What is hospitality marketing?
Hospitality marketing is a practical technique that is focused on bringing guests through the doors of hospitality businesses. A variety of traditional marketing strategy models exist that 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.
What are the 7Ps of hospitality marketing?
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.
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.
Table of contents
What is the importance of hospitality marketing?
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.
Types of hospitality marketing strategy
Hotel marketing strategies are as unique as the hotels that use them. Every accommodation provider will have a slightly different way of securing more bookings and earning greater brand recognition, but there are several common strategies – and channels – that are an important place to master for practically every business.
Hospitality social media strategy
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.
Hospitality email marketing strategy
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.
Hospitality loyalty program marketing strategy
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 essentials hotels need to know
Hospitality marketing is a unique blend of strategy, creativity, and insight, designed to connect your hotel with your target audiences in meaningful ways. It’s about crafting compelling narratives that resonate with potential guests, highlighting the exceptional experiences awaiting them. In an industry where choice abounds, standing out requires a deep understanding of these marketing essentials, ensuring your hotel’s offerings are not just seen, but sought after.
What are the 4 key characteristics of hospitality marketing?
The four key characteristics of hospitality marketing – intangibility, inseparability, perishability, and variability – are crucial concepts that distinguish it from other sectors. These traits challenge marketers to adopt innovative strategies, ensuring their hotel’s services captivate and convince prospective guests of an unparalleled experience.
In hospitality marketing, the intangible nature of the services means you’re selling experiences and promises rather than physical products. This requires imaginative storytelling and evocative imagery that allow potential guests to envision themselves enjoying your hotel’s offerings.
As you can imagine, this is particularly challenging for many hotels to convey. However, all this means is that if you can master it for your hotel, you will be outpacing the competition in a significant way.
For your hotel, think of how you want your guests’ memories to be like after they leave. People will remember experiences, certainly, but far more often, they’ll remember how they felt rather than what they did. Here are a few examples of where to get started:
- Offer potential guests a virtual reality tour of your hotel, including rooms, amenities, and unique experiences available. This can make the intangible, tangible, by allowing guests to virtually experience your hotel before they book.
- Leverage guest testimonials and stories to illustrate the experiences your hotel offers. Sharing detailed guest reviews and stories on your website and social media can help potential customers visualise what to expect and build emotional connections.
- Create themed or customisable stay packages that cater to different guest interests, such as wellness retreats, gourmet dining experiences, or cultural tours. Highlighting these unique experiences in your marketing materials can help guests envision the value and distinctiveness of your offering.
‘Inseparability’ highlights that services are produced and consumed simultaneously in the hospitality industry. This underscores the importance of ensuring every guest interaction is positive, as these experiences directly influence perceptions and future booking decisions.
This means that not only are the services themselves important, but also the way that they are delivered. You can have, for example, an incredible, out of this world, dining experience – but all it takes is a rude or inattentive waiter to derail that otherwise breathtaking meal.
Here are some ideas on how to master this aspect of hotel marketing:
- Ensure every staff member understands their role in the guest experience and is trained to provide exceptional service. Empowered employees can make real-time decisions to enhance guest satisfaction, directly impacting the inseparability of service delivery and consumption.
- Use guest feedback to make immediate improvements. Encourage and monitor reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor, and respond promptly to guest concerns and compliments, showing that you value their input and are committed to continuous improvement.
- Utilise customer relationship management (CRM) systems to personalise guest experiences. From tailored welcome emails to customised room settings, technology can help ensure that services are delivered in a way that feels personal and inseparable from the guest’s overall experience.
Perishability in hospitality marketing refers to the fact that unsold rooms or services cannot be stored for future sales – a night gone unsold is revenue lost forever. Effective yield management and dynamic pricing strategies can help hotels maximise occupancy and mitigate revenue loss by adjusting offers in real-time to match demand.
On the other side of the coin is the marketing opportunities because of the limited time nature of accommodation. Promotion during the holiday season, when bookings are high and you know there’s far less need to promote, for example, opens up opportunities to divert resources elsewhere – such as during slower periods. Perishability means that staying static just leaves your marketing to wither on the vine.
Here are a few practical examples of what you can do:
- Utilise revenue management software to adjust room rates in real-time based on demand, competition, and other market factors. This helps maximise occupancy and revenue by selling rooms at the best possible rate before they perish.
- Offer special promotions for last-minute bookings to fill unsold rooms. This could include discounted rates, package deals, or value-added services, such as a free meal or late check-out, to entice spontaneous travellers.
