The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Marketing: How to Develop a Hotel Marketing Plan

Kshitij Chaudhary
2 min read
April 2, 2024

A successful hotel marketing strategy is anything but simple, no matter what it looks from the surface. From handling different channels like email and social media marketing to setting up target audiences and marketing budgets—there are so many parts that go on to make up the whole of your successful hotel marketing strategy.

So, what really is hotel marketing, what are the different strategies of hotel marketing, what are the different hotel marketing strategies that you can adopt?

In this article, we will cover all of this and more of your queries, such as:

  1. What is hotel marketing?
  2. Why is hotel marketing important?
  3. How do you set your hotel marketing strategy?
  4. The important aspects of a hotel marketing strategy such as branding, social media, offline paid partnerships, paid advertisements, and so on.
  5. Most popular channels for hotel marketing

We have scoured the best resources for everything related to hotel marketing and have finally come up with a solid hotel marketing guide for you. So let’s dive in right away.

What Is Hotel Marketing?

Hotel Marketing, sometimes also interchangeably called a hotel marketing strategy, refers to all the sets of activities and strategies that help you reach more guests, and ultimately, generate more revenue for you.

It covers everything from high-level aspects like the different marketing strategies to the different lower-level execution of those strategies, such as social media marketing, branding, customer relationship management, and so on.

Now, it’s easy to get lost in the strategy land—there are too many things to pick and choose from out there—so you only need to pick something that works for you.

This then brings us to your central question here: how do you pick something that sticks and works in the long run?

Starting Right: Why Is Hotel Marketing Important?

As the 2022 research from Statista shows, the hotel and motel industry in the United States alone spent a combined 2.8 billion U.S. dollars on their marketing budget.

In other words, the world of hotels is a very noisy place; to stand out, you need to keep up with all the tricks and tools of the trade.  

Hotel Marketing strategies help you do that effectively. Here’s how:

  1. Branding: One of the biggest spend in a strategic hotel marketing plan, branding determines how a prospective guest will perceive your hotel. A consistent, strong brand builds your credibility and helps you increase revenue over time.

    For instance, 81% of travelers or guests read through hotel bookings before they swipe their credit cards, as one study by HotelTechReport found. In other words, what someone says or thinks about your hotel matters. 
  2. Active social media: A happening social media account is no longer a luxury for your hotel brand; it's a necessity. Prospective guests almost always check out the place they'd like to stay at before making a booking.

    Whether it's your Instagram and Facebook accounts or photo listings on popular OTA brands, the images and videos of your hotel properties will give your prospective guests a peek into what you have to offer. 
  3. Building offline partnerships: While the world continues to turn more and more digital, a large chunk of hotel marketing still takes place in the real world. A whopping 12% of the population in the USA, as this Statista survey shows, still prefers to book their hotels in the old-fashioned offline ways.

    Traditional marketing activities like billboard advertising, print ads, event sponsorships and Trade Shows are critical means to improve your offline marketing efforts. 
  4. Paid advertising: Through a well-planned online paid advertising campaign on platforms like Google search and Google Hotel Ads, you can easily end up on the top of your prospective guest’s online search results.
  5. Pricing: Picking and choosing the right pricing strategies will be an important part of any good hotel marketing plan.

    Put briefly, a dynamic pricing strategy will help you compete with other competitors, effectively positioning you as the best option in the market for your target guests.    
  6. Building effective retention and user acquisition strategies: As a hotel marketer, your plan will always be incomplete unless you get your acquisition and retention strategies right.

    Your acquisition strategies hone in on acquiring new prospective guests through different channels and tactics, while retention focuses on keeping your old guests coming back for more. Also, to get things just right, you will have to mix them both together.   

As these and countless other pointers prove beyond doubt, a well-laid-out hotel marketing strategy will put you in front of the right eyeballs.

But here’s the next important question: how do you set up an effective hotel marketing strategy? And more importantly, what’s a strategy that will be right for you? Let’s find out.  

Getting Started Right: How to Set Up Your Hotel Marketing Strategy

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of picking or setting up effective hotel marketing strategies for you, it’s important to wrap our heads around what's a marketing strategy in the first place.

To put it in brief, a marketing strategy is a company or organization’s comprehensive plan and tactics designed to promote their products or services.

Or, in the words of American Marketing Association:

A marketing strategy refers to an organization or person’s plan of action created to sell or advertise a product or service. It is fundamental to the overall business strategy and is designed to guide the company’s marketing efforts, tactics, and resources in a coordinated and cohesive manner. 

Adopted to hotel marketing, this means a hotel marketing strategy will be your plan of action and tactics that will help you reach and book more guests for your hotels.

Ultimately, the goal will always be to boost your bottom line.

