What is hotel marketing?

Hotel marketing refers to the tools and strategies set in place to promote a hotel. The purpose is to bring in as many new guests as possible, and to retain past customers.

To put this hospitality marketing definition in simple words, potential guests are eager to travel and possibly visit your hotel. All you have to do is show them your hotel’s best features!

Your small hotel may not have a giant budget or large amounts of resources to dedicate to a hotel marketing plan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t market your property just as effectively as any big hotel or chain.

Successful marketing in hotels comes down to being creative, smart, and playing to your strengths. Being small is powerful, and you can often create special memories and experiences for your guests that can influence your marketing.

Knowing your target audience and your competition well will help you achieve your goals. If you succeed in online hotel marketing, then your hotel will be taking more bookings than ever before.

Marketing in the hotel industry

Hotel marketing helps you reach out to prospective guests and promote your business. And without it, you would struggle to succeed!

Implementing a good hotel marketing strategy is key to the long-term success of your hotel business, especially because it helps you stand out from the competition.

Considering the hotel industry has over 700.000 hotels worldwide, investing your time (and money!) in effective hotel marketing management is paramount. Although travellers’ needs change over time and global events affect the way people travel, all in all, the principles of marketing hotels remain the same.

In this hotel marketing guide, we’ll offer you a complete overview of everything you need to know about how to market a hotel so that you can successfully promote your property.

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Why is hotel marketing important?

Marketing in the hospitality industry is important because without guests, there’s no business. Showing potential guests that you are available and why they should choose you over your competitors is the role of hotel marketing.

Additionally, it’s your chance to build a brand your customers trust. And if they trust your hotel, then they are more likely to tell their friends, and book with you again for future stays.

Knowing your guests

Once you understand what your guests want, it will be easier to offer exactly what they are looking for. So, how will you find out your guests’ deepest desires?

Well, a good place to start is with the online reviews for your property! You’ll have an insight into why they booked a room at your hotel. Also, you can find out what services your guests enjoy the most. Was it the superb dinner they had in your restaurant? Or the relaxing massage in your spa? Perhaps it was the WiFi connection speed?

With this information, you can offer each guest precisely what they’re after.

Showing your hotel off

Making guests aware of your hotel’s best qualities is crucial. Your hotel’s marketing might feature the sprawling gardens on your country estate, a stunning beach view, or something else unique at your property.

Making potential customers familiar with the best things about your hotel is key to winning them over. Some common ways to raise awareness to these things is to use email marketing, social media, or user-generated content.

Another way to do it is using promotions and special offers in hotel online marketing. Everyone loves a good deal, and I’m sure your guests are no different! When business is slow, presenting lower rates or a complimentary room upgrade will definitely capture your customer’s attention.

Keeping your guests close

Top-notch service is the key to success. But in order to encourage a guest to return, you must keep them close. How? Using modern-day technology, of course!

Digital marketing plays a key role when it comes to customer engagement. Through social media, you can show your long-time customers what you’ve been up to. And through email marketing, you can send them exclusive one-of-a-kind offers!

Small hotel marketing: Where should you start?

The very first thing you need to do at your property is to identify your strengths; your unique selling points. These are the things that you can offer travellers that your competitors or other hotels can’t offer in the same way.

They might include:

  • Where your property is located – Do you have the best view in town or the best proximity to local attractions?
  • Your architecture – Is your property famously old, uniquely built, or non-traditional accommodation?
  • Your design – Do you have special pieces of artwork, fixtures, wallpaper, or features that will ‘wow’ guests?
  • Your amenities – Is your property filled with interesting or high-demand amenities that guests won’t be able to find elsewhere in your area?
  • Your guests – Is your small hotel a common place to stay for high-profile or notable guests?

Once you have two or three key selling points, you can get started on making sure these are front and centre of your hospitality industry marketing efforts. However, try not to overload your marketing material with all your selling points at once. For example, if you make a post on Instagram, highlight just one of them in detail.

P.S you can also check out a comprehensive guide to B&B marketing here.

Digital marketing in hotel industry

The rise of the internet was a turning point in world history. Every business worldwide faced a new challenge: adapt or cease to exist. As a result, marketing strategies changed drastically. They became more focused on the company’s online presence and customers’ buying intentions.

