotel is close to the airport, a major business district, a stadium or a popular attraction such as a theme park, then you can rely on regular custom. But if there are no obvious big-ticket attractions near your hotel, then it’s up to you to bring them to your guests’ attention. A dedicated page on your website can showcase the activities available nearby, points of interest such as natural landmarks, or annual events.


However, a well-written blog, updated frequently, is a fantastic way to go into more detail and really sell a destination. A blog is another way to connect with your clients, both existing and prospective, to establish authority and also boost your SEO performance.


It always amazes me how few luxury hotels keep their own blog, given that it can take only a couple of hours a month to maintain, and the potential benefits that can be accrued.


Another point. Good copy is worth the investment. If you can’t find a suitable travel copywriter that knows your local area well, then you need to hire one that can research deep enough to write about it as though they do (drops massive hint).


Telling your story


It’s true that ‘storytelling’ is a very overused phrase in content marketing. But still there is always a place for an authentic and interesting story that can build an emotional connection between you and your clients.


Once you’ve nailed your story, you can use it at the foundation for all of your marketing across every platform. Because your hotel brand’s story is not just a couple of short paragraphs to be buried on your website. It informs who you are, the relationships you have with your staff, your clientele and the people, culture and environment of the surrounding area.


The trick, of course, is in finding your individual story, but there are always clues that can help you get started. Think about the reason that you decided to start this hotel, or to build it in this specific location. What kind of an experience do you want your guests to have, and what motivates your team every day.


This is another area where closely studying customer feedback can help. If you can establish what people are getting from your hotel (beyond occasionally purloining the towels) then you are very close to the roots of your story.


Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.


Lizzie Borden guesthouse, Fall River


Dark Tourism 


Dark Tourism is a growing trend in visiting landmarks around the world that have a morbid fascination to them. Guided tours of Jack the Ripper’s old hunting grounds in Whitechapel, London are a good example. My own interest in Dark Tourism stems from around 2009, when I first heard of Elena Filatova. This Ukrainian photojournalist, sometimes known as the ‘Kid of Speed’, claims to have repeatedly visited the area around Chernobyl and Pripyat to document its isolation and devastation. Her accounts of motorbike tours through the dead zone have been questioned by sceptics, but whatever the actual truth behind them, I’ve always found her unique essays both haunting and fascinating.




A couple of years ago we were driving through Texas from Austin to Dallas, and happened to pass quite close to the city of Waco. In 1993 the FBI laid siege to a compound near here that was inhabited by a religious group, the Branch Davidians. After a couple of months the standoff ended in tragedy, with nearly 80 people killed. Purely out of morbid curiosity, we decided to make a small detour and look around for a while.


Passing through the town itself, I had a very odd sensation of the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I couldn’t tell you what caused it, Waco seemed like a tranquil small American town, but it just creeped me out all the same.


We pulled over close to where the compound used to stand – it was bulldozed after the siege ended – and snapped a couple of photos. The area was completely deserted, and noiseless, and that eerie atmosphere made my skin crawl even more. Then, far off in the distance up a track, we saw a white pick-up truck start making its way toward us. It began to accelerate and although it seemed unlikely it was someone coming to talk to us, we figured we’d make like a banana anyway.




Cut to about two months later, and we had arrived on the outskirts of Boston. We’d rented an AirBnB way out in the gorgeous Massachusetts countryside, one of the most idyllic spots you could hope to find. It took us an hour to drive into the city itself, and after the first couple of days covering the main historic landmarks such as the Freedom Trail and the harbour, we decided to spend the rest of our week exploring the surrounding area.

I was idly browsing online for ideas on where to go and what to do, when I realised that we were only a half-hour drive from Fall River.


During the latter half of the 19th century, Lizzie Borden lived with her family in this sleepy Massachusetts town. Kind of like Waco, first impressions make it seem like the kind of place where not a great deal happens worthy of catching national attention. But in 1892, Fall River became famous not just nationally but around the world, when the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden, Lizzie’s father and stepmother, were discovered on a hot August morning. They had both been battered to death with a hatchet.


Lizzie Borden


The ensuing investigation and trial became an American cause célèbre. Lizzie was the prime suspect from day one. Her relationships with the victims were difficult, she had behaved suspiciously on the morning of the murders and afterward, and all the evidence pointed to the killer being a member of the household. American society was rocked to the core by the brutal murders of two upstanding members of the community, and the daughter standing accused.


Lizzie was tried and acquitted, and spent the rest of her life ostracized by the Fall River community, many of whom thought she was the culprit. The truth of what happened on that day is buried firmly in the past, but pick up any book about infamous crimes from history, and you can be sure there will be a chapter about Lizzie Borden.