Different elements go on to make a successful hotel marketing strategy, as we never get tired of pointing out, yours will vary as per your needs.

However, in any hotel marketing plan, you will always find some common pointers. Here they are:

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Your target audience is the group of people most likely to book your hotels. Specifically, your target audience has some defined characteristics or features such as age, education, demographics, etc., that makes them most likely to book your hotels.

In other words, these identifiers make them your best prospects. So before you put anything to paper, you need to sort this out first.

Remember: if you're selling to everyone, you're selling to no one. A tightly defined target audience helps you avoid this mistake.

‍As setting up a target audience is the first step in drawing out your hotel marketing strategy, it will invariably involve lots and lots of research.

It will also involve tons of testing and tweaking too. Generally, here are things you need to be mindful of:

  1. Use Social Media Insights
  2. Check Your Website Analytics
  3. Set up a Buyer's Persona
  4. Carry a Through a Competitor's Research
  5. Test and Revise

Keep these at the top of your mind while you're building your target audience and you will be good to go.

2. Plan Out Your Budget

There's no point in setting out 360* marketing campaign if you can't afford it.

Depending on your resources and tactics you want to employ–digital advertising, email marketing, and so on–you can make your hotel marketing campaign as wide or lean as possible.

For example, digital advertising platforms like Facebook and Instagram themselves can take up as much of your resources as you'd like; you have to set up an upper limit.

Similarly content marketing rose up the ranks as one of the most popular–and effective–marketing channels globally.

Also, if you're planning to go the traditional agency route for getting your TV or online ads, you will have to leave out some separate budget as well.

So make sure you have your budget planned out well in advance.

3. Set Your SMART Goals

SMART goals are necessary to keep your hotel marketing strategy aligned to your overall goal, which is getting more guest bookings and dialing up your revenue.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. 

In short, they keep you from scattering your marketing efforts all over the place. Here's how:

  1. Specific: Specifying your goals helps you, you guessed it, specify the goal of your hotel marketing campaign.

    It could range anything from raising brand awareness or increasing qualified leads to reputation management or increasing your blog traffic.
  2. Measurable: You can avoid shooting arrows in the dark if you make sure your campaigns are measurable.

    In other words, setting up good measurement systems ensure instant feedback on what works and what doesn't, and so, you can adapt immediately.
  3. Attainable: Setting up big goals is great, but you need to be grounded. Attainable goals ensure that you're setting up targets you can actually meet with your budget.

    Increasing your hotel bookings by 70% in the next six months, for example, is an attainable goal. Taking your blog views to  millions/month from zero in three months is not.
  4. Relevant: As you would've probably guessed, relevant goals keep aligned to your main mission or priority of your goal.

    It allows you to stick with goals or tasks that fit within the overall mission of your hotel marketing plan.
  5. Time-bound: Work expands to fill in the time available for its completion. That's Parkinson's law in a nutshell. What this means is that people in general take much much longer to complete a task than the time required for it.

    Setting up realistic time bounds lets you avoid wasting your time and resources and achieve more.

4. Pick the Right Channels for Your Hotel Marketing Strategy

Depending on what you want to achieve, you will always have different channels to market your hotel products or services.

Let’s think of this with an example of cars. Let’s take a Ferrari and Honda, for our example. 

While both Ferrari and Honda practically do the same thing—they're cars that take you from point A to B—they both serve a different purpose. One gives you a convenient way to drive, while the other is a source of status, pleasure, and fulfills other human motivations.

Similarly, while social media might be handy in boosting your brand awareness or reaching new audiences through targeted advertising, it is email marketing that gives you the best conversions through a combination of discounts and coupons.

With that cleared up, let’s dive into the best channels to help you set up a marketing strategy.

1. Use Social Media for Hotel Marketing

Social Media has become an indispensable tool for hoteliers navigating the ever-evolving world of marketing.

With so many platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at your disposal, you need to have a solid strategy in place to grow as much audience as possible.

When it comes to social media in hotel marketing, nothing beats visually captivating content. Everything from finely shot pictures to professionally edited short-form videos will come under this. Indeed, as one research showed, 97% of travelers use social media to share pictures of their trips.

Right there you get a big opportunity to showcase your properties and amenities indirectly.

From your end, you can make use of targeting tools to collaborate with social media influencers and other partners, and reach your desired target market. Then there’s also brand awareness, which social media can help you build through engaging, shareable with the help of in-house social media marketers.

1. Organic Social Media

Organic social media, as you’ve probably guessed by now, refers to the free content generated by social media users, brands and organizations for various reasons.

As a part of your hotel marketing strategy, organic social media will play a pivotal role in helping you gain an upper hand in your branding and establishing a true connection with your audience.

