The hospitality sector has endured a roller coaster over the last couple of years. After the global pandemic forced travel to a screeching halt, the hotel industry has come roaring back with an overwhelming amount of competition. Now, both independent and franchised hotels must be extra thoughtful about how and where they allocate their marketing budgets—so they can differentiate themselves from other hotels in the area and encourage new and returning guests to book.
What is an effective hotel marketing strategy?
An effective marketing plan should use a combination of in-person and digital marketing strategies to promote your hotel and leave customers with a positive (and lasting) impression. To do so, you need to identify your target audience and understand what attracts them to your hotel. This information can help position your property as the best option, based on more than just price, and provide guests with an exceptional and memorable experience.
Let’s take a look at some marketing strategies for before, during, and after guest stays.
How to increase direct bookings
Hotels face fierce competition not only from other hotels in the area but also from online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com. While OTAs drive visibility and bookings, every reservation made through them takes a cut out of a direct hotel booking. Below, we’ve outlined some tactics you can use to encourage guests to book directly from your hotel website or app.
1. Optimize your hotel website
Your hotel website should be intuitive, easy to navigate, and designed responsively for desktop and mobile. Use professional photography to showcase unique hotel features and offerings. If possible, upload virtual tours of the property, rooms, and amenities. This can help guests envision their stay. Don’t forget to leverage SEO (search engine optimization) best practices so potential guests can easily find your hotel when searching for accommodations in your area. You can also improve your SEO ranking by writing blogs about local attractions and activities, as well as seasonal events.
If you own a franchised hotel, you may not have full control over your website listing. Since your digital marketing and SEO will likely be handled by the franchise, it’s important to give their team everything they need to make your property stand out—including up-to-date photos, video assets, and information about local attractions and events.
2. Build an email marketing journey
Email marketing is a cost-effective strategy to drive direct bookings. Start by collecting emails from past and potential guests, and segment your audiences. You can then send them personalized emails about special offers, promotions, and incentives. It’s also a great way to inform of safety and cleaning protocols, which have become even more valued following the pandemic.
3. Use social media
Social media channels like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are great resources to help your hotel get discovered. Invite your followers to post and tag photos or videos, try running contests for a chance to win a free stay, use live polling, or create hashtag challenges encouraging guests to upload content and engage with your page. You can also use social media retargeting ads to remind people who visit your page to make a booking.
4. Develop a paid advertising strategy
Bidding on the right search terms and running paid ad campaigns on search engines and social media can help your hotel website show up at the top of the search results page or to targeted audiences that are looking for accommodations in your area.
5. Claim your Google Business profile
Claim your Google Business profile to ensure you control your hotel information. Use your business profile as a direct booking tool by adding reservation links to encourage browsers to book directly from the search results page.
6. Advertise locally
Don’t overlook local offline advertising. Ad placements in print publications, billboards, radio promotions, and event sponsorships are all great ways to promote your hotel. This can be an impactful strategy if you have a specific audience, like corporate event planners, or if your hotel sits on a major highway.
7. Seek out partnerships
Partner with local events such as festivals, conventions, and conferences to get featured on their websites as a preferred vendor. You can also work with influencers to highlight your hotel. Although influencers with massive followings can be costly, travel “micro-influencers” with high engagement can lead to better ROI. Some will even promote your hotel in exchange for a free stay.
8. Promote your event space
If your hotel features event space, promote the fact that you can host meetings, parties, weddings, and other large gatherings. You can offer a special discount or booking packages to event participants who stay at your hotel.
How to elevate the guest experience
Once a guest has booked a stay at your hotel, you can shift your focus on making their experience memorable—so they choose your property again on future visits to the area.
9. Streamline check-in and checkout
Hotel arrivals and departures set the tone for the overall stay. That’s why checking in and out should be as quick and frictionless as possible. If your hotel has an app, incorporate a function that allows guests to check in and out ahead of time without waiting in lines. Shorter lines in your lobby will also free up your front desk staff to tend to guests who need assistance.
10. Make guest services accessible
Make sure hotel guests have what they need during their stay. It should be easy for them to request anything from the front desk, by calling from their room or with a few simple clicks on your app (if your hotel has one).
11. See how their stay is going
Check in with your guests to see how their stay is going by sending emails, SMS texts, or chatting via your hotel app. This can ensure everything is going well, and it allows you to make improvements so they have a positive experience at your hotel.
12. Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful marketing strategy. Make it easy for guests to capture and share online content by creating special moments in your hotel and surrounding property. Content from real customers serves as social proof for future guests and also helps search algorithms rank your site higher.
13. Partner with local businesses
Improve the guest experience and expand your offering by building partnerships with like-minded local businesses. Collaborate with activity operators by promoting unique tour packages or negotiate special rates and discounts at nearby restaurants and shops. Don’t forget to feature them on your website and in your lobby, and ask your business partners to do the same.
14. Incentivize repeat business
Loyalty programs help encourage customers to come back. Rewarding repeat guests with special perks, discounts, or amenity access makes them feel special and incentivizes them to rebook. These programs are especially great for business travelers who appreciate complimentary refreshments, discounted hotel services, and upgrades.
15. Give a welcome gift
Branded welcome gifts act as mementos, helping guests remember their stay. They also act as word-of-mouth advertising especially if your hotel organizes corporate events with a large attendance. Giving away pens, baseball hats, magnets, etc. helps remind guests of their experience and can simultaneously promote your hotel to their social or professional circle.
Post-stay hotel marketing tips
16. Collect guest feedback
Guest feedback is extremely valuable because it helps you understand what your hotel is doing well and where you can improve. Be proactive by sending post-stay feedback requests and resolve issues quickly. Every guest wants to feel heard.
17. Remind guests to leave reviews
Encourage your guests to leave reviews when they check out, and send a post-stay thank you email or SMS. It’s important to respond to reviews when you have the time, as it shows ownership and that you care about what guests have to say. If you can’t respond personally, designate a member of your hotel management team to do so within a few days of when a guest leaves a review.
You have plenty on your plate as a hotel owner, but an effective marketing strategy can help you boost direct bookings, improve the in-stay experience, and keep guests coming back for more. If you use your team, time, and budget wisely, you’ll see that increasing your marketing efforts can be an investment worth making.