Hotels need to be creative with their marketing in order to stand out, especially boutique establishments. It’s not enough to be listed on travel sites anymore—you need a polished website, positive online reviews, and high-quality content. To help, we spoke with experts to find the best hotel marketing ideas for your business.
Here are 42 tips from hospitality pros to make your hotel marketing effective:
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, Fit Small Business
CandyBar.co is a digital loyalty card program that’s easy to use for you and your guests. It offers a small business-friendly platform for you set up rewards and track customer use. For your customers, all they need to do is give you their phone number, they’ll get a text to confirm, and they’re signed up. Try CandyBar free for 30 days—no credit card required.
2. Take People on a Virtual Tour of Your Hotel
Brandon Gaille, Podcaster, The Blog Millionaire
One of the biggest barriers that people face in choosing a hotel is knowing what their room will look like. By providing a virtual tour on your website, you’ll give your prospects an idea of what they should expect so that they can immediately visualize the value of what you provide.
3. Run a Digital Ad Campaign
Umar Brimah, Co-founder, Cedar+Black
If you are a smaller hotel without the resources of a national advertising budget, you need to go all in on digital advertising. Running ad campaigns on social media is extremely underpriced for how effective it can be. You can get started by diving into your customer relationship manager (CRM) and looking at the existing data you have about your past customers. Use that information as a basis for your initial target audience. You will get more data as the campaign progresses. Use the process to build and refine your audiences. Then, create lookalike audiences that you can use to target new customers. This strategy is guaranteed to increase awareness of your business. Increased foot traffic will follow.
4. Use Fresh Content to Answer Customer Questions
Jignesh Gohel, Founder & Marketing Head, OLBUZ
Content marketing is one of the best and most effective ways to increase your hotel bookings. I have been working with many clients from the travel and hospitality industry and have successfully implemented this practice for quite some time. First step in this practice is to find out all of the different questions or problems your target audience has and create detailed content solving those problems. This will help to build the audience’s trust in your hotel or brand and will increase the chances of converting them into customers. I suggest going to Quora and finding a list of questions related to places near your hotel location. You will find a bunch of queries associated with the location, such as “best places to visit around / things to do around / best food to taste in X city,” etc. Create content about these topics on your website and you are done.
Evan Tarver, Marketing General Manager, Fit Small Business
You can make your advertising budget go even further with Hibu. They work with a lot of small businesses, plus they’re a certified Facebook partner. In addition to basic website management, the Hibu experts will help you improve your search ranking, manage your social media presence, and work with you on improving business reviews across the internet. The ROI can be great, and outsourcing your marketing gives you time to focus on keeping your hotel running smoothly. Click here to get in touch with a Hibu representative today.
6. Use SEO to Get Found
Natalie Athanasiadis, Owner, Ormi Media
Organic search engine traffic remains one of the most profitable channels for hotels. The hotel space is incredibly competitive both online and offline, so every activity needs to generate a great return. Your hotel SEO consultants should be working with your property to create content and build visibility for a diverse set of searches that cater to all of your target guests and their needs at each stage of their buying journey. By focusing on generating organic visibility and showcasing direct benefits to guests, you will achieve great increases in revenue with very little outlay.
7. Use a Hotel Scavenger Hunt to Engage with Guests
Jamie Moran, CEO & Co-founder, Scavify
One of the best ideas I have seen was the Kimpton Hotel Palomar’s “Live Like a Local” campaign. The hotel set up an interactive scavenger hunt, encouraging guests and city residents to complete challenges around San Diego that helped show off what living like a local meant. This included going to iconic landmarks, visiting local restaurants and bars, and highlighting the San Diego culture. Here’s one example of a challenge people had to complete: “San Diegans love a good fish taco. Take a bite out of your favorite and share the photo with hashtag #livelikealocal.”
8. Maintain a Local Events Calendar
Marcus Clarke, Founder, Searchant
As a small or independent hotelier, you have the luxury of creating a website that will fully engage your guests, so be certain that you update it with events that might be of interest to them—especially local events that don’t happen all the time, like food festivals or carnivals.
9. Ask Your Guests for a TripAdvisor Review
Mark Hayword, Hospitality Blogger, Mark Hayward
Having multiple positive reviews on TripAdvisor is extremely important. Hotels with lots of reviews can attract new guests due to popularity. Keep in mind that it’s not permissible to ask for positive reviews, but if you provide a good service, reviewers should leave a good review.
