Digital Marketing for Hospitality: the definitive guide for hotels, inns, resorts and hostels

Find out what you can do to make your hotel sell more reservations and have more guests throughout the year

According to Google Trips, more than 70% of travelers use the internet to plan their next trip or trip.

In addition, 83% travelers are inspired by new trips through Facebook and 55% through Instagram. By themselves, these numbers already justify the use of Digital Marketing strategies for hotels.

This and other data confirm what is already evident in our daily lives: the way we find, choose and buy stays in hotels, inns and resorts has changed radically in recent years and continues to change at an accelerated pace.

And, so you can get ahead, check out this guide with everything you need to know about Digital Marketing for hotels, regardless of whether it’s a hotel, inn, resort or even a hostel, for example.

7 reasons for you to start investing in Digital Marketing

Do you know how many reservations per month your hotel loses for not having a Digital Marketing strategy ? Certainly many, although you can’t even measure it!

That’s because travelers’ consumption habits have also been completely transformed with the internet.

1. From printed guides to specialized blogs: how do travelers define their itineraries and accommodation?

Remember when was the last time you resorted to famous guides with travel itineraries?

In 2015, it was already frightening the amount of blogs and websites with script tips that everyone would have the desire to do.

The “digital backpacker influencers” emerged , for example, who, with each account of a magnificent itinerary, fueled the dream of travel by people around the world. The internet has definitely made it possible for these travelers to share their experiences, taking away the monopoly of tourist information from companies.

Another element that contributed to the change in standards was the democratization of opinion spaces. Have you ever thought about going somewhere unfamiliar, about which you didn’t even have a reference, and doubted the quality of service you would find?

Yeah… Now it’s possible to follow user ratings! There are even specific sites for this, such as TripAdvisor. Consumers keep an eye on other people’s comments about places, accommodations, airlines and services in general. This feature became key for decision-making on the internet.

Therefore, if you are not present on the internet with a good strategy, you are failing to take advantage of these opportunities and become a reference for your future guests.

Some companies realized this and today they make millions! They can even be partners in your business. However, it would be a big strategic mistake to rely solely on them to receive reserves.

2. Digital Marketing for Hotels is developed with a focus on direct bookings

The natural way for every entrepreneur in the hotel industry to acquire the first reservations is to create profiles in specialized marketplaces for search for accommodation, such as Booking.com  and Trivago.

The decision is correct since these companies already have a lot of authority in the market and credibility with the traveling public. Being well positioned on these pages does mean having a good booking channel.

However, the possibilities you have in these companies to stand out from the competition are limited. In general, these sites’ policies are strict and text and images undergo heavy editing. This lack of autonomy prevents you from exploring various possibilities that the internet brings to attract and relate to your audience.

The search for independence in sales, that is, to be less and less dependent on intermediaries to generate new reservations, is the agenda of the main meetings of hotels, inns and resorts that want to be more profitable.

Non-intermediated bookings are very important within the sector’s distribution strategy, enabling hotels to reduce the cost of acquiring customers in the medium and long term.

So it’s only natural that Digital Marketing methods for hotels are increasingly focused on steps that can take the dream guest to direct booking.

3. Don’t waste time and take control of your strategy now

Creating your website and your own communication and relationship channels like Blue World City on the internet allows you to define the best strategy to relate to your potential customer.

This is very good, after all, no one knows their pain and needs better than you do.

More than being positioned on the network, you need to talk to your audience and help people with useful information so that they can make the trip in the best possible way.

In this case, I’m not just talking about your establishment’s price information. Even because a tourist who has never visited your city needs, before deciding on accommodation, information about which places to visit, how public transport is, what kind of food you will find, among other details to decide on the destination.

That’s why it’s very important to invest in a good content strategy. According to Content Trend 2017 — a survey carried out by Rock Content with Brazilian agencies that work with digital strategies — companies in general that invest in Content Marketing generate 2.2 times more visitors on their pages and 3.2 times more Leads, which, in practice, means more sales opportunities.

Providing travelers with information that meets their pain and expectations will certainly earn you credibility, generating more authority for your company.

If you are a reference, your website and social networks will be channels sought by your audience of interest. Thus, with the right strategy to convert this audience into a business opportunity, you will have chances to get to know it better. This will make a difference in your business.

4. The relationship with your audience is the key to closing more bookings

When you have an up-to-date and interesting base of contacts, you’ll have a chance to more effectively meet your audience’s expectations. With Digital Marketing techniques, you can identify information that indicates at what point in the purchase journey your potential customer is.

This is very important because your contacts certainly have different interests. For some, the trip is near and they already want to guarantee accommodation. Still, others are looking for information about the city to decide their next vacation destination. And there are those who have already stayed at your hostel and just want to keep in touch.