- Develop a loyalty program that rewards repeat guests with exclusive offers or points redeemable for free nights, upgrades, or other services. This not only encourages repeat business but also helps reduce the risk of unsold inventory by fostering a loyal customer base.
Variability, or ‘heterogeneity’, means that the standard and quality of hospitality services can vary greatly from one experience to another. Consistency is key to building trust and loyalty. Hotels must have a suite of tools that enables them to maintain high service standards, ensuring that every guest encounter, from online booking to check-out, is reliably excellent, fostering repeat business and positive reviews.
Under variability, it’s imperative to ensure that you follow through and up on the promises you make before, during and after the guest’s stay, and do so consistently. To borrow an example from another industry, the giants of fast food got where they are today due, in part, to the fact that the experience they provide is consistently enjoyable. You may not aspire to be the “fast food of accommodation”, but smart hoteliers take smart lessons to heart, regardless of source.
Here are some practical steps you can take:
- Develop and implement SOPs for all aspects of your service, from check-in to housekeeping to dining. Consistent procedures ensure that every guest receives the same high level of service, reducing variability.
- Regularly train your staff to uphold your hotel’s service standards. Role-playing, workshops, and continuous performance evaluations can help maintain consistency in service delivery.
- Implement regular quality control checks across all services. Mystery guest programs, regular audits of guest rooms, and dining experiences can help identify areas for improvement, ensuring that every guest encounter meets your high standards.
Hospitality marketing ideas to get inspired by
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.
1. Virtual walkthroughs
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 least research your comp set’s imagery.
2. Repurposing content
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.
3. 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 hospitality brand strategy
A robust brand strategy is essential for standing out in a crowded marketplace. With the rise of home-sharing platforms and ever-evolving guest expectations, hotels must adapt and innovate to remain relevant and appealing.
The tips below are designed to help you refine your brand strategy, enhancing visibility, guest experience, and ultimately, profitability. From updating visual content to optimising mobile interfaces and ensuring consistency across all platforms, these strategies are geared towards creating a more engaging, seamless, and memorable brand experience for every guest.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Set up themed rooms
The very nature of home sharing means guests are staying in unique properties such as vacation homes and each will appeal to its own niche market.
An experience is something modern guests crave more than anything and home sharing is perfectly aligned with this notion.
The rooms sold on Airbnb have been created for this very purpose; to engage a human desire for comfort, style, and stimulation – regardless of whether that’s for a business trip or a family vacation.
To mirror this hotels need to focus on a core, unique, offering for travellers. You can’t win over every market but you should think about what your hotel has that other properties don’t, then build and expand your messaging around that. For example, maybe it’s your stunning architecture, one-of-a-kind views, themed hotel rooms, or vintage bar.
5. Deliver quality service
Complaints around hotels often centre on the rigidness of the stay, fine print, and false advertising.
Consistently delivering on service quality and guarantees will go a long way to keeping travellers on your side. If your brand is synonymous with being the cleanest, most comfortable place to stay, travellers will depend on this expectation to be fulfilled.
There are still a lot of guests who enjoy the simple pleasures of a clean, comfortable hotel with friendly and helpful staff to attend to every need.
Furthermore, things like strong water pressure and quality wifi are essentials guests require, but aren’t always given at home-sharing properties. At the very least if your hotel can deliver on this time after time and play to its strengths, you should have no problems securing bookings.
6. Promote local services
One major benefit a guest receives when purchasing a stay in a short or long-term rental is immersion in their destination’s locale. From the second they ‘check-in’ they’re among the local community and their host will be best placed to offer great advice on local experiences and attractions.
Here are a few reasons why creating a connection to the local area is a good idea:
- Guests look to their hosts to be their guide so use content on your website to recommend local hotspots such as amusement parks
- Farm-to-table is a strong food and beverage trend and particularly accessible in home-sharing accommodations. Your hotel can also create localised menus and incorporate local seasonal produce into their menus.
- Implementing local design into your hotel will create a more harmonious experience for guests and also strengthen your storytelling to win over guests.
- Become your own hotspot by allowing local neighbours into your hotel. Think about inviting local chefs to give cooking classes or artists to show their work.
- Grounding your hotel in the local area and making sure you promote this on your website will assure guests they’ll be receiving the authentic, unique experience they were looking for.
When it comes to matching home-sharing services, prioritise the needs of your guest and stick to your strengths. If you can give travellers a grounded, authentic, and unique experience but with better on-site services and features, you’ll be able to compete for your slice of the disposable income pie.