<img alt="" src="https://secure.leadforensics.com/265710.png" style="display:none;">

Benchmarking Drives Mediocracy: Rethink How We Measure Success

21 May 2024
In the competitive hospitality industry, benchmarking has become the go-to strategy for hotels to assess how they compare to their competitors. However, this approach can stifle innovation and lead to a culture of mediocrity. The benchmarking trap is simple. Hotels below the industry standard scramble to catch up, frantically copying the "best practices" of their more successful rivals. Those who exceed the benchmark, on the other hand, may rest on their laurels, believing they've already "won." The result? A relentless race to the middle, where hotels become indistinguishable from one another, offering cookie-cutter experiences that fail to inspire or delight guests.
Learning from best practices is a necessary part of any business strategy. However, relying solely on imitation is a recipe for stagnation. To truly thrive, hotels must move beyond simply matching the competition and instead focus on creating unique, unforgettable experiences that set them apart. In this blog post, we'll explore the dangers of benchmarking, explain why "above benchmark" isn't enough, and offer actionable strategies for hotels to break free from the mold and embrace true differentiation.

Blind Spots in Benchmarking

The benchmarking trap is a multifaceted issue that ensnares hotels at both ends of the spectrum—those below industry standards and those who have seemingly surpassed them. In both cases, an overreliance on benchmarking can lead to short-sighted decisions and a loss of focus on what truly drives long-term success.
For hotels lagging, the trap lies in frantically chasing metrics like occupancy rates and RevPAR. While necessary for financial health, these figures can become an obsession, leading to a narrow focus on short-term gains at the expense of long-term growth. A hotel might aggressively discount rooms to boost occupancy, neglecting guest experience and harming their brand reputation. This short-sighted approach can lead to a vicious cycle of discounting and diminishing returns, ultimately undermining the hotel's ability to attract loyal, high-value guests.
Meanwhile, hotels exceeding industry benchmarks often fall victim to complacency. They mistake a high RevPAR for a guarantee of continued success, neglecting to invest in innovation or differentiation. This error can be fatal as guest expectations evolve, technology advances, and competitors don't stand still.
Consider a hotel that consistently achieves high occupancy rates but suffers from low guest satisfaction. While the numbers might look good on paper, negative online reviews, poor word-of-mouth, and a lack of repeat business will eventually erode the hotel's standing. In this case, the relentless pursuit of occupancy has blinded management to the bigger picture: creating a positive, memorable experience that fosters guest loyalty and long-term profitability.
This phenomenon is evident throughout the hotel industry. In design, we see a proliferation of trendy minimalist aesthetics, often at the expense of character and local flavor. In this bland design, many hotels want to become more "Instagrammable" and now boast identical millennial-pink accents, neon signs, and plant-filled lobbies, all vying for the same social media attention. While visually appealing, these trends homogenize the guest experience, leaving little room for hotels to express their unique personality or location-specific charm.
Similarly, the amenities arms race has resulted in a standardized offering of free Wi-Fi, fitness centers, and complimentary breakfast buffets. While these perks are undoubtedly appreciated, they do little to differentiate one hotel from the next, leading to price-driven competition that erodes profit margins.
Even marketing campaigns have fallen prey to the benchmarking trap. Buzzwords like "luxury," "boutique," and "eco-friendly" are used indiscriminately, blurring the lines between truly unique offerings and those simply following the latest trends. As a result, hotels bombarded guests with generic messaging that fails to capture the essence of what makes each hotel unique.
Breaking free from this trap requires a fundamental shift in mindset. Instead of fixating on numerical benchmarks, hotels need to embrace their unique strengths and invest in creating experiences that resonate deeply with guests. Hotels can break the mold and forge lasting success by prioritizing innovation, personalization, and authenticity.

Best Practices: A Necessary Evil?

It would be foolish to dismiss the value of best practices entirely. Learning from the successes (and failures) of others is an essential part of any industry, and hospitality is no exception. Adopting proven strategies can save hotels valuable time and resources, helping them avoid costly mistakes and streamline operations.
However, mindlessly copying best practices without considering their relevance or adaptability is a recipe for mediocrity. Simply replicating what others do won't lead to lasting success or differentiation. Instead, it creates a homogenized landscape where hotels become indistinguishable.
The key to effectively leveraging best practices lies in adaptation. Hotels must critically evaluate each practice, considering how it aligns with their unique brand identity, target audience, and overall goals. A luxury boutique hotel, for example, might adopt certain aspects of a successful loyalty program from a large chain but tailor it to offer more exclusive, personalized rewards that resonate with their discerning clientele.
Similarly, a hotel targeting budget-conscious travelers might learn from a competitor's operational efficiencies but adapt them to maintain a focus on affordability and value. The goal is not to replicate but to integrate and evolve best practices to enhance a hotel's unique value proposition.
By approaching best practices with a discerning eye and a willingness to adapt, hotels can learn from the industry's collective wisdom without sacrificing individuality. This approach allows them to stay ahead of the curve while maintaining their unique identity, ultimately leading to a more diverse and vibrant hospitality landscape.