Considering people spend most of their time online, most hotel marketing campaigns happen on the internet. If you are not using digital marketing, then you’re missing out on incredible opportunities.


It’s measurable

Conducting your hotel marketing online allows you to measure your campaign’s effectiveness. Explore Google Analytics to learn more about how your visitors discovered your hotel. This is also a great tool to find your target audience, understand user behaviour, analyse conversion rates, and improve ads and SEO content.

It’s cost-effective

In the old days, marketing was only accessible to big companies. Advertising was expensive, leaving small companies out of the competition. However, since digital marketing is considerably cheaper, any hotel can benefit.

It helps you find your audience

Through online marketing, you can find specific customers. Depending on their demographics, location, and preferences, you’ll have the chance to develop a strategy focused on promoting your hotel to the right visitors.

It’s where people spend most time

According to a global report, an average internet user spends around 7 hours online! Whether it’s professional or personal usage, we spend most of our waking time browsing the web. This is why the internet is the perfect location to promote your hotel! People go online to search for accommodation options, compare rates or check on guest reviews before booking a room.

It’s personalised advertising

With online marketing for hotels, you can direct your message to specific groups of customers based on their preferences and make them feel you are speaking directly to them. Email marketing is the most used option when it comes to personalisation. You can segment your audience, and provide personalised information on promotions and services that truly captivate your guests.

Image explaining hotel marketing

How to build a solid hotel marketing strategy

Designing a marketing strategy is key for your business to succeed. Whether it’s a small hotel or boutique hotel chain, you can get great results with proper planning. Here’s how you can get started:

1. Build a business summary

The marketing plan intends to provide clear information on your hotel to marketers and other professionals dealing with the communication strategy. For that reason, start by clearly identifying your hotel. Include the hotel’s name and location. Additionally, state your mission, vision, and values.

2. Conduct extensive market research

A comprehensive analysis of your competitors and customers will help you identify the right resources to reach your target audience.

Identify the market and your competitors

Start by researching the current state of the travel industry. Then, decide which date is most important and how you’ll use it to predict future trends and growth projections.

At this point, you can use a SWOT analysis to identify your competitors. It will be your chance to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You’ll be able to state what their business lacks and how you can fill in the gaps.

Identify your target audience

Your ideal customer will be the one buying your services. That’s why you must know who they are! Once your market research is complete, it will be easier to identify who is more likely to stay at your hotel. That will be your target audience.

Demographic information, such as age and gender, will help you understand your customers. However, it is also important to consider their location, profession, education level, preferences, and needs.

3. Define your marketing goals

Your goals should be crystal clear! People around you must understand your vision and what you hope to achieve. Besides which, it will be easier to analyze your campaign success in the future.

One way to master your goals statement is to use the SMART strategy. This method stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

How does this apply to you?

Let’s say that for your next marketing campaign, your goal is to increase your revenue on direct bookings by 15% until the end of the year. Using the SMART strategy, it would look something like this:

  • Specific – ask yourself who should be in charge of this goal and what you need to accomplish it. Be as detailed as possible.
  • Measurable – using numbers is a great approach to attain a measurable goal. In this example, the 15% increase is as clear as it can be.
  • Achievable – identify which strategies you must put into action to attain your goal. It can be offering a lower rate for repeated guests or walk-ins or depend less on online travel agencies.
  • Relevant – for your plan to succeed, it is important that your goals are meaningful to your company. It will allow you to focus on what’s important.
  • Time-bound – when mentioning “until the end of the year” you are identifying until when you will take this goal into action.

4. Pinpoint your budget

Establishing a budget is a crucial phase where you guarantee you have enough resources to accomplish your goals. Once you’ve done your market research and identified who’s your target audience, it is time to decide how much you are willing to spend. A well-designed financial plan will help you decide on the marketing channels.

5. Marketing channels

Decide how you want to reach your audience. If you’re just starting and are lucky enough to have a big budget, then go for sponsored content, pay-per-click, or native advertising. On the other hand, if you’re managing a hotel with a small budget, then put all your efforts into social media, email marketing, and personalised advertising.

With these tips, I’m sure you’ll create a thriving marketing plan!

