For years, marketers have been told they need to “pay to play” to get their brand in front of consumer eyeballs whether it’s on television, in top publications, or on the most lucrative of blogs. For hoteliers, there’s a much more cost-effective way of getting your foot in the door and maximizing ROI.
By Dana Baasiri
“Pay to play” is a term marketers hear quite often, but that’s not the only way travel brands can maximize ROI and stretch marketing dollars.
As we see a resurgence of bookings from travelers unleashing their pent-up travel demand, hotels can’t help but feel optimistic about the return to normal. Airline seats are filled, families are flocking to the Caribbean and Mexico for their long-awaited tropical vacation, hotel pools that were empty last year are now filled with guests floating their worries away — it’s a very welcomed familiarity. We’re heading into the summer with strong occupancy, but being budget