Beyond Benchmarking: Strategies for True Differentiation

To truly thrive in the competitive hospitality landscape, hotels must shift their focus from comparison to innovation. Instead of fixating on matching industry benchmarks, they must embrace their unique strengths and create experiences that resonate deeply with guests.

Identifying and Leveraging Unique Strengths

Every hotel has a story to tell. Whether it's a historic property steeped in local lore, a boutique hotel with a distinct design aesthetic, or a resort nestled in a breathtaking natural setting, each establishment possesses unique qualities to create unforgettable experiences.
  • Location: Is your hotel in a vibrant city center, a tranquil countryside, or a culturally rich neighborhood? Embrace and incorporate the local flavor into your hotel's design, amenities, and activities.
  • History: Does your hotel have a fascinating backstory or a connection to local history? Share this narrative with guests through curated exhibits, storytelling events, or historical tours.
  • Culture: What are the unique cultural traditions and customs of your region? Integrate them into your hotel's offerings, from local cuisine and artisanal products to traditional music and dance performances.
  • Architecture and Design: Does your hotel boast a unique architectural style or interior design? Highlight these features through guided tours, photography exhibitions, or design-focused events.
  • Amenities and Services: What sets your hotel's amenities and services apart? Whether it's a rooftop infinity pool, a world-class spa, or a Michelin-starred restaurant, showcase these unique offerings as a crucial part of your hotel's identity.

Creating Unforgettable Guest Experiences

Once you've identified your unique strengths, the next step is translating them into unforgettable guest experiences. These experiences should be authentic, engaging, and challenging to replicate, leaving a lasting impression on your guests and fostering a sense of loyalty.
  • Personalized Service: Go above and beyond to anticipate and cater to your guests' needs and preferences. Remember their names, offer tailored recommendations, and surprise them with thoughtful gestures.
  • Local Experiences: Curate unique experiences that immerse guests in the local culture, such as cooking classes with regional chefs, guided tours of historical sites, or artisanal workshops showcasing local crafts.
  • Storytelling: Weave a captivating narrative around your hotel's history, culture, or design. Share this story with guests through interactive exhibits, engaging social media content, or personalized welcome notes.
  • Community Engagement: Partner with local businesses, artisans, and organizations to create a network of mutually beneficial relationships that enrich the guest experience and support the local community.

Examples of Differentiated Success

Numerous hotels have avoided the benchmarking trap by focusing on their unique strengths and creating unforgettable guest experiences. For example, the hotel Ett Hem in Stockholm has cultivated a loyal following by offering a home-like atmosphere, personalized service, and a focus on Swedish design and culture.
The Brando resort in French Polynesia has achieved international acclaim for its commitment to sustainability, luxurious accommodations, and immersive Polynesian cultural experiences. The Adare Manor in Ireland has become a sought-after destination for its stunning castle setting, world-class golf course, and dedication to preserving local heritage.
These examples demonstrate that true differentiation is not about chasing trends or mimicking competitors. It's about embracing your hotel's unique identity and creating experiences that leave a lasting impression on guests, fostering loyalty and driving long-term success.


While benchmarking is valuable for understanding the competitive landscape, it should never be the sole compass guiding a hotel's strategy. Fixating industry averages and replicating best practices can lead to a race to the middle, where differentiation is lost, and guest experiences become homogenized.
It's time for a paradigm shift. Hoteliers must embrace their unique strengths, prioritize innovation, and cultivate unforgettable guest experiences. Hotels must move beyond meeting industry standards and instead focus on creating something exceptional.
Instead of asking, "How do we compare?" hotels should ask, "How do we stand out?" By identifying and leveraging their unique value propositions, whether it be through personalized service, local experiences, or captivating storytelling, hotels can break free from the benchmarking trap and create a lasting legacy.
The hospitality industry is ripe for disruption. It's time for hotels to lead the charge, not by following the pack but by forging their path. The future belongs to those who dare to be different, prioritize innovation over imitation, and strive to create experiences that guests will cherish long after they check out.
So, hoteliers, I challenge you to break free from the benchmarking trap. Embrace your unique identity. Innovate, differentiate, and create unforgettable guest experiences. The world is waiting for the next generation of hotels to lead.