Booking Guests In The Digital Age — A Beginner’s Guide To Hotel Marketing

As international travel steadily climbs to pre-2020 levels, hotels are in a solid position to capture a steady stream of revenue. According to the UN’s World Tourism Organization (WTO), there were at least 700 million international travelers between January and September of 2022 (or about a 133% increase from 2021’s statistics). Analysts at the WTO also estimated global hotels had occupancy rates of 66% in September of 2022, representing a jump of 23% from the start of the year. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a “global health emergency,” more tourists will likely feel comfortable booking rooms around the world. 

Although the recent relaxed health policies are a tailwind for the hospitality industry, that doesn’t mean every hotel is guaranteed to rake in the profits thanks to the latest travel trend. Customers have hundreds of thousands of options for accommodation around the world, and the competition to fill rooms is intense. The top-performing hotels always take their marketing strategies seriously to maintain dominant positions. 

As digitization becomes the dominant force in modern life, hotel marketing has undergone many radical changes in the 21st century. Reviewing online marketing strategies like SEO, social media management, and web design may seem overwhelming, but they’re a vital aspect of the modern hotel business. Learn all about the basics of hotel marketing best practices, strategies, and trends for the highest hit rate in the hospitality industry.   

What is Hotel Marketing? — A Basic Definition 

Hotel marketing is a set of promotion tactics focused on the global hospitality, leisure, and travel industries. Businesses use hotel marketing to showcase their unique offerings, build a brand identity, and spread their name to new potential customers. 

Although there are dozens of specific hotel marketing strategies to consider, all of these techniques have one goal in mind: Bring in more revenue from travelers. An effective hotel marketing campaign should organically drive more people to make bookings on a company’s website and generate new leads. When hotels start building various aspects of their marketing strategy, they always need to ensure it positively impacts their market penetration. 

Why is Hotel Marketing So Significant? 

Creating a hotel marketing strategy is far more than “spreading the word” about a specific hotel. Sure, enhancing online visibility is a crucial aspect of marketing, but this field offers hoteliers a wider array of features. 

For starters, an impactful marketing campaign highlights a hotel’s unique value proposition, thus establishing its brand identity in the competitive digital landscape. Robust personalized marketing strategies also help hotels analyze consumer habits, demographics, and the success (or failure) of different tactics. All of the data hotels collect after implementing new ads or engagement campaigns helps them figure out their target audience, making it easier to focus on the most profitable marketing opportunities. 

In addition to attracting new customers, marketing strategies help hotels identify and retain valued clients, ensuring a reliable revenue stream each year. Maintaining exceptional customer service standards helps hotels quickly resolve conflicts and minimize reputational damage. 

How To Get Started With Hotel Marketing — What To Consider Before Launching A Marketing Campaign

Starting to build a hotel marketing campaign can be overwhelming, especially for businesses that don’t already have a strong presence or reputation. However, there are a few factors every hotel needs to square away before looking into specific techniques. Establishing a clear identity and set of goals from the start helps executives evaluate different marketing approaches to suit their strengths. 

Hotel Identity & Value Propositions 

A hotel will only stand out from competitors if it has a solid sense of its brand identity. What makes booking a room at one hotel so unique compared to all the other choices in a target location? If a management team can’t answer this question, how will they ever convince customers to consider staying a few nights versus all of the other options? 

Take the time to identify your hotel’s distinct amenities and features versus competing properties. What value propositions should a hotel exemplify, and what signals do these benefits give to prospective customers? In other words, how will people think of a hotel given its marketing strategy? 

For example, a hotel located in a historic building may emphasize the ornate architecture and illustrious stories associated with their property. By contrast, beachfront hotels will probably want to highlight their convenient access to beach activities and water sports.

Figuring out these distinctive value propositions helps managers tell an exciting and coherent story about what customers should expect at their hotel. Developing a clear brand identity also helps hotels establish their position in the marketplace and separate themselves from competitors. 