Visiting the Lizzie Borden House


Despite its macabre history, the Borden house is now a popular bed and breakfast in Fall River. Reading up on it, I learned you can take a guided tour of the property, which has been partially converted into a museum. Sold.


Lizzie Borden Museum and Bed & Breakfast


I convinced Maria to come along with me by mentioning that Fall River has a distinctive Portuguese culture and she might be able to pick up a few traditional delicacies from back home while I was indulging the darker side of my personality. She wasn’t especially enthused about the idea, but my limited skills of persuasion eventually paid off.


We got into town nice and early, as I hadn’t booked ahead. Then, after settling the family in a cafe for an hour or so, I made my way to the Borden house.


The tour begins, as so many savvy tours of this nature do, with a short wait in the gift shop. I had plenty of time to browse a vast collection of trinkets which ran the gamut from the obvious, such as books and dvds about the case and souvenir t-shirts, to the frankly bizarre – fridge magnets bearing an image of the crime scene, and cookie cutters in the shape of a hatchet, anyone? Observing how such a tragic event has been turned into a profitable merchandising line was probably the weirdest part of the day.


We started exploring the house in the living room, where Andrew Borden was found dead on the sofa. A replica hatchet was propped up on a cushion where his body would have lain. Our guide explained the events leading up to the murders, and how the maid claimed to have been asleep at the time, so that only Lizzie and her parents were known to have been moving around the house.


Replica hatchet on sofa


Next we headed upstairs to see the bedroom where Abby Borden, Andrew’s second wife and Lizzie’s unloved stepmother, was found slumped in a corner. She had been caught while making up the bed. In another strange twist, a few members of the group were invited at this point to get down on their hands and knees and assume Abby’s huddled death position for photographs.


Abby Borden death scene


After this unique photo opportunity, we moved downstairs to the dining room where memorabilia included faded photographs of the family, the trial jury, the arresting officers and a board on which the bodies were carried away. In a display case next to the dining table can be seen a couple of replica skulls showing the damage caused by the hatchet to the victims’ heads. Imagine your gaze falling on them while you’re eating your boiled eggs in the morning.


Replica skull

Lizzie Borden House


This is probably the strangest, most darkly fascinating museum I’ve ever visited. I’ll be honest, I would have liked to stay overnight for the thrill of it, but the bed & breakfast was full, and I got the feeling Maria might have raised a few objections.


Perhaps because no-one can ever be sure what really happened, or because the thought of a respectable young woman suddenly snapping in such a horrific manner both repulsed and fascinated society, the Lizzie Borden case is an enduring mystery in American culture. As is the fact that I got through this entire article without making a cheap remark about burying the hatchet.


Find information on tour of the Lizzie Borden Museum and booking a stay at the Bed & Breakfast


You often hear it said that visitors at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo are tolerated rather than welcomed. The truth behind that sentiment becomes unnervingly apparent the first moment you hear the squeal of wet tyres behind you and spin around to see a forklift truck laden with polystyrene crates bearing down at speed and you realise that he’s not going to swerve, or brake, or even bother to shout a warning, and you’re either going to move or you’d better have good travel insurance. If you’re lucky then the wheels pass within a fish scale of your foot and you can breathe a sigh of relief and disappear back into the crowd, embarrassed but at least not roadkill.


This type of thing tends to happen a lot in the dark, crowded lanes of Tsukiji – concentration, spacial awareness and heightened senses are paramount, so you don’t wear headphones here. Nor do you wear open-toed shoes if you know what’s good for you, or sunglasses, and you certainly don’t wield a camera with a flash because there’s a lot of people in here swinging very sharp knives around with great dexterity and strength and skill and you really do not want to put one of them off their stroke.


We’d walked into Tsukiji around 6am, too late to queue for the famous tuna auction but too early still to have built up any kind of substantial appetite for the sushi served in the outer market, which is said to be the best, and certainly about the freshest, you could ever taste. Strictly speaking I’m a ramen guy all the way but I’d found a scrunched-up receipt in my pocket a few days earlier with the name “Okame” scrawled on it by and I saw it as some kind of prophecy we had to meet!


Tsukiji is one of those “raw and authentic” Tokyo experiences that everyone naturally wants to have, so you can find a hundred-and-one guides on “how to Do Tsukiji Right” but frankly there can be no right way because for most of us there’s never been anywhere quite like it on this earth and you haven’t the first idea how to deal with it, let alone escape it if you become trapped.