Allie Potts, Editor, Fit Small Business
Before guests actually get to your hotel, they’ve usually done some research online. Try using intuitive help desk software, like Freshdesk, to help you quickly and efficiently answer inquiries from potential guests while they’re in the process of choosing hotels. Freshdesk automatically converts all incoming emails, relevant tweets, and Facebook posts to support tickets, so you can address customers’ concerns no matter where they contact you from. It also uses knowledge-based software to send canned responses and embed help article links, so you can quickly respond to common inquiries and book more guests. Click here to start free.
11. Communicate with Your Customers on Social Media
Patrick Landman, Founder, Xotels
Hotels stand to gain a lot by marketing on social media. You can use social media to speak directly to your guests and foster relationships. You can announce specials, tell guests about activities, and even show your photos on social media—for free.
12. Create Special Packages for Group Events
Maksym Podsolonko, CEO, eazyplan
Small hotels have numerous marketing opportunities when it comes to hosting group events, but these are usually overlooked. Here are three popular ones:
- Family and friends reunions – Create special offers for private groups up to your capacity. Include a special menu and drinks package, and throw in a small accommodation discount to increase your revenue.
- Offsite meetings – Reach out to local businesses with a special offer for half-day, full day, and multi-day meetings. They will need rooms for management meetings away from the regular employees, marketing research, groupthink sessions, and so much more. Postcards addressed to the assistants of different departments in a company will bring a much better result than Facebook ads.
- Intimate weddings – Did you know they are becoming a trend? Weddings for only 20 to 30 guests are becoming very popular. Target engaged couples year-round and get a nice revenue from your food and beverage department for catering the wedding.
13. Talk About Your Loyalty Program
Jennifer Nagy, President, jlnpr
Get your staff to talk about your loyalty program with your guests. This will engage them and get them to be more active members of the program, which will increase your bookings. Loyalty programs really do work, and they’re not just for the big brands—small, ultra-boutique hotels can also get in on the action.
14. Create Cohesive Branding Both Online & Offline
Simon Bullingham, CEO, Journey
You will want to have a cohesive and identifiable brand both online and offline. Use your branding to market by using video, your website, offline methods, and more. Wherever you tell your hotel’s story, be consistent.
Troyauna Williams-Boyd, Fit Small Business
When people look for hotels, one of the first things they do is go online to read reviews. If potential customers are likely to visit user review sites like Yelp anyway, why not advertise there? When you claim your business profile for free, Yelp for Business Owners will give you $300 in ad credits to spend on targeted ads for your hotel. Your ads can appear at the top of a page of similar search results and on competitors’ profiles, and you’ll be able to see analytics like profile visits, customer leads and revenue generated from your Yelp business profile. Claim your profile and ad credit.
16. Use Agile Marketing for Your Hotel
Sam Wetson, Marketing Manager, 80 Days
Are you paying attention to the market around you, or are you simply focused on getting heads on beds? Use agile marketing (which connects your business marketing to timely news and events) to keep up with market demand.
17. Create Digital Guides
Sophia Borghese, PR Consultant, La Galerie Hotel
Fewer people (especially those in the younger generations) are picking up hotel lobby brochures. However, these people still need advice about what to see and do. In a fully “lit” city like New Orleans, there are a ton of things for people to do, so knowing where to begin can be hard. As part of our digital marketing, we’ve created numerous city-related guides to help our visitors. For instance, we’ve done guides for Mardi Gras, Festival Season, and more. We find that people like having a guide they can check on their phones.
18. Compete with Airbnb by Having a Personal Touch
Alex Shashou, President, ALICE
There has been a lot of discussion around the impact Airbnb has had on the hotel industry. In order to stay competitive, hotels need to find ways to stand out. One way to do this is to encourage your staff to be attentive to each guest. Make them feel at ease and cared for. Answer questions and be ready with suggestions for where to go and what to eat, along with information about what is going on around your area. Having a person offer guidance is a way to differentiate from the online-only interaction of an Airbnb.
19. Develop a Relationship with Local Tourism Boards & Chambers of Commerce
Matthew Aversa, Chief Executive Officer, Twenty One PR
For hotels, it’s important to stay in touch with the local tourism boards as well as other associations that could further business. Tourism boards assist with placing events and reaching out to press around the country, and they are valuable resources for staying in touch with other local businesses. Tourism boards, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), and destination marketing organizations have the job of bringing visitors to an area and promoting the businesses in that area. Therefore, it’s important to have a good relationship with them.
Kiah Treece, Marketing & Real Estate Writer, Fit Small Business
3D technology is becoming more and more prevalent in our media, and these days that extends to the photography world as well. You can utilize this innovative technology to make your hotel’s photos truly POP for potential customers! Engaging photography can make all the difference between scoring a booking, or losing one. Check out Matterport’s free e-book to see how staying up to speed with new 3D technology can help your business grow.