2. Paid Social Media

As its name suggests, paid social media refers to all the paid advertising activities carried out to boost your brand awareness and reach.

All the popular social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn offer advertising services that you can use to reach a massive audience you’d otherwise won’t be able to reach.

However, paid social media advertising comes with a hefty price. So it’s essential that you have a pre-planned budget in mind to keep you from overspending.

Similarly, you also need to set SMART KPIs and audience segments, so as to make the most out of your paid campaigns.   

All in all, it's important to remember that you have to adopt a mix of organic and paid social media strategies. Do that and you’re bound to get steady social media growth in the long-term.

2. Emails in Hotel Marketing   

Email marketing is a versatile and powerful tool utilized by businesses across industries to reach and engage with their target audience.

In fact, as this report shows it, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels out there across industries, with 79% of marketers placing it on their top three choices.

As per Mail Chimps’ research, “emails have a 10.25-20.25 percent open rate, 1.17-3.01 percent average click-through rate, and 0.08-0.35 conversion rate for hotels in Canada and the United States.”

So as far as hotel marketing is concerned, this is a goldmine for you.

With a conversation rate that’s four times the one of other channels, you can effectively build your brand engagement, offer discounts and coupons, and even loyalty programs–all from a single.

Now, how do you actually go about all this? That’s a whole different game.

But, to put it in brief, you need to set your goals for email marketing, pick a reliable email platform, create sign-up forms, and segment your email lists before you send the first email.

3. Hotel Marketing With OTAs

Online Travel Agents, or OTAs for short, have overtime become a part and parcel of an online travel booking experience.

The ease of quick, hassle-free online booking, along with clear comparisons on price and amenities that popular OTAs like MakeMyTrip or provide have won over plenty of travelers and guests alike.

So if you're looking to succeed, you simply cannot neglect spending your marketing efforts on different OTAs.

It's also important to note that hotel bookings through OTAs might cost you a bit–they take ~15-25% commission on each booking–so it's important that you don't put all your eggs in the OTA basket.

In other words, you need to optimize your own marketing channels as much as possible to avoid any hefty commission charges.

4. Travel Sellers or GDS for Hotel Marketing

Using Global Distributions Systems, or GDS for short, can be another handy distribution channel (and an often neglected one) to help you help increase your hotel bookings.

Top GDS providers like Amadeus and Sabre serve a combination of more than 1000s of hotels in hundreds of countries all around the world.

To increase your bookings through travel sellers or GDS, you can begin by connecting and establishing yourself as the best option for travelers in the GDS arena. Travelers are looking for best options, sudden changes or additions to their bookings all the time.

When you have worked on positioning yourself as the best option in front of travel sellers or GDS marketing, guess who they will be recommending as the first option?

5. GDS Advertising

GDS Advertising works by advertising your hotels in the form of text or image banners on popular GDS systems like Amadeus and Sabre. Almost all the popular travel agents use a GDS system for their flights and hotel bookings.

Indeed, according to Stratoflow, around 65% of travel bookings worldwide are done through a GDS.

By making GDS an integral part of your marketing distribution channel, you can effectively advertise yourself to the online travel agents who are generally seen as trusted experts in hotel bookings.

A well-laid out GDS advertisement will include all the information such as amenities, ratings, photos that prospective guests checkout before making a purchase, which makes it critical for you to stand out.

6. Hotel Metasearch Advertising

Don't shy away because of the name. Metasearch advertising is nothing but advertising your hotels on top of metasearch engines.

And what are those? In hotel and travel bookings, meta search engines are specific types of search engines that aggregate information from multiple search engines to give you the best results of your booking and travel inquiries.

If you have ever used Trivago, Tripadviser or Google Hotel Ads, for your bookings, you have used a meta search engine.

Much like GDS from above, metasearch engines work by listing out all the important details of a hotel that a guest might need to make an informed choice--photos, amenities, guest reviews, ratings and price--and so, make it very easy to make very easy to make a booking right then and there.

For instance, a research from Eyefortravel conducted in Australia, USA, UK, and Canada,  showed that around 73% of travelers use a metasearch website regularly, and 46% of them always use one.

So the message is clear: go where your guests are, and advertise your hotels on metasearch engines.

8. Influencer Marketing

Whether you like it or not, influencer marketing has made it big. And  it’s here to stay for at least some foreseeable time.

According to the study carried out by Tomoson, every $1 spent on influencer marketing reaps in $6.50 for businesses; a staggering 6x return, in short.

This isn’t surprising. As this research from Sustainability shows, influencer marketing can boost the perception of travel fitness and the perceived value of the destination among travelers.

And many brands have already started following suit, with some brands in India even spending as far as 25% of their marketing budgets on influencer marketing, as per the Economic Times.

