Whether it is through branding messages, targeting the appropriate target audience or activities that keep previous guests engaged, the world of marketing for hospitality and tourism has evolved significantly in the digital age. Hoteliers have had to adapt their strategies and take greater advantage of online channels.
This blog dives into marketing for hospitality and tourism in a rapidly changing environment and provides an overview of current trends and strategies for hoteliers.
What is hospitality marketing?
Hospitality marketing is focused on bringing guests through the doors of hospitality businesses. A variety of traditional marketing strategy models exist which are applicable to the hospitality industry, from the 4 Ps (Product, Price, Place or in the hotel world channel, Promotion) to the 7 Ps (add People, Process, Physical evidence). Marketing strategies in hospitality and tourism share a common thread in that they both seek to inspire to take a trip and guide to specific locations.
Perhaps hospitality marketing is easiest explained by applying a traditional marketing model to hotels. Jerome McCarthy co-created the 4 Ps of the marketing mix and later the 7 Ps, adding an additional three focused on services.
- Product: The hotel brand, facilities and services as perceived by the customer, including reviews.
- Price: Rate by day of week, market segment, seasonality, room types and perceived relative to the competition. This includes rate strategy and discounts.
- Place: Often misinterpreted as the physical location of a hotel, but more adequately described as a place to buy. It is the relative convenience for guests to make a reservation or decide to stay. Today this primarily means availability across booking channels. For example, a hotel with a strong domestic source market may want to explore gaining additional business at higher spend or longer stays through targeted promotions for specific international markets.
- Promotion: The conscious mix of activities and chosen frequency of marketing communications.
- People: The embodiment of the brand, evident in recruitment and staff training.
- Process: The conscious design of hotel processes to support its brand, for example using hotel SOPs.
- Physical evidence: The space where guests and staff interact and service experience takes place, including hotel room layout.
Why is hospitality marketing important for hotels?
Building your brand and generating reservations presents a unique mission in the world of hospitality where the product is perishable: time cannot be turned back on a table that went empty for an hour or a hotel room that was not occupied for the night. Working with this distinctive type of supply and varying degrees of demand through seasonality is where marketing comes in.
In order to fill those rooms at the right time and at the right price, it is also necessary to have clear targeting. This begins by knowing both the ideal customer for your hotel and the general audience in your market. By understanding your target audience you lay the foundation for powerful marketing communications; bonus points for differentiating between your existing guests and the ones you want to attract going forward, if there is a difference. For example, a hotel getting a lot of business travel but wanting to attract more weekend leisure business may want to dive into where those customers research, on social media. While hotels looking to attract more corporate business, or specific companies, may dive into offering GDS promotions or increasing awareness with corporate travel intermediaries.
3 types of marketing strategies for hotels
Digital presence and social media
When you want to attract a broad audience, focus your strategy on your website, third-party profiles and social media. As future guests discover your hotel through a variety of sources, consistency is key to leveraging clear branding in digital hospitality marketing. Engagement on social media can help you learn more about this broad audience. At the same time, keep it simple. Be on the platforms where your customers are. In preparation for a low season and if you are clear on your target audience, targeted ads may become a part of your toolbox, maximising this broad reach but also increasing your cost of acquisition temporarily.
Email and content marketing
When it comes to email and content marketing, there is an opportunity to engage with either potential guests or keeping engaged those who have already stayed. With content marketing ranging from any blog post, image or video you might share, to re-using that content in newsletters, the goal here is to actively grow and engage this audience. One way of growing is by including relevant keywords so your blog posts are found; the next step is including a clear hook to continue the relationship, for example through the use of a sign-up link for your emails at the end of a blog post. Easily shareable content and catchy headlines also mean your existing audience might distribute those articles for you further, by sharing. Since this group is one you have more knowledge about than the broader public (even if it is just what they searched for), it should be reflected in how you engage them.