It’s definitely not possible to have the same communication with everyone, is it?

Segmenting your contact base from the information provided by the public itself helps you to establish personalized and adequate communication.

5. Strengthen your business strategy

Imagine that among your contacts you have identified people who know that they will travel to your city, who have defined the period, the number of people who will need accommodation and are now in the stage of defining the best place to stay.

That’s a full plate for you to have a proper trading strategy. This is the time to show the benefits of your accommodations, set up promotions if necessary, and create a sense of urgency.

It is important that the step by step of this step is always well planned, with clear and objective communication. If your strategy is well aligned in this regard, you will be able to close as many reserves as possible.

Also, take the opportunity to retain your customer by providing a pleasant experience during the stay and maintaining a relationship after the stay.

6. The cell phone is used from planning to the end of the trip

Smartphones are part of our daily lives and also part of our travels. From planning, through shopping to travel, it is possible to solve everything in the palm of your hand much more easily.

Travelers not only expect hotels to be adapted to this new moment, but also to deliver an experience even better than it would be on the desktop.

There is even a term called Mobile First. In general terms, it is the need to create websites and web projects first for mobile and then adapts to the desktop. This can be extended to all communication and service – not just the site itself.

You have to think mobile from the lightest site for fast loading, passing through the 100% responsive layout, the agile service, on how to create content for social networks, opting for the vertical format, to the way you will communicate through emails that will be read through the smartphone.

7. Video content is gaining more and more space

With the increasingly fierce competition for the attention of internet users, videos stand out for the authentic way of delivering content. With the advancement of technology, they are gaining more and more space in Digital Marketing for hotels.

Sharing the attractions, experiences, and differentials of your accommodation and destination makes all the difference when it comes to attracting attention and making the traveler decide to book with your hotel. And, for that, you don’t need to limit yourself only to big productions!

You can, for example, make use of Instagram Stories and record spontaneous moments in your hotel. You can also do a live ( live stream) to increase engagement with your followers.

Or, partner with digital influencers to create a vlog with a script of experiences and activities and take the opportunity to generate potential Leads with those interested in the destination.

These are just a few of the many types and formats of video content you can create to inspire and attract new guests. Be creative, have a good content agenda, and start with the most viable way for your moment.

How to have a successful Digital Marketing strategy in the hotel industry

Now that you know the benefits of a Digital Marketing strategy for hotels, inns, resorts and hostels, see some ways to plan your successful strategy!

1. Know who you want to talk to

First, it must be clear that the traveler’s audience is large and diverse. Defining your business’s customer profile – and especially knowing it well – is essential to have assertive communication, avoid mistakes and provide positive experiences for your audience in relation to your business.

This is very serious! It’s no use wanting to please everyone. In hostels, for example, the structure usually prioritizes shared spaces, from the bedrooms to the kitchen. And know that not everyone is prepared or wants to live this experience of sleeping in the same space with strangers.

And even among people who identify with this style of hosting, there are differences. There are women who like to stay in shared rooms, but as long as they are only female. There are people who enjoy parties, which is common in hostels, but as long as they respect sleep times. And there are those who value the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, but still prefer to sleep in private rooms.

In other words, within what you consider your audience, you probably have different personas. Once you’ve identified them, it’s easier to offer appropriate solutions related to customer needs and, consequently, meet their expectations.

2. Do all paths lead to the reservation?

As we said before, it is not enough to identify, you have to know. Once you have a good understanding of your goals and challenges, it’s important to know which path your personas should take to reach them.

In the Digital Marketing glossary, we call this journey the consumer buying journey.

At each stage of this journey, needs can change or develop. When it comes to accommodation, a journey includes moments that require choices regarding the period of travel, location and style of accommodation.

Understanding the advanced triggers of each step is essential to guide the customer with marketing strategies and get more bookings.

If you’re still struggling to define your persona’s shopping journey, there are free tools that can help you, like the Shopping Journey Generator.

3. Attract your audience with interesting content offers

If you already know who you want to talk to and already identify the ideal moment for each type of approach, it’s time to attract this audience to your circle of relationships. And, as at any time in life, you can relate to people based on affinities.

It is worth remembering that, in an Inbound Marketing strategy, content production is essential for generating Leads and building an interesting contact base. And that’s the goal when planning attraction content.

Keep in mind that the desire to take a trip is universal. That’s why the expression “dream trip” is so popular. Therefore, content that portrays unforgettable experiences during a trip or fantastic places to visit usually attracts the attention of many people.

Also, note that not everyone who dreams of traveling will choose the location of your development or the period in which you have rooms available. Therefore, plan your content with the intention of increasingly attracting people who really represent a booking opportunity.