Establish A Target Customer Base

As hoteliers write down their brand identity and distinctive features, they’ll inevitably have to consider what customers they’re targeting. Every traveler has different preferences and needs depending on their demographics, age, and the reason behind their trip. Even the “best” hotels can’t give every traveler the optimal experience. The goal of an effective hotel marketing campaign is to spend the most time and energy connecting with customers who most align with the features a hotel provides. 

Take the time to figure out the ideal consumer profile for a particular hotel and see how ad strategies target this demographic. For example, a hotel in the middle of a metropolitan area may focus on business travelers by emphasizing its convenient location, transportation options, and complimentary breakfasts. On the other hand, a hostel will likely target younger solo travelers interested in affordability, security, and ease of access to touristy destinations.   

On top of figuring out a target customer base, hotel managers need to spend time assessing the “journey” their customers go on to book a room. Run simulations on the booking process on multiple platforms and note any pain points customers may experience along the way. Booking should be as seamless and straightforward as possible to eliminate conversion-destroying moments of hesitation. 

Remember that the “ideal customer” a hotel envisions in the planning stages may not be 100% accurate. There’s a chance the statistics hotels collect after welcoming guests may not align with their idea of the group most likely to book a room. Always keep tabs on data trends to see what types of consumers organically book rooms at a hotel and any shared traits. Hoteliers may need to change or broaden their definition of the target customer as they analyze more data points. 

Budget Limitations

While hotel owners develop their marketing strategies, they must be mindful of their finances. According to research from Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, most hotels set aside 4 – 5% of their revenue for ongoing marketing expenses. Researchers also note that these funds must be “liquid” to constantly adjust for shifts in promotional tactics as hotels gather more consumer data. Figure out the expected cost of major marketing ventures versus the hotel’s average revenue to calculate how much to put aside each year. 

Although there’s no “perfect ratio” for allocating marketing funds, BU analysts found most hotels spend roughly 30% on search engine-related marketing (i.e., SEO, metasearch, and SEM), 15% on website revenue optimization and enhancements, and about 7% on email marketing and social media. The remaining marketing budget goes towards seasonal and “other” year-round needs. New hoteliers can use these percentages as a starting template when figuring out how to divide their budget, but they should always consider their specific goals and situation to optimize their marketing cash flows. 

Incentives & Promotions  

Special perks, loyalty programs, and discounts are standard techniques used throughout the travel & leisure sector to entice new customers and retain repeat guests. Data from California State University suggests promotions have a measurable impact on driving “cost-sensitive” consumers to book a room at a particular hotel. These marketing add-ons make booking a hotel more attractive to consumers and help hotels manage predictable seasonal patterns. For instance, CSU researchers pointed out that autumn tends to be the slowest time for hotel occupancy. Therefore, hotel management might develop specific strategies and attractive promotions to minimize the losses due to the fall’s slow reputation. 

Customer Service Standards

Marketing gives customers a preview of their future experience at a hotel, but sometimes the image in a traveler’s mind doesn’t match their reality. Even if you feel you’ve represented your hotel’s services as accurately as possible, there’s no way to know how high your visitors’ standards are. Of course, hotels should always strive to impress their guests, but they need to recognize that some tourists simply won’t have a good time. In worst-case scenarios, disgruntled customers will leave bad reviews online, which can quickly tarnish all the hard work a hotel puts into its marketing image. 

The only way to decrease the odds of bad reviews hurting your marketing narrative is to have a strong customer care division in place. As long as guests have a fast and convenient way to reach your hotel’s staff (e.g., phone, live messaging, and email), they probably won’t feel the need to write negative articles on third-party review sites or travel blogs. High-quality customer care divisions also help with “damage control” when bad reviews spring up by responding directly to the commenter’s post. The more responsive and proactive a customer care division is, the more confident people will feel a hotel’s staff takes their comfort seriously.