Hotel marketing tips to successfully promote your small hotel

The ultimate goal of your marketing is to make sure as many travellers as possible find your small hotel, explore your offers, and book a stay. Here are four steps you can take to make sure you’re set up for success.

1. Be easily searchable and accessible online

Given that more than three-quarters of travellers start their research on a search engine, having an online presence is absolutely crucial. Developing your hotel’s digital presence will help you reach a wider audience while updating your most loyal customers.

Here are few things you need:

Web design

This is your digital “home” and where you present your hotel to potential guests! So, it’s important to guarantee they will easily find what they’re looking for. A user-friendly web page will help your guests virtually explore your property and make a reservation.

Content marketing

Your website can be so much more than showing great hotel photos and booking a room! Along with your user-friendly website, you can build a blog and offer video content, presenting the services provided, your location, and events happening in and around your hotel.

Start with a content management system. It will help you organise and schedule our posts and avoid duplicate content. The best part is that it is so easy to use you don’t need a team of experts to take full advantage of its potential.

Google profile

Your Google Business Profile is the key that unlocks the sprawling Google ecosystem, which includes Google Search, Maps, Hotels, Display Network, YouTube and more. Your profile is simple to set up, and will ensure you come up as a result on Google when a potential guest types in relevant keywords, such as “hotel [YOUR LOCATION]”.

You can think of Google as a business directory, a modern Yellow Pages, and your Google Business Profile is your entry into that directory. The best bit? It’s totally free!

Once set up, it’s important to carefully manage your profile, particularly the review function, as this can have a huge impact on your ability to attract guests.

Active social media

It’s hard to think of a business that is better suited to social media than a hotel. Attracting guests is about showing people why your property and destination is worth a visit, and social media is the perfect way to do it.

Begin by understanding where your target audience tends to hang out online. Older people use Facebook, younger people use TikTok and Instagram, and corporate travellers can be found on LinkedIn. Select a handful of the most relevant platforms and create a profile.

From there social media success is about posting consistently. Browse each platform to find inspiration for content. Don’t be shy about showing off your property and region. Offer up a diverse range of content including reviews and testimonials, travel tips, local recommendations, behind the scenes footage and more.

Once you have these in place, your online visibility will improve and travellers are more likely to find you. These profiles are easy to maintain and add to the fun of running your small property.

2. Plan how and where you want to market your business

Now when it comes to actively marketing your property, there’s so much you can do even on a tight budget. Think about:

  • Email marketingEmail marketing is an evergreen tactic for all businesses. Ask current guests, website visitors, and Facebook followers to sign up to your newsletter. You can then keep them updated on news, offers, and special promotions.
  • Facebook marketingFacebook is where you can convert your followers and also attract new audiences via posting sharable pictures, interesting content, competitions, and giveaways.
  • Instagram marketingInstagram is a favourite place for travellers looking for inspiration. You can take advantage of this in the same way as Facebook but you can also use popular hashtags to catch the eye of potential guests or work with influencers to increase your reach.

3. Know who you want to market to

It’s important to do some analysis of your current and past guests to get an understanding of who your typical guest is. Not all guests book the same, travel the same, have the same budgets, or have the same preferences and motivations.

You need to accurately market your property to attract the guests who are most likely to book with you. There’s no point trying to sell an experience you can’t offer, because it will just end up hurting your business when guests leave a review after seeing that their expectations haven’t been met.

For example, if you’re noticing your guests are mostly young couples, or couples in general, you could start marketing your property with offers and promotions like:

  • Honeymoon destination
  • Weekend getaways
  • Anniversary escapes
  • Valentine’s Day

Your intended audience must always be at the core of your marketing plan.

4. Attract guests to your hotel website

We know how important a hotel website is, but how do you attract guests to your website in the first place?

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

When’s the last time you typed in a full URL to navigate to a website? More likely you began typing it in before hitting Enter and letting a search engine do the rest, which is what makes Google the gatekeeper of the internet. 

As we mentioned above, marketing hotels well is about making yourself easily searchable and accessible online. This means ranking as high as possible on Google. Search engine optimisation (SEO) aims to do just that by using a collection of techniques, from inserting keywords to ensuring your website loads quickly.

Travellers understand Google ranks the best and most reliable options for their search query first. In their minds, booking a room with a hotel ranking first place is likely a safe choice.