Considering that the consumer will go through four phases in the purchase journey – learning and discovery, problem recognition, consideration of the solution and purchase decision – know how to produce the appropriate content to attract potential customers in each of them:

  1. Learning and discovery: here the idea is to explore the benefits that a trip can bring. General content focused on experience reports or highlighting amazing destinations can be a great idea to spark interest in your persona.
  2. Problem recognition: At this stage, your persona is probably already quite interested in traveling, but doesn’t know where or when. Therefore, there is an open avenue to explore content that enhances the natural beauty of the place, the typical festivals and what else is good to know in your region or city.
  3. Consideration of the solution: here your potential customer is already more decided about the period of the trip and has probably already chosen your city as the next destination! However, he still needs more information about the best place to stay. It is essential that you can show your property’s differentials such as location, proximity to tourist attractions and other benefits they have to offer. Always giving the necessary information so that your potential customer has confidence and closes the reservation.
  4. Purchase decision: In this step, you should focus on topics relevant to booking closure. Bypassing objections, prices, promotions and direct benefits of your property can make the difference in your potential customer’s purchase decision.

All of these different types of content must relate to a conversion strategy in order for visitors to your website or blog to leave a contact. After all, more than visits to your page, what you really want is to be able to relate to your audience and close more bookings.

In your conversion strategy, prioritize identifying information relevant to your business process, such as the number of people who intend to stay, the date of travel and the reason – it makes a difference whether the person will enjoy the holiday or take a public competition exam.

This information is essential for you to be able to help the traveler in the best way possible. In addition, you can segment the audience by interest or need, which allows you to have a quality relationship and offer adequate and personalized solutions.

4. The key to knowing your audience is relationships!

In a digital strategy, you’re going to have two types of relationships. One of them is focused on public engagement through social media. Attractive and interesting publications generate engagement and increase the possibilities of positioning your hotel and receiving more decisive business opportunities, which via chat trigger the help of your property.

However, it is important to be clear that one of the biggest benefits of an Inbound Marketing strategy is scalability. Therefore, it is important to always prioritize the generation of Leads with a good conversion strategy, even through social networks, to qualify opportunities in an automated way.

Thus, your social media strategy must also fulfill the objective of generating traffic to your website and contributing to your conversion strategy, bringing qualified contacts to your Leads base.

At this point in the strategy, you have already attracted the different personas to the page and managed to identify the interests and specificities of each one of them.

Take this opportunity to bring them together and start a good relationship. Imagine that you have the following room options: mixed and female collective, private for couples and another comfortable enough to host a family.

Segmentation will allow you to make the right offers according to the context of each customer. Thus, he avoids suggesting a double room to a family of four, for example.

As for promotions, you don’t run the risk, for example, of sending a woman’s day offer to a man. Or suggest options for parties and ballads for those who traveled with the intention of taking part in a contest!

E-mail campaigns will be a priority tool to communicate, provide information, nourish your audience and further qualify your contacts, generating booking opportunities for your reception to contact you.

5. How to turn booking opportunities into customers?

When it comes to hotels, business opportunities are potential guests with the following characteristics identified: interest, economic conditions and availability to travel within a specified period.

Imagine that your hotel offers a carnival package. You have already identified that your potential customer meets the above characteristics, but you have not made the reservation payment yet.

First, it is important to try to map the reason why the payment was not made. Then, it is necessary to create a sense of urgency to encourage the booking to be made. At this time, communicate clearly that that room opportunity will not be available forever.

A good way to do this is to be transparent about your development’s reservation policies, making it clear how many days the customer has to pay or take advantage of the discount offered.

6. Increase your customer’s chances of return

Once the reservation has been confirmed, focus on providing a great experience for your customer. After all, no business can be sustained with marketing strategies alone.

Keep an excellent relationship during your stay and take the opportunity to retain your audience. But remember: a good relationship is not a differentiator, but an obligation. Therefore, I recommend three actions that would help you retain your customer through experience:

  1. Align your expectations well with your customer: be very transparent in your communication, especially if your business is a hostel. Many people close reservations without knowing the difference that the inclusion of an “S” can make in the word hotel. Due to lack of information, they end up booking a shared room with the expectation of staying in a private one. Take advantage of your blog to address these differences in the hosting model.
  2. Focus on the guest’s objective: generally, people who decide to stay in hotels and resorts favor comfort, while hostel and inn guests seek the experience.
  3. Encourage return or referral: take advantage of the sharing era to offer discounts for your customer to stay again. Or secure a referral from him to other friends. Also, encourage positive reviews of your business on social profiles.

Once the strategy is complete and has already been implemented, it is time to assess the results and plan further actions. Don’t forget that consistency will be critical to the success of your project.

In the hotel sector, whoever manages to help travelers make the best consumption decisions is the one who succeeds at all times of the year.