Hotel Marketing Strategies: Standard Marketing Techniques Hoteliers Need To Master  

After you’ve identified your brand image, target demographic, and budget constraints, it’s time to start developing your marketing game plan. So, where should a hotelier begin? Understandably, with so many strategies and advertising tools to consider, people often have difficulty choosing where to prioritize their focus. 

While the list of hotel marketing techniques is endless, a few well-known tactics exist in the travel and leisure market. Any hotel that wants to make an impression in the 21st century needs to consider how to incorporate the following strategies into its plans. 

Digital Marketing — Today’s Dominant Hotel Marketing Practice 

There’s no way to “get around” digitization in today’s economy, especially in the hotel & leisure sectors. To be blunt, if hotels don’t focus most of their attention on digital media campaigns, they don’t stand a chance. Data shows at least two-thirds of total sales in the travel industry happen on an eCommerce portal, and this number will likely grow with each passing year. The majority of customers nowadays use mobile or desktop devices to book their hotel stays, so building an online presence should be the core of a hotel’s marketing campaign. 

Indeed, most of today’s essential marketing tactics are centered around creating, promoting, and maintaining strong online offerings. Understandably, as more customers shift to booking hotels online rather than “old fashioned” methods like calling, hotels must meet consumers where they’re most active. Without a website and social media presence, hotels don’t “exist” for the vast majority of today’s travelers. 

Besides visibility, digital marketing serves important roles in tracking consumer patterns and retaining repeat visitors. Indeed, hoteliers have never had so many tools to create cost-effective personalized marketing campaigns and measure data with analytics software. 

Because digital strategies are central to current hotel marketing, let’s run through a few of the most powerful software-related strategies. 

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a significant part of a hotel’s overall digital strategy focusing on building and maintaining profiles on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Studies suggest over 90% of today’s travelers get inspired to visit a new destination while scrolling through their social feeds. As a bonus, hotels often get free publicity from social media users who organically post photos and reviews of a destination online. 

To take advantage of the benefits of social media, hotels often maintain active profiles with plenty of images, news about promotions, and guest interactions. Hotels might also partner with prominent social media influencers to stay at their resort to drive attention to their destination. However a hotel chooses to get involved in social media, it’s an essential marketing tactic to stay relevant and connect with today’s customers. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Be honest: How often do you scroll to “page two” when Googling a topic? Statistics suggest roughly 99% of people are content to stick with the most relevant search results Google selects for its top results. So, no matter how much time and attention you put into your hotel’s website, few people will find you if you’re not on the top page for major search engines. The only way for hotels to rank well on Google is to invest a portion of their marketing budget in a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

SEO experts compile target keywords, analyze how your top competitors rank, and explore website building and content strategies to increase traffic to your site. Although it usually takes a few months or even a year to see the fruits of a well-funded SEO strategy, this technique is essential for increasing your site’s reputation and gradually increasing online visibility. 

CRM and Data Analytics Conversion Rates 

Customer service is the cornerstone of every good business, especially in the hospitality industry. Thankfully, there are dozens of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) softwares to help hotels offer a “personal touch” without straining their resources. 

In addition to offering personalized marketing strategies like targeted emails, CRMs monitor consumer patterns to help reveal actionable trends and new lead possibilities. A powerful CRM also helps visualize data such as how many online visitors convert to becoming paid customers, and whether there are commonalities between these paying demographics. 


Even with the above digital marketing strategies, average conversion rates on hotel websites generally sit in the 2% range. With the help of “remarketing,” however, hoteliers significantly boost the likelihood that customers who showed an interest in booking a room will return and become paying customers. 

Basically, remarketing helps hotels target missed sales opportunities by tracking previous visitors and sending them targeted online ads. When online users agree to “cookies” on a hotel’s website, sites can launch these remarketing ads wherever potential customers go online. While this may seem annoying from a consumer perspective, research shows there’s usually a 70% higher likelihood of conversion for customers exposed to remarketing ads. The constant reminder to revisit a hotel’s website typically encourages people to follow through on a purchase. 