SEO is a process of pleasing Google’s algorithm, which helps you rank higher.

  • Use on-page SEO so that Google sees you as a reliable source of information. Keyword research, optimised visual content, and backlinking are a few strategies that can help.
  • Paid advertising will only take you so far. SEO drives organic traffic, which means you attract website visitors without spending a cent with GoogleGoogle Analytics provides clear information to understand user behaviour and intention, which can inform parts of your SEO strategy, such as the keywords you target.

Online advertising

Where SEO offers an ‘organic’ way to get to the top of the Google results page, but generally takes months to do it, with Google Ads you can pay to get there instantly.

By focusing on the right keywords and offering the right hotel website promotions, Google Ads can attract a wealth of highly targeted guests to your hotel. One effective example of promoting a hotel using PPC advertising is to simply target the keyword “[type of hotel] [location]”, e.g. “hostel Sydney”.

There are a number of other online advertising opportunities too: display ads on websites, in-app advertising and pre-roll video ads on YouTube.

Social media

Travel is an industry seemingly built for social media. Your aim is to inspire people to visit your hotel, and a stunning photo or well shot video is an effective way to do just that.

On social media you want to ensure your hotel promotion message is subtle. Remember that people jump on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to be entertained, not to be sold to, so you should aim to post things that are both fun to look at and put your hotel in the best light. Happily this Venn diagram has plenty of overlap.

Conversion rate optimisation

Once potential customers visit your optimised website, you must do everything you can to ensure they don’t leave without booking a room.

Improving your CRO, or conversion rate optimisation, means that you are actively guiding your visitors through the sales funnels and converting them into paying customers. You can set an email marketing campaign and dedicated landing page providing an exclusive offer, or developing an optimised website and prompting visitors with calls to action.


Remarketing is another strategy you can use to bolster your conversion rate.

With remarketing, you’ll be reminding your visitors about their buying intentions so that they return and finish the booking process. Email marketing campaigns and social media ads are usually the most used options.

5. Manage your guests’ preferences

In a people-centred business such as the hotel industry, knowing your guests well will help you succeed. As your hotel brand grows, so does your customer base. For that reason, it becomes increasingly harder to know every guest by name.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is the perfect tool to help you meet your guests’ expectations. Besides saving contact details, you’ll have the opportunity to collect detailed information on their preferences and reservation records.

With a CRM platform, you’ll have a unique database to keep your customers engaged. Besides, you can use this valuable information to build a loyalty program and boost repeated guest reservations.

6. Email your guests every now and then

Email marketing campaigns are a cost-effective strategy that’s perfect for up-swinging direct bookings and increasing customer loyalty.

However, before reaching out to your customers, ensure that you have their permission to use their contacts for marketing purposes. In Europe, the United States, and Canada, for example, there are strict regulations when it comes to data protection.

A CRM tool is key to building an email marketing campaign. You can segment your guests and offer them valuable and exclusive offers they will love.

7. Engage your customers through social media

Scrolling through social media has become a routine for most of us. Without even realising it, we find ourselves reading the news headlines, checking on what our friends have been up to, and following our favourite celebrities.

In fact, users stated they felt inspired to travel after seeing their friend’s social media posts. And more than 70% said that they post photos of their vacations on social media.

For hotels, this is the perfect opportunity to promote business! Besides posting content on hotel facilities and services, you can use it to engage with customers. Offer last-minute deals or limited availability for exclusive offers. The fear of missing out will be so overwhelming that your guests will definitely book a room!

8. Work side by side with third-party channels

I know that as a hotelier, commissions are at the front of your mind when it comes to third-party channels. Even though you might be eager to convert these commissions into direct revenue for your hotel, they do serve a purpose: third-party channels help you gain visibility with a broader audience that you would struggle to find on your own!

Global Distribution System (GDS)

Travel agencies and travel operators use this system to get better deals with hotels when making a reservation for their clients. For hotels, it means defining contract rates, allotments, booking windows, and blackout dates that no other partners will have access to.

If you’re new to the hotel industry, this might seem tricky. Yet, with a channel manager, you’ll be able to upload the contract information to the system. This way, your hotel availability is always updated.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

As a traveller, if you haven’t booked a room with a tour operator or directly with the hotel, chances are that you used an online travel agency. The same happens to your customers!

