In the hospitality industry competition is fierce! Every day, travelers worldwide choose between hundreds of accommodation options at any price range.
So, how will you stand out in the hotel industry? How will you show potential guests you are exactly what they need and desire? Through an effective marketing strategy, of course!
Which are the best marketing strategies for hotels?
Although there isn’t a “one-fits-all” solution in hospitality marketing, there are basic strategies that will help you increase revenue, reservation rates, and customer retention.
However, before deciding which is best, you must build a hotel marketing plan based on your hotel needs. It will help you clarify your mission and goals. Besides, it will be the perfect opportunity to identify your target audience and your competitors and check what is happening in the industry.
To help you get started, I’ll present you with some of the best hotel marketing strategies.
Reward direct bookings
When it comes to hotel revenue, direct bookings are the holy grail! Every hotel marketer knows they must rely less on third-party channels to increase profits. Thus, the hotel receives the full payment instead of paying a commission on each new reservation.
How to increase direct bookings?
There are many ways you can encourage your guest to book directly with the hotel. And some of them are easier than you think!
- Invest in SEO
Search engine optimization is the perfect tool to build a strong online presence. Start with a user-friendly website that your hotel guests can easily find. Present an intuitive built-in booking engine to encourage direct bookings. As a bonus, use social media channels and email marketing to stir up their appetite for a getaway.
Since people spend most of their time on smartphones, why not build a mobile-friendly website? Plus, upload high-quality images of your property and optimize the website content. You must guarantee your hotel ranks first in the page results! It will make your hotel pop!
- Build a Loyalty Program
Customer experience is paramount in any hotel business. Besides providing excellent service, your guests must feel welcomed! Encourage them to book directly by providing exclusive offers through a loyalty program.
How can you make this happen?
– Offer a room upgrade or a late check-out;
– Provide special rates for repeated guests;
– Apply a discount on hotel services;
– Offer VIP amenities;
– Provide a welcome drink and private check-in.
Besides rewarding direct bookings, you will also improve your guests’ overall satisfaction. A happy customer is the best marketing strategy! They will be more likely to return and tell their friends and family how wonderful their experience at your hotel was.
- Improve communication with your guests
Hospitality is a people-focused industry. Hence, effective communication is a powerful tool you must use to build a meaningful relationship with your guests!
From the booking process, until the guests check out, you will use different communication channels. A customer relationship management software will help you provide a personalized guest experience. You’ll know their preferences, and it will be easier to assist them before, during, and after their stay!
Take advantage of social media
According to a study published in 2019, 52% of consumers say they were inspired to plan their next trip after seeing their friends or family’s social media posts.
These results show us how user-generated content transformed the way people travel. Since travelers look for recommendations based on others’ experiences, social media is definitely an improved version of word-of-mouth.
Because of that, you must use social media! How?
- Build a profile and include links to your hotel website and email;
- Invite people on your contact list to follow your property profile;
- Promote follower engagement with surveys and incentives;
- Post content on the local area, its landmarks, and main attractions;
- Post new and updated content frequently;
- Interact with followers and other businesses that mention your property.
Facebook and Instagram are the most influential social media in the travel industry. Although it’s possible to use the same content on both platforms, each has its own subtleties. Before posting, remember who your target audience is and which is the best way to reach them.
Alternatively, you can use paid advertising. Similar to Google’s pay-per-click (PPC), you can define your target audience and build a marketing campaign focused on direct bookings, customer experience, hotel services, or any other goal you might want to achieve.
Reconnect with guests through email marketing
Along with social media, email marketing is one of the easiest and most affordable strategies. In fact, it is responsible for 42£ of return on investment for every 1£ spent! For this reason, email marketing it’s a favorite among hotel marketers.
With this powerful tool, you can reconnect with long-time guests. Let them know about special offers, new add-on services, or the newly decorated facilities! Most of all, let them reminisce on the wonderful time they had last time they visited.
By sending them a message, you’ll be reminding your guests you are open for business and looking forward to welcoming them! You can also use email marketing once your guests checked out. It is a great opportunity to collect feedback on their stay!
How can you take advantage of email marketing?
Although it is one of the easiest ways to promote your hotel, there are some details you must consider:
- Choose your target audience;
- Define your campaign goals;
- Build a mailing list;
- Develop an appealing email template;
- Decide how often and at what time you want to contact your guests.