21. Incentivize Customers to Market on Your Behalf
Jeff Kear, Owner, Planning Pod
You should offer awards and incentives to guests who make fun or quirky videos of your hotel and post them to social media. Videos are by far the most viewed items on Facebook, and Google continues to push YouTube videos in its rankings, so online video marketing can be a great niche to appeal to younger demographics. You could offer a discount to anyone who posts a fun video about your property to YouTube or Facebook, and you can also add the video to your YouTube channel and promote it there.
22. Market the Local Area, Not Just the Hotel
Richard Gornall, Proprietor, The Hideaway at Windermere
Holidaymakers want an experience, not just somewhere to sleep. Your hotel obviously plays an important part in this, especially if you offer spa features and other experiential activities, but don’t overlook the importance of marketing the town, city, or area where your hotel is located. If you do have a countryside hotel, pick out some of the best walks and trails, recommend local bike hire companies, and offer everything your guests can use to improve their stay.
23. Partner with Local Establishments
Scott Selenow, President, Immerse Agency
Weave your hotel into the fabric of the local community by developing partnerships with local institutions, venues, museums, and cultural centers. Provide some space for them to display rack cards and coupons in the hotel, which will act as added value for your customers. In exchange, require them to place a link on their website for out-of-town guests to take advantage of your hotel deals. Generating these partnerships won’t cost you a penny and will pay dividends when you have ambassadors for your hotel working at local institutions in the community.
24. Harness the Power of the “Selfie Generation”
Brandon Wright, Marketing, ThoughtLab
Millennials crave three things: experiences, Instagram, and avocado toast. Take advantage of two of these three loves by creating an environment that asks your guests to share their vacation memories from your hotel on social media. Have an empty wall? Invite an artist to paint a mural so beautiful and unique that guests can’t help but pause for a picture. Tying your brand to the positive memories made and shared by your guests will increase not only organic reach, but brand loyalty.
Cassie Bottorff, Fit Small Business
Whether planning vacations in advance or looking for a place to lie their heads on a quick stopover, travelers are likely to check ratings and reviews before choosing a hotel. Encourage your current and past guests to share their experience at your hotel online, making it easier for travelers to see why they should stay at your establishment.
Podium is a software that lets you invite guests to leave a review, which can then be posted on over 20 different review sites. You can track invitations, reply to messages, and use a live web chat all in one convenient dashboard. Businesses that use Podium have seen up to 15 times more reviews and an increase in walk-in traffic. Watch a 3-minute demo here.
26. Focus on PPC Advertising
Richard Plant, Head of Digital Marketing, Up Hotel Agency
All hotels need visibility on online travel agents (OTAs) like Booking.com and Hotels.com. However, this shouldn’t be prioritized over taking direct bookings. Hotels can lose approximately 20% of room revenue from room nights through OTAs. Small hotels should therefore challenge OTAs in search results. To achieve this, use Google AdWords (PPC ads) to appear high in Google search pages—as high as OTAs.
27. Actively Remarket to Decision-Makers
Mark Irvine, Sr. Data Scientist, Wordstream
As a recently married man, I can vouch for the fact that even if I find a hotel I love right away, I’m seldom the key decision-maker in my own purchases. Since we have to coordinate our travel with our partners, family, and friends, we’re likely to search several times over a few weeks before ultimately booking our rooms. Knowing this, it’s particularly important to make the most of remarketing to the same or similar audiences; keeping your brand top of mind for purchasers during this decision process is key.
28. Offer a Complimentary Stay to Travel Writers & Bloggers
Jeffrey R. Orenstein, Ph.D., Travel Journalist, Simply Smart Travel
One tactic that seems to work well is to offer a complimentary stay to travel writers who have readers in the demographics/locations of your target market. It is very likely that they will write a fair and usually quite good article about the property.
29. Host Events at Your Hotel
Michelle Garrett, Public Relations Consultant, Michelle Garrett
Host some events to help market your hotel. Invite groups in to visit and host a luncheon or cocktail hour for them. Groups like wedding planners or even chambers of commerce could help you gain exposure and promote you to new customers.
Kelly Main, Marketing Writer, Fit Small Business
Since guests can be looking at your site at any time of day, there’s no guarantee that their questions will arise during your help desk’s normal business hours. Freshchat gives you the power of automated live chat for hotels, 24/7, 365 days a year. Best of all, the basic version of Freshchat is free to use. Click here to launch your own free account.
31. Create a Google My Business Page
Alex Bar, Owner, Third Temple Digital
It is always a good idea to add specific information about your hotel on Google My Business. This includes pricing, rooms available, contact information, photos, and reviews. Doing this increases the chance that your hotel will pop up in Google searches. A lot of people first check these suggestions because they usually provide the most basic information very prominently.