Remarketing is also effective because it allows hotel managers to offer personalization and special perks to customers who expressed an interest in visiting a property. Since you already know these customers are interested in booking a room, the chances of conversion are higher with an attractive offer. 

Third-Party Channels 

Another aspect of launching a hotel marketing campaign is integrating with third-party channels to generate more leads and drive more traffic to your business. Online travel agencies (OTAs), metasearch websites, and global distribution centers (GDCs) offer customers the maximum convenience when shopping around different hotels, so it’s most likely first-time visitors will first run across your property on one of these sites. 

Creating highly visual profiles on sites such as, TripAdvisor, and Expedia instantly gives you access to millions of potential customers and a respected platform for former visitors to leave their reviews. These sites increase the likelihood the right customer will find you by customizing your search filters and target audience.  

Recent Trends in Hotel Marketing — The Latest Innovations To Consider 

Although digital campaigns are essential for contemporary hotel marketing, there are potentially lucrative trends hoteliers may want to pay attention to. Although these latest strategies aren’t necessary to successfully advertise a property, they may help hotels stay on the cutting edge and give them a competitive advantage in their territory. 

  • Virtual and augmented reality: “Metaverse” became a buzzword in the global tech sector after Facebook changed to “Meta Platforms,” but there are still a lot of questions about what the heck “metaverse” means. One thing that’s clear, however, is virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are becoming a dominant part of the digitized world. In the hotel industry, VR and AR applications open new possibilities to help prospective guests get a visceral “preview” of a room, which may translate to a higher “real world” booking rate. Hotels with conference centers or wedding pavilions might also integrate with these technologies to offer guests the opportunity to “virtually visit” a destination. 
  • Artificial intelligence integrations: AI chatbots aren’t “new” in computer science, but they’ve become trendy in recent years, thanks to the hype surrounding ChatGPT. The most obvious use case for AI chatbots is to offer guests 24/7 service without hiring additional customer care staff. However, AI offers hoteliers many other potential value propositions with their marketing strategies. For instance, some hotels already use AI robots to deliver products or take payments. AI software can also analyze consumer data, automate internal tasks, or create personalized messages for a more efficient and scalable marketing operation.   
  • Redefining pet policies: From a hotel’s perspective, pets can be pesky. Not only do rooms with pets need extra cleaning, there’s a chance these animals may howl all night or create safety hazards if they’re not properly trained. That being said, hotels who don’t market pet-friendly accommodations stand to lose a significant chunk of yearly revenue. Surveys suggest 94% of American travelers would rather have pet accommodations than most “traditional” amenities like pools or spas. Even more impressive, over a quarter of respondents said pet policies are a top consideration, and 34% said they’d pay at least $100 extra per night for their furry friend. Therefore, promoting pet-friendly policies may be a crucial revenue driver in a hotel’s marketing strategy. 
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs): Even people who aren’t into cryptocurrencies have likely seen a few images of expensive JPEGs called non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Without getting too deep into the technology, NFTs are unique digital tokens on decentralized computer networks. What does this have to do with hotel marketing? Well, a few hotels have begun using NFTs to serve both promotional and practical purposes. For instance, hotels might use NFTs as room keys rather than physical cards, cutting down on manufacturing costs while enhancing guest security. NFTs might also function as a new “hotel rewards” system where guests could redeem their crypto for virtual or real-life prizes (similar to how brands like Starbucks are reinventing their rewards systems with NFT collections). Although using NFTs in hotels is in a “Wild West” phase, these tokens might offer exciting ways to change the hospitality industry. 

Final Tip: Focus On Vision When Making A Hotel Marketing Decision 

Putting together a solid hotel marketing strategy is far from a simple task. However, hotels that start with a clear vision of their brand identity and target audience can easily determine what to include in their marketing campaigns. Take plenty of time to develop a coherent brand identity before moving on to specific marketing techniques. Once you’ve established the core value propositions for your property, it should be easier to see which hotel marketing decisions make the most sense for your goals.