You can do it the old-fashioned way: using a spreadsheet with all your guests’ emails and names and sending it in Bcc from your email address. Or, you can optimize your precious time and use customer relationship management software.
A CMS integrated with your property management system will allow you to gather details on your guests’ preferences to improve their experience. Additionally, a CMS allows you to use an automated email marketing strategy.
All you have to do, is choose a template, customize it and send personalized messages to your clients. It will help you bring in more direct bookings and build a solid relationship with your most loyal customers.
Before exploring all the benefits email marketing offers, you must learn about the current email laws. In the United States, Canada, and Europe, specific regulations protect clients’ personal information. As a result, before sending any message, make sure your customers authorize you to use their contact for any marketing purposes.
Establish a local partnership
When choosing their next destination, your guests consider a few details before deciding. They will analyze the hotel services and facilities and check the online reviews.
However, one crucial factor is the location! Where is the hotel located? What is there to do? Are there any museums, natural landmarks, restaurants, or amusement parks?
As fascinating as your property may be, it’s very likely that your guests are eager to explore the surroundings. Because of this, I recommend building local partnerships to improve the guest experience.
Review your local area for services you don’t provide. It can be anything from dry cleaning to dog sitting or even a hairdressing appointment. As long as it adds value to your customer’s stay.
Additionally, show your customers the region’s history and culture. Collaborate with other business owners for a cooking class or a guided wine tasting tour. Promote a historical tour to show your customers all the details about the must-see places near your hotel.
The options are endless! As a result, your best strategy is to know your guests well and offer them unique experiences!
Marketing on Third-Party Channels
Whether you’re about to open a brand-new hotel or “refurbish” a marketing campaign, third-party channels are perfect to increase your property’s visibility.
The goal of third-party channels is to gather information on accommodation options and help prospective customers compare rates, services, and guest reviews.
As any hotel owner, I’m sure you dread the expensive commission fees. However, you shouldn’t focus on this downside! A partnership between you and a third-party channel helps you bring in new guests. Who knows? Perhaps some of these guests might convert into direct bookings!
So, who are the third-party channels?
GDS – Global Distribution Systems
In the 1950s, the increasing demand in the hospitality industry, especially for flights, led airline companies to offer add-on services, such as accommodation or car rental. This resulted in the creation of the first GDS.
Nowadays, travel agents worldwide use the GDS to check on hotel availability and get special rates, usually 30% cheaper than the retail price. How does this work?
The hotel’s property management system, or PMS, provides real-time rates and availability to the GDS and online travel agents through a channel manager. As new bookings arrive, the room inventory is updated to avoid overbookings. Once there are no more rooms, sales are automatically closed.
Where to find a GDS?
The most respected GDS in the hospitality industry are Amadeus, Sabre, and Galileo. Combined, these three organizations operate in more than 200 markets. They connect travel agents to airline and railway companies, car rentals, cruise lines, and accommodation businesses worldwide. With the right channel manager, you’ll be able to connect your property to a GDS.
Beyond that, the GDS offers you a few perks you don’t want to miss:
- Great opportunity to identify new markets;
- Another way to increase revenue;
- Travel agents worldwide have access to your property regardless of time zone differences;
- The reservation volume is larger than direct bookings;
- Corporate clients often outsource their business trips to travel agents, which makes GDS perfect for attracting business travelers;
- For travel agents, it’s easier and faster to book a room through the GDS.
Although the GDS offers a competitive advantage, you’ll be bound by a contract. Simply put, you cannot change rates as you will or close sales for travel agents and sell the rooms directly. A well-drafted contract will definitely come in handy to avoid such issues.
If you’re new to the hospitality industry, don’t be put off by how detailed the GDS is! Take some time to understand how it works, and you’ll have a team of expert tour operators promoting your hotel worldwide!
OTAs – Online Travel Agencies
Since the internet appeared, the travel industry has changed drastically! Overnight, people could book hotel rooms, rent cars, and reserve flights without relying on travel agencies.
And the best part is that travelers could compare rates themselves or check for excellent reviews! It’s no wonder why online travel agencies, such as Booking .com, Expedia, or Trip.com became so popular!
For you, OTAs are another marketing opportunity!