5. Customer Acquisition and Retention Strategies

As a hotelier, your hotel marketing plan will always be incomplete unless you get your acquisition and retention strategies right.

Your acquisition strategies hone in on acquiring new prospective guests through different channels and tactics, while retention focuses on keeping your old guests coming back for more.

Also, to get things just right, you will have to mix them both together.

Customer Acquisition

Customer Acquisition, in terms of the hotel industry, refers to the process of acquiring new guests by applying a variety of tactics and strategies.

In fact, this is largely what your ideal marketing strategy will be planned to address: how to get new guests into your hotel.

Your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) determines the cost of acquiring any customer and it's something you will have to be mindful about.

Here are a few customer acquisition strategies in vogue today:

  1. BNPL financing: Short for Buy now, pay later, BNPL simplifies the booking experience of your guests by letting them book without much constraints and immediate worries of expenses.
  2. Local partnerships and collaborations: While you can never take the gas off of a digital marketing strategy, local partnerships and collaborations help you optimize your acquisitions just as much.
    Connect with the grassroots organizations like NGOs, your government tourism organization, and other local businesses to get new referrals for guests.

Customer Retention: 

‍Cusomter Retention, as you might have guessed, is about retaining your old guests.

As per one study, gaining a new guest can cost as much as five to eight times more than retaining an existing one. So customer retention is always something that is going to be playing a central role in your marketing plan.

Some of important customer retention strategies that you can follow include:

  1. Loyalty programs: Loyalty programs are the north start of customer retention tactics. They aid in everything from boosting your direct bookings, increasing your retention rates (and hence, the revenue), and creating personalized campaigns based on past bookings.    

  2. Post-Stay Follow-ups: It's not enough to simply complete a booking. After the guest leaves, it's critical to take their surveys and follow-ups about their staying experience.

    A double-edged sword, this will give you useful feedback about customer experience and expectations, as well as make the guest feel valuable and important. Both of these activities will help you out in the long-run. 
  3. Offer Promotion and Discounts: Send periodic promotions and discounts to your past and regular guests. Make sure you try to tailor your offers in accordance with relevant seasons and festivals.

    Similarly, you can also adopt the membership model followed by the top OTAs, where you offer certain amenities and discounts based on your guests membership level.     

Take testimonials and reviews: Real testimonials and reviews can generate hype for your services, which will lead into more repeat business for you.

They serve another critical purpose as well. Irate guests can be a big issue across the tourism industry, but especially for hotels.

Perhaps the guest found some amenity missing, didn't feel welcomed by the hotel staff, etc.--the potential issues are endless.

Being review and feedback obsessed can help you here, as it will help you incorporate any immediate feedback and reach out to irate guests with suitable discounts and offers.

6. Measure Your Results         

What’s the point of spending all your time in research and carrying out marketing if you don’t measure it? As the pervasive saying goes in all business schools, what gets measured gets done.

Measuring your marketing efforts allows you to adopt your tactics both in the short and long-term.

It also helps you track your results and compare them with those of your competitors in the present, and so, helps you plan all for your spending and other activities accordingly.

With the advent and adoption of digital marketing, measurement and analyzing your results is only going to get more and more important.             

Hotel Marketing Strategies to Drive Business Growth   

And this concludes our guide on the hotel marketing strategies. To tie it all up, any successful hotel marketing plan will take a multichannel approach that’s tailored to your unique business goals and position.

While the tactics and approaches will invariably vary–from paid online advertising to offline marketing activities like events and collaborations–ultimately, every concrete marketing plan should aim at boosting your hotel revenue in the end.

Kshitij Chaudhary

Kshitij founded Brance with the vision of helping hoteliers increase their direct bookings using AI. Over the last ten years, he has led the Marketing and Growth of several technology organizations and start-ups such as BCG, Shuttl, House of Beauty, etc.

He also loves traveling and sports.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is First Response Time important in inside sales?

First Response Time holds a great importance in inside sales because it influences customer satisfaction. Ultra-fast responses improve the chances of potential leads getting converted into paying and loyal customers.

What are the consequences of a delayed first response in inside sales?

A delay in First response time can result in missed opportunities, customer frustration, and a negative impact on conversion rates. Potential leads may lose interest or shift to competitors when experience a delay in response time.

What role does technology play in reducing first response time?

Technology plays a vital role in reducing first response time through automation. AI-driven chatbots streamline the communication process and enables faster interactions.

Why is First Response Time important in inside sales?

First Response Time holds a great importance in inside sales because it influences customer satisfaction. Ultra-fast responses improve the chances of potential leads getting converted into paying and loyal customers.

What are the consequences of a delayed first response in inside sales?
What role does technology play in reducing first response time?

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