You might assume that a place like this would reek from some distance but in truth you don’t really notice the smell, at least not immediately, because a lot of the seafood is still frozen solid or not far off, and anyway it’s so fresh it probably thinks it’s still in the ocean. No, you experience Tsukiji first and foremost through your ears. The slops. The slits. The splashes. The curses. The cheers. The yells. The horns. Then you gradually become aware of the intense cold – that’s another reason why sightseers aren’t especially welcome here – all these warm bodies have a habit of fritzing with the sensitive climate-controlled atmosphere.


Tsukiji FIsh Market, Tokyo

Tsukiji FIsh Market, Tokyo

Dried octopus for sale


History of Tsukiji


Tokyo’s first food markets were established by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Edo period to feed the residents of his castle. In under 300 years Edo itself grew from a tiny coastal village to become a sprawling metropolis, largely on the strength of its fishing industry. Traders would hawk their leftover fish at the Nihonbashi bridge, which was the eastern terminus of the legendary Nakasendō and Tōkaidō roads. In 1923 the bridge and the market along with much of central Tokyo, were destroyed by the Great Kantō earthquake which was so powerful it apparently shifted the Great Buddha statue of Kamakura (93 tonnes) some two feet off its plinth, and it was decided to create several other fish markets in its stead. One of them, Tsukiji, was situated for convenience on the west bank of the Sumida River and today it ranks as the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. Recent efforts to shift the market to a more sanitised and less valuable stretch of real estate seem to have become bogged down in worries about safety and pollution, so for now at least Tsukiji and its place in Tokyo culture remain firmly rooted to the spot.


It is a sprawling, poorly lit maze of narrow alleys that are lined with rusty, filthy old corrugated iron sheds, many of them probably erected after the earthquake and never replaced. An easy place to get lost in, and not an unhappy one if you can cope with the woozy feeling of jetlagged mayhem that it sometimes induces. The red-eyed men and women that work here lifting and cutting and scraping and draining and packing were taught to do so by their parents, who were taught by their own parents in turn, and so on back through the mists of time. When one of these artisans, for that is surely what they are, rips a meaty chunk of swordfish from under the two-man band saw and flings it across the aisle to his partner, you can walk underneath with confidence because it has been aimed with precision, even if neither one was actually looking.


This fever dream of a place is not for those who squeam easily – there’s more blood and guts slopping and channeling around the uneven cobbled floor in Tsukiji fish market by 9am than you would have found at even Rome’s goriest gladiator spectaculars come sunset. Heads go in this bucket, tails go in that bucket, nothing is wasted.


And what do we have here? Polystyrene creates full of squishy sea cucumbers, giant spider crabs and crayfish; hollow-eyed squid sombrely resigned to their fate; huge tanks full of live oysters, sea urchins and prawns; ripe red salmon roe; tray after tray of mackerel packed in ice; predatory bonitos become the prey; thick clumps of translucent nori as densely green as the forest; tightly clenched clams being shelled rapid-fire by laser focused old women sporting darkly stained aprons; size-conscious sardines awkwardly positioned next to monstrous barracudas; disarmed swordfish in varying states of intactness; squirmy conger eels headed for the sushi stalls; the occasional octopus making a desperate crawl for freedom across the filthy floor before being noticed and flung derisively back into the tank alongside its doomed brethren; here and there a deadly toxic puffer fish to be carved with utmost care; sea squirts, lobsters and the ubiquitous and massive bluefin tuna fresh from both Pacific and Atlantic, its flesh either thickly sliced and frozen or shaved into feathery pink flakes, its eyes removed, bagged and sold as delicacies. And, it is said, blubbery slabs of whale meat if you know the right person to ask.






Tuna Slicing



The Famous Tsukiji Tuna Auction


The tuna auction at Tsukiji begins around 5.30am, and with a maximum of 120 visitors invited to watch from the sidelines, places are granted strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the auction is the gargantuan size of the tuna themselves – I knew they grew big, but I didn’t know they got this big. It made me think about the guys who catch tuna with a pole out in the ocean, and how crazy you’d need to be to enter an arm-wrestling contest with one of them.


Tuna Auction


After the auction finishes, you can move into the vast wholesale section and wander around pretty much at your leisure, so long as you don’t expect to be welcomed with open arms, or even acknowledged most of the time. The people who work here might not be wearing business dress but you’d better believe they have deadlines to meet too and they’re not going to risk missing them just to exchange a few pleasantries.


We made our way to the outer section, and found Okame without too much difficulty. The queue outside the little roadside shack was long but we figured it was worth waiting it out for a while, and sure enough within 20 minutes we were seated with trays of colourful nigiri in front of us, including some buttery sea urchin, dusted with salt for a little extra tang. Most of the other customers in the place had their heads down concentrating on their food so we bowed to their wisdom and followed suit.


Need more information about visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.