It means you can list your property and provide high-quality photos and add-on services that will make you eclipse your competitors. Additionally, you’re free to decide about room rates or how many rooms you want to sell.
Even though OTA’s will help improve your online presence, they will charge a commission fee between 15% to 20% on each reservation.
If you promote your hotel on several OTAs simultaneously, then I’d recommend getting a channel manager. It will be easier to update rates and close or open sales according to your room availability. With a few clicks, all your partners will have updated information.
In the early days of the internet, information was scattered all over the web. As a result, travelers would struggle when deciding which hotel to choose.
Metasearch engines, such as Trivago, Skyscanner, or TripAdvisor, appeared as a solution to this problem. Often labeled “information aggregators”, meaning they collect data hotels provide to OTA’s and present it to potential customers.
Nowadays, when your customers search for your hotel online, they will see several websites showing different rates and booking conditions for the same dates and room type.
To promote high conversion rates and increase revenue, you must provide the same information to all online channels. Also, you can add your hotel website and invite prospective customers to a direct booking.
Building an effective hotel marketing strategy will help you achieve success. However, it won’t happen overnight.
So, you must combine different strategies to maximize your hotel visibility. From third-party channels to email marketing or building local partnerships, your actions must focus on improving the guest experience.
Satisfied customers will be more likely to leave a positive review, return and bring in their friends and family! Moreover, remarkable customer service will help you stand out amongst your competitors and make the difference potential guests are looking for!
Think about this for a moment: How often have you bought or booked something after getting an email from a brand or company?
Probably several times…
And you’re not alone. Many people do so on a regular basis because it’s easy and fun. That’s why email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels today, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Take advantage of this to promote your hotel. Get creative and leverage the guest contact data you already have in your system.
From saving on distribution costs to growing brand awareness and scaling your outreach to new and repeat guests, discover the benefits email marketing can offer your hotel.
What is email marketing?
Broadly defined, email marketing is a form of direct marketing. It means sending promotional or commercial emails to people who have given you permission to do so. In the marketing world, these contacts are known as your list, your subscribers or your email database.
Why is email marketing a powerful tool for hotels?
Research shows that email is the most effective marketing channel today with an average ROI of 36. That means for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can generate an impressive $36 of revenue. And yes, that beats all other types of promotion including social media or paid ads.
There are several reasons why email performs so well. First, it’s a highly accepted form of communication among all demographics from Baby Boomers to GenZ. That means you can use this single channel to reach a wide variety of age groups.
For many people, email feels less invasive than cold calls, SMS or social media marketing. But since you regularly get right in front of your target audience in their inbox, emails offer a powerful way to build and nurture relationships.
Email is also highly customizable and flexible. You can schedule and automate it to reach the right person with the right message at the right time during their customer journey. For example, after sending your usual hotel confirmation email, you can follow up with a hotel pre-arrival email full of special offers and useful information.
Finally, you can create targeted campaigns for different guest segments (e.g. repeat clients, one-time guests, new subscribers, various age groups…) to promote specific deals to certain target groups.
All this makes email extremely effective at driving qualified traffic to your website and generating more commission-free direct bookings.
Finally, let’s not forget the data and analytics side. With email, it’s easy to test new promotions or message styles. Results are clearly measurable and offer insights into where you’re doing well and where you should improve.
The increased relevance of email marketing today
Overall demand is still lower than pre-pandemic in many markets, partly because international travel has not returned to pre-Covid levels. It will likely stay that way for a while since many people are still keener on travelling closer to home.
In this situation, it’s especially important to leverage the connection you have with past guests. Particularly loyal clients who live nearby and can come by car or train are an invaluable source of business today.
Use email to stay in touch with them and build a stronger relationship with people who have expressed an interest in your hotel. This creates chances to generate more high-value direct bookings that will help get your business through these tough times.
Here, the high ROI and comparatively low cost of hotel email marketing has another enormous benefit. Since this form of promotion is so cost-effective, it remains viable even if you’re working with a slashed marketing budget.
How to get started with email marketing at your hotel
A good email management system lays the foundation for your email marketing. It allows you to keep your list organized and to control your email marketing campaigns.
A generic provider like MailChimp or Mailerlite can be good when getting your feet wet. While these cost-effective email marketing tools offer important basic capabilities, they’re limited when it comes to leveraging the guest data saved in your PMS. Since this is the key to creating highly personalized and targeted campaigns, a more sophisticated solution is needed if you want to get serious about email marketing.