This help ranges from basic location and price information to common guest questions such as “what to do at the destination”, “pet-friendly hotels” and “what to pack”. Or more personally as “the best hotel for me”.

And these “requests for help” are not only made by traditional text searches anymore but now also by voice searches. We have lots of personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, as well as lots of tools in our smartphones, cars and smartwatches. Thus, more and more personalized searches.

Your SEO, social media, and marketing strategy for the hotel as a whole must focus not only on the booking and post-purchase stage but on being present from the dream to the planning of the trip, understanding the wishes and needs of your future guest.

Advanced Digital Marketing Tips for the Industry

Taking a ride on everything that’s been said so far, it’s clear why content is so important not just for marketing but for the business model of a successful hotel.

With the growing desire for personalized experiences, and so many options and accommodation formats available, it’s critical that the hotel defines its persona and create authentic content. You can do this through blogs or social networks, which inspire and help new guests. If you don’t offer content, they will look for someone to help them.

In other words, it’s not enough just to have excellent service and structure, you have to earn the trust of your future guest even before he arrives at your hotel. Thus, you can connect your service proposal with the ideal profile of travelers.

However, in addition to everything we’ve talked about, there are some trends that can help you leverage your strategy and stand out from the competition.

Chatbots and artificial intelligence in hospitality

In recent years, chatbots or service robots have been developed to help businesses scale their service channels.

In addition to optimizing the time of your employees who can (and should) be focused on other more complex functions, chatbots make your response time faster and don’t leave anyone waiting hours or even days to be served on the site, WhatsApp and your Facebook page, for example.

But be careful not to skip steps! Some hoteliers end up using this tool as a way to increase their reservations, but still with problems such as a drop in traffic on their website.

Therefore, it would not be useful in this case to scale up the service if there is no demand. As with any technology, you must evaluate the sales funnel and understand if the chatbot is really going to solve your problem.

It is also worth remembering that artificial intelligence (AI) goes far beyond chatbots. It can help from data collection tasks, giving more business intelligence to guest service actions already inside the hotel.

For this and the next few years, the trend is for AI to become more strategic for the hotel industry!

A/B test application in Digital Marketing campaigns for hotels

Is it better to have a page with more text or more images? An Instagram ad with a price or a percentage off? Blue or orange? Image of the pool or the beach? These and dozens of other questions are answered with  A/B tests.

This is a technique of testing just about anything to see what actually works and what we think works. It has been very successful even in hosting service sales, such as  Booking.com, which performs A/B tests on all pages of its website and in its application to increase its conversions and campaign performance.

In paid media campaigns, for example, it is essential that hotels also perform A/B testing to achieve a better return on investment

That’s because, when advertising on platforms such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads in order to increase direct bookings, competition tends to be fierce for some destinations. The detail makes all the difference to get better performance when it comes to attracting the ideal guest.

You can test ads on social media, website layout, landing pages, call buttons ( CTA ) and even email subject lines. The key is to never stop testing. Collect all the information and use it to increase your results!

Marketing automation built into the shopping experience

Do you create different strategies to bring the future guest to your site and then simply leave?

Know that on average 97% of people who visit your site will not buy the first time. But that doesn’t mean they can’t buy from you soon. It’s part of the traveler’s journey to go to the hotel’s website to plan the trip, and it’s up to you to have a lead generation and relationship strategy that can lead them to the purchase.

It’s not just the hotel experience itself, but your guest’s own shopping experience matters, after all, this is the first contact. And with current technologies, it is possible to create marketing automations with automatic sending of emails and segmented according to the moment of purchase of your future guest.

So if you still stick to sending promotional newsletters and have seen e-mail bring you less and fewer results, it’s a great sign that it’s high time for you to automate your relationship, be useful to your customer at the moment right, generate more reservations and still retain your guest.

Big Data overcomes guesswork in hotel managers’ decisions

A trend that came strong in 2018 and will consolidate itself in the hotel market is “Big Data”. This is because more and more a large number of errors are due to decisions based on guesswork and not on data.

With the speed of change and learning these days, it is not feasible for a business to rely exclusively on the opinion of a person, no matter how much he is a partner of the company or an expert on the subject.

What was right or what was most common 10, 5 or even 2 years ago is not necessarily more common at present. Therefore, it is necessary to have a data history to obtain clear and distinct metrics in order to make a more assertive and agile decision.

Website visits data, most accessed pages, most popular packages, periods with a higher occupancy rate, RevPar increase or decrease, common objections and the best return channel are examples of data to be collected and intertwined by the hotel to make better decisions marketing and sales. “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion,” said statistician W. Edwards Deming.

Be sure to check out the RD Station success stories! There you can see several companies, including the hotel sector, that found in digital marketing a way to generate more results.

Are you part of the hotel sector? How is your Digital Marketing strategy? Share with us by leaving your comment below!