If email marketing currently only translates into a newsletter for your hotel, then it may be time to look into post-stay email cadences that include surveys, drive loyalty sign-ups and perhaps an incentive to return. In a similar way, careful email communication prior to arrival may help your staff sell upgrades at check-in. Hospitality email marketing provides an opportunity like no other for targeted messaging when you understand the many reasons you might want to engage a potential, future or previous guest. The key is being clear on your intention.
The audience you should know the most about is returning guests. If you already have a loyalty program in place, you might find yourself able to rely upon additional information stored in a PMS or CRM. But even if you are just starting out on your loyalty journey, creating the perfect loyalty ladder begins simply with clarity on your goals. Since you know the most about this audience, use that information to appeal to their unique needs. And in times of need, turn to this group as your most engaged customers. Perhaps they are the first to hear about upcoming promotions, or they are recognised on-site in a way that makes other guests become loyalty members, too. They need to understand what being loyal to your hotel means to them.
Hospitality marketing trends to be aware of this year
Marketing trends in hospitality evolve with the guests and their priorities: even social media introverts were posting about their first post-pandemic flights, hotel stays and conferences. It was an opportunity to welcome them back both in person and online. Even single properties like The Guitar Hotel by Hard Rock have returned to running TV ads. Here are more hospitality marketing trends to keep top of mind this year.
It may seem counterintuitive while moving from a world of virtual reality to real-life hospitality again, but virtual walkthroughs and 360 views of rooms are here to stay. Your hotel may already be competing locally with a property and its digital twin. Whether you consider this relevant to your hotel right now or not, it is prudent to at minimum research your comp set’s imagery.
From big brands to small businesses, in the space of social media, it has become acceptable to see content repurposed or simply repeated. Especially if your account’s audience has grown, but also if you are actively pursuing new audiences through high-exposure features such as reels: re-using existing or previously successful content can generate additional exposure with a low level of fresh input beyond editing. It’s key to make sure the content fits its medium and is (still) relevant or marked as reminiscent.
Video keeps growing
Contrary to common belief, video content does not have to be long or expertly produced to be impactful. Since guests and influencers are already sharing candid content during their stay, it is up to hotels to provide the moments they want to be seen. Video content is not just rising to dominance on social platforms, but has also been shown to result in customers staying 60% longer on websites compared to their counterparts of text and images only. The use of subtitles has become expected and makes videos accessible to anyone in any setting. It has now also been revealed that users spend 88% more time browsing on websites that have videos.
Tips to improve your digital approach to hospitality marketing
Update your photos
Brightly lit and well-captured images of your hotel that highlight recent updates are critical to converting bookings. They also set the right expectation with your customers, meaning ‘no surprises’ in reviews. If you have not recently spent time browsing AirBnB, you may be surprised to find that hosts competing with your hotel have become increasingly professional in showcasing hero images. So if you have been pushing off an update to your imagery, consider this a reminder. Both photos and videos are repeatedly labelled most critical by guests while planning a trip.
Optimise your mobile booking page
Whichever channel you are seeing most reservations originate from, did you know that most likely another channel was used and abandoned in the process? 94% of leisure travellers switch devices during the booking process and 88% will switch to another device if the app or website is not serving them; each time running the risk of losing the guest to a competitor. Amazon has famously made it possible to buy with just one click and when it comes to ease of converting a reservation, it is worth paying attention to details. Google provides additional insights on effective travel landing pages.
Consistency creates credibility
The digital footprint of your hotel across 3rd party booking engines, search results, and your own website is expected to be consistent. While over 50% of people switch channels to compare prices, what they notice along the way are any potential inconsistent or old images showing up, which blur the perception of the product they are just building in their mind.
Keeping descriptions, rates and pictures the same across booking channels, sounds simple but requires active and regular reviews of what your customer sees. A strong collaboration between sales, revenue management and marketing teams ideally results in aligned messaging and consistent distribution. In order to drive these collaborations, unite sales, revenue management and marketing teams around the latest insights regularly. The information within hotel commerce platforms, where you can review channel manager and GDS setups alongside past performance and outlook, is an excellent starting point.