Popular platforms, such as Booking.com or Expedia, show your property to millions of potential guests worldwide. By defining the search filters, travellers will find your hotel, among others ranking for similar rates, services, and location.

Because of that, you must use high-quality photos of your hotel and encourage guests to leave positive online reviews on their stay. Hopefully you’ll outrank your competitors, and potential guests are more likely to book their stay with you!


Another way to use third-party channels to your advantage is using metasearch. Ever heard of this before? In a few words, metasearch engines, such as Trivago or TripAdvisor, gather information on hotel rooms and present it to potential guests.

For guests, it’s easier to compare rates and services and find the best deals. However, their journey to complete the purchase will be longer, as they will be redirected to different third-party websites.

To overcome a high abandonment rate, guarantee that guests will see the same rates for each room type or use a remarketing strategy. If your guests get lost along the journey, they will easily get back on track to complete the reservation.

Small hotel marketing ideas that you can start using today

So you can get some inspiration and start the creative juices flowing, let’s look a whole list of ways you can market your small property:

1. Reward your guests for recommending you

Word of mouth marketing is free and can be very powerful, especially if you incentivise your current guests to bring their friends and family to your property.

2. Embrace the local community

To promise guests an experiential stay, make sure your property is a part of the local area by showcasing local art, food, attractions, and events both in your hotel or as part of booking packages.

3. Partner with other local businesses

Anything you can do to expand your reach and incentivise guests at the same time is a great idea. You might work with restaurants, cinemas, museums, zoos, or theme parks to include tickets or vouchers in one of your bundles.

4. Let guests know they’re coming to a home, not a hotel

Many guests prefer Airbnb stays because hotels can feel sterile and impersonal. Make sure your marketing instils the idea that guests will be getting an authentic experience when they stay with you.

5. Use social media actively

There’s so much more to social media than posting photos or updates. Use your profiles to ask followers questions via polls, let them have a say in what cocktail you put on your menu, host competitions, and promote both your own content and content generated by your guests.

You can also reach out to bloggers or influencers, share live stories behind the scenes, give tours, or explain what’s special about certain parts of your property.

6. Open your spaces to all

If you have the capability to host small events go for it. This could include birthdays, baby showers, weddings, social events, art classes, or exercise classes. The more people coming through your doors the more revenue you can earn. Always ask people to tag you if they post photos or videos too.

The busier you can be promoting your hotel online and getting more people involved, the larger your brand will become. Once you have a strong enough presence and reputation, your occupancy rates and cash flow will be strong.

Best marketing practices for a small hotel

So you want to make sure all boxes are ticked right. There’s no point having a great plan and great ideas if things are slipping through the cracks. Here are some best practices to ensure your conversion and occupancy stays high:

  • Use your budget leading up to, and during, peak seasons – You don’t have a huge budget so you have to make it count. If you are going to use paid advertising on Google or social media for example, use it before and during peak seasons to maximise occupancy when your room rates are higher. It’s important to catch the attention of guests when they’re planning their big trip.
  • Use promotions impactfully – Centre your promotions around particular themes, seasons, events, or partnerships to maximise interest and value. You can also use promotions to boost occupancy if it’s running low.
  • Market your destination – Don’t spend all your time on marketing your property; guests are excited about the destination too so ensure you put your area on the map.
  • Optimise your OTA (Online Travel Agent) profile – It’s vital that as many people see, and are impressed by, your OTA profile as possible. Often if they like what they see they’ll visit your website to book directly.
  • Prioritise an amazing website – Your hotel website needs to be aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, easy to book, and tell your brand story.
  • Use an online booking engine – A booking engine is essential to allow online bookings via your website, metasearch, and social media pages.
  • Don’t take shortcuts on photography – To wow guests you need hotel photography with impeccable lighting, symmetry, no clutter, spatial awareness, and that shows your room interiors.
  • Always encourage reviews – Reviews can have a huge impact on your success so make sure you are always asking guests to review you online both on sites like TripAdvisor and your own business profiles.

Most of all, stay persistent and always remember the essence of your brand when putting any marketing material into the world!

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).