This is where a specialized customer relationship management solution (CRM) for the hospitality industry comes in.
It automatically pulls guest data from your PMS via a two-way integration. This includes information such as the number and length of previous stays, which package or rate code they booked, their birthdate, age, party size (e.g. couples or families with kids) and any other relevant details.
With this data, you can implement a targeted email marketing strategy, segment guests and ensure they only receive relevant emails. This leads to increased open rates, more engagement, boosted email conversion rates and a higher return on investment.
How to gain more subscribers for your hotel
You probably already have a lot of emails saved in your PMS from past and current guests. They can form the base of your email list.
Next, it’s time to grow your list of subscribers. Here are a few easy options to consider:
- Add sign-up boxes to your website and offer site visitors a perk (e.g. a small discount for their booking or a destination guide) for sharing their email addresses. This works well among people in the planning process but not for current or past guests as they rarely return to the hotel’s website.
- Set up a Wi-Fi restriction. Ask for a person’s email address when they sign in to your hotel’s public Wi-Fi and add a checkbox that lets them sign up for your list. This helps you get sign-ups from both in-house guests as well as outside clients visiting dining venues or the spa.
- Have your receptionists ask guests if they want to subscribe during check-in or -out. While this can bring results, the manual data entry means more work for your team. Here, it’s also hard to prove that the guest opted in unless you store the paper form.
- Save time and energy by gathering emails with a CRM. Set it up to automatically propose a sign-up during the online check-in, in upselling offers, as part of the directory or while requesting guest feedback. This cuts back on manual work, gets more eyeballs onto your opt-in and makes the subscription process easier for guests.
Managing your subscribers
Finally, a quick note on email database management and keeping subscribers happy and engaged.
- Use powerful, interesting subject lines and body text. Hint at what guests might find inside your email to build curiosity and boost your open rates. Keep it up in the email itself. Present special offers in an intriguing way to drive conversion rates and keep readers wanting more.
- Follow the rules. Ensure that you follow the current email marketing and data protection guidelines in your country, e.g. the EU’s GDPR. This protects your guest’s interest and shields you from potential legal issues.
- Don’t overdo it. When guests trust you with their email address, they expect you to be respectful of their inbox. Don’t bombard them with endless promotions and irrelevant messages. Instead, leverage segmentation to send a few special offers and updates at appropriate intervals. Ask yourself if you’d be happy to receive each email before hitting send. If so, that’s your green light.
- Accept farewells. Seeing people unsubscribe is part of email marketing. Respect when someone opts out and don’t contact them again unless they request it. While it may seem unpleasant, your unsubscribe rate is a valuable metric. Monitor it to spot shifts and see if you need to improve your segmentation or email content.
Ideas for different types of emails to send to your list
Email marketing encompasses several different types of emails. Below you’ll find the three main kinds that are relevant to email marketing for hotels plus some ideas to inspire your next email marketing campaigns.
- General newsletter: an informative email you send out at fixed intervals, e.g. monthly or every two weeks.
Share news about:
- The hotel (e.g. awards, renovations…)
- Current or upcoming events and promotions
- Other details that add value for your readers
- Seasonal or limited-time promotion: a standalone email to promote one specific offer. This could include:
- Flash deals
- A last-minute sale, e.g. to drive business on shoulder days
- Your summer weekend special for local guests
- The referral bonus for past guests
- Targeted campaign: one or several emails you send to a specific group of guests to promote an offer that’s relevant to them.
Here are some ideas:
- A special family deal
- Preferential conditions or exclusive offers for your regulars
- Couples’ getaways
- Any other offers that are geared towards a certain segment
In all cases, the goal is to build or maintain brand awareness, nurture your client relationships and drive sales. That way you stay at the front of people’s minds and they think of you first, when it’s time to plan a trip. This is a fantastic way to drive repeat bookings from past guests and benefit from their low acquisition cost.
As you can see, email marketing has many benefits for hotels. It’s cost-effective and it offers numerous ways to drive business all while nurturing the relationship with your guests.
And with the right tools, you can take advantage of all this without adding hours of extra work to your day.
Now, what do you think – how much could your property benefit from this?