Fortes fortuna adiuvat (Fortune favors the bold)

I wish I’d paid more attention to my middle-school Latin or my junior-year ancient history classes. It seems as if every powerful and pithy quotation has its roots in an archaic language or owing to some idolized field master. In this case, I reference the ever-venerated Roman general and dictator, Gaius Julius Caesar, notorious for conquering France, England and then all of Rome.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat translates to English as “fortune favors the bold.” Caesar was a firm believer in this, willing to bet decade-long military campaigns and hundreds of thousands of lives on his wit and audacious tactical advances. He even paid tribute to the Roman goddess of luck, Fortuna. Aside from a minor miscalculation involving the betrayal of some close friends around the Ides of March, Caesar was already primed for the annals of history.

This idealistic tenet holds true today, even if you aren’t a rampaging warmonger like Caesar and are a much more earnest hotel manager. Fortune does indeed favor those hoteliers who take bold steps.

Boldness in hotel management and marketing comes in many different, and largely creative, forms. As the industry warps under the tugging forces of electronica and generational shifts, let’s never forget that courage will forever be needed to stand apart and make an impact. Here are several examples of bold marketing strategies to help get you in the mood and remind you of what the hotel industry is capable of.

Holiday Inn: For the first to have computerized reservations, and the first to take bookings online. Holiday Inn was also the first international brand to open a hotel in China. Holiday Inn has so many firsts! Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, a trip to its website shows just how far this industry has come.

Westin Hotels: For the advertising campaign “Do You Know Who She/He/We Are Sleeping With?” This was an intrepid selling line that captured the imagination of television viewers across North America. Does anyone still remember when hotels advertised on all the national networks with campaigns that focused on their core values?

Howard Johnson: For its “Kids Eat and Stay Free” program. The cost of a cot in the room and a simple children’s menu captured the imagination of family travelers. There is some dispute as to whether other chains had precedence, but HoJo is the one that made it the staple of its business.

Sheraton Hotels: For creating Four Points by Sheraton, the first promoted budget-priced variation that haloed the original brand. At last, a knock-off brand segmentation project that worked wonders! By creating a lower-priced product but still including the recognized Sheraton brand name, this product attracted budget-savvy customers who eagerly relied on Sheraton for an extension of their quality assurance.

Kimpton Hotels: For its “Lonely Goldfish” promotional program. There are so many great initiatives taken by this boutique chain that it’s hard to choose which one deserves the most praise! Alas, I had to pick one. From a public relations standpoint, the goldfish program delivers some of the best return on investment I’ve ever witnessed. How much does a goldfish and a water bowl cost, after all?

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts: For, amongst many other daring advancements, removing the shampoo and amenity pouches and replacing them with mini bottles. Four Seasons is a leader in so many ways that it’s hard to single out the greatest impact it has had on our industry. I chose the mini shampoo bottles, as I’m old enough to remember how ludicrous it was to use shampoo foil pouches in the shower.

Hyatt for Passport Gold and Hilton for HHonors, the first true hotel loyalty rewards programs. These two loyalty programs were the precursors and progenitors for a myriad of consumer incentive programs. Now, pretty much every property, chain or independent has the opportunity to participate, and a lot of times, we better partake if they hope to keep their customer loyalty base.

All hoteliers who bravely offered free Wi-Fi despite all the naysayers citing bandwidth and legacy costs as well as competitors levying a charge for this service. Internet access is not free, and someone has to pay for it. Hoteliers who recognize that their guests see this as a primary amenity — in the same light as water, electricity and heating — deserve full credit for progressing out of a Flintstonian belief system.

This is just my list. Which bold and broad actions would you like to nominate?