32. Make It Easy to Book a Room on Your Website
Michael Leander, Consultant, Michael Leander
Make it simple to book a room on your website by testing the flow and making sure the booking process is smooth, the pages load fast, and that it is obvious where to go to book. If customers don’t immediately see what they are looking for on your website, they will just leave to find a place that makes it less time-consuming.
33. Partner with a Sports Team Coming to Your Area
Ishveen Anand, Owner, OpenSponsorship
Piggyback on sports events being held in your area by hosting athletes or partnering with the team/event. Sports events bring in a ton of tourists, and sponsoring the athletes or events will give you visibility and access to all the fans.
34. Create a Package That Includes Local Activities
Rodger Roeser, CEO, The Eisen Agency
Put together a series of packages (including amenities at the hotel) that coincide with area/regional “things to do.” If the area is known for local wines, for example, tie in a program that would include things at the hotel that engage those interests (e.g., a wine tasting at the hotel). Then, you can market it on Facebook based on people’s interests (such as people who have wine as an interest) as opposed to just randomly trying to market to “travelers.”
35. Use Instagram to Give People a Glimpse of Your Hotel
Mindy Scraper, Founder, Mindy the Lion
Consumers are using Instagram as a primary method of research to decide which hotels and resorts feel like the best fit for their needs. There’s an assumption that hotel-generated web content can be misleading, so consumers have turned to social media to peruse user-generated content of the property to see what the resort “actually” looks like. Their first impression is often the hotel’s own Instagram page, so it’s important to run a well-groomed account that greets these researchers with authenticity and professionalism.
36. Avoid Being Understaffed with Smarter Staff Scheduling
Ryan Fyfe, CEO & Founder, Humanity.com, Inc
Hotel guests hate waiting. They don’t like waiting for you to show them their rooms or to get a drink at the bar. Happy, satisfied guests who never have to wait are more likely to give you free marketing via word of mouth. How can you make sure that your hotel is never understaffed, but at the same time, keep your labor costs down by not blindly overstaffing? You can do so by using advanced, data-driven employee scheduling software.
37. Create a Landing Page Aligned with Your Ads
Neil Andrew, Marketing Manager, PPC Protect Limited
Use a landing page just for ads so that you can capture the email address of those who are interested in your hotel. I see a lot of people using their homepage for their ads, but a landing page lets you tailor the message to align with the ad. Focus on the key benefits of your property on the page instead of explaining everything from scratch. This makes visitors much more likely to convert.
38. Use Location Targeting in Ads
Will Haswell, Business Development Manager, Adzooma
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in the right locations can help your hotel compete. You should focus your attention in the places that you know will be looking to visit your area. PPC and social media advertising are effective ways to attract a large amount of traffic to your site in a short amount of time. The budget can be increased, scaled back, or even switched off whenever necessary.
39. Use Google Business View for 360-Degree Tours
David Erickson, Principal, e-Strategy Media
Google has a program called Google Business View, where you can hire a certified photographer to shoot a 360-degree photographic tour of the interior of your business. This is exactly like the Street View feature of Google maps, where you can take a virtual tour of a city as if you are driving through it, except it is an interior view of a business.
40. Ask Influencers to Market Your Hotel
Kurt Uhlir, Founder, Uhlir Ventures
Many marketers think influencer marketing applies primarily to big business, but many of the smaller businesses I’ve worked with have seen great success working with influencers. Each influencer is unique, so make sure you’ve done your homework to know what he or she is interested in before reaching out.
41. Make It a Habit to Respond to Comments
Mikki Stith, Account Strategist, Coalmarch Productions
Too many companies don’t respond to comments, shares, and mentions on their social media pages. If you are only using social media to publish content about your hotel, you are missing the big picture of engaging with your community. It’s hard enough to get your followers to engage with a share or a comment. Respond to customer comments and reviews. Get to know the people who follow you, and reward the followers who took the time to comment or engage.
42. Use Twitter to Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Kristin Tao, Account Executive, IT Retail
Use Twitter to help respond to customer comments and questions. If your hotel receives a Tweet with a comment, complaint, or question, respond as soon as possible to let your followers know you care. If there is a complaint, find out the whole story and respond in an apologetic, understanding tone.
Bottom Line: Hotel Marketing
Hotel marketing uses a wide variety of promotional tools and tactics. Some of the ways you can market a hotel include creating a loyalty program, tapping influencers, running ads, being active on social media, and hosting unique events. If you market a hotel successfully, you will see increased booking, more positive reviews online, and many return guests.