Five Essential Reads for Hotel Managers

November 23, 2016




The Disney Institute


As the link between customer service and bottom-line success in the hotel business becomes clearer, we’re seeing more focus on staff-guest interactions within our industry. Disney is a worthwhile case study, and this book (first published in 2003, but updated in 2011 with new material) gives useful insights and anecdotes into how Disney has become a symbolic leader in making guests feel special. A great read for any hotelier who believes that adequate customer service is simply not enough.


Without Reservations


J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr.


The second most valuable hotel chain in the world may seem like a lofty — perhaps too lofty — source of inspiration for today’s hotel manager. But Marriott Hotels actually started as a nine-seat root beer stand in 1927. The author, J.W. Marriott Jr., takes the reader on fascinating journey through the ever-changing landscape of the hospitality business, sharing timeless insights on how to navigate change and better your hotel brand.


A Hotel is a Place


Shelley Berman


This little gem was published back in 1972 by an American humorist who never worked in a hotel and couldn’t possibly be described as a hospitality expert. Anyone expecting academic insights here will be sorely disappointed. But it can’t all be serious, can it? Most hotel managers out there could do with a good dose of levity, and Berman’s book provides that. His observational humor on everything from bathroom soap to room service orders can make the most stoic hotelier crack a smile. And if you look carefully, the laughter adds up to something more: Useful insights on how guests think, and how hotels can improve.




Jonah Berger


This NY Times bestseller is yet another entry in the “21st century digital marketing” canon, a publishing category currently dominated by names like Seth Godin and Malcom Gladwell. It can all get rather tiresome, listening to marketing gurus illuminate the nature of reality. Contagious is a good one for hoteliers, though, because it explores how information and marketing efforts spread socially, organically, from one person to the next. It’s easy for hoteliers to get caught up in SEO and content marketing, but what are the fundamental values that inspire people to carry your message free of charge?


And, if you can’t find the time for a book, at least read Think Strawberries a speech given in 1974 by James Lavenson which still resonates and inspires me over 40 years later.


Other books


There are many other books that prove useful to hoteliers today, including:


  • Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

  • Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp

  • Raise the Bar by John Taffer

  • Start with Why by Simon Senek

  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin; and of course

  • The Road to Hospitality by Viv O’Shannessy and Dean Minett!


Hotel managers live in a hectic world. A world that is constantly being shaped and re-shaped. A world characterized by endless streams of digital information. Why are books such a great medium for professional and creative growth in our industry? Because they pull us out of that digital stream. They allow us to absorb ideas at a slower, more reflective pace. They inspire us to see where our industry has come from, and where it’s going. Reading, it has also been shown, can reduce stress levels. As professionals in one of the most stressful jobs out there, what more reason do we need?


So maybe reading isn’t such a bad idea after all.


For hotel managers in need of some inspiration, insight, clarity and even humour, here are five essential books to put on the shelf in your office — or perhaps even under the front desk.


Be Our Guest


It’s no exaggeration to say that hotel management is one of the most stressful occupations out there — and this is well documented. Academic research going back to the late nineties shows that stress for hotel managers is constantly escalating. One study found that stress doubled between 1998 and 2008 — a striking correlation to the rise of online bookings and digital marketing. Our industry has changed a lot already, and shows no signs of leveling off. Hotel managers are taking the brunt of the stress.


Hotel guests may find it possible to think this is true, even though it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone who has actually worked in hospitality management knows there’s not a lot of leisure time involved. Even if you’re not working on marketing, revenue management or promotional offers, there’s always a guest that needs to be taken care of, a situation that needs to be addressed.


We all know that hotel managers have nothing to do but sit around and read books, right? Half the time they’re just standing at the front desk with their Kindle or a paperback, waiting for something exciting to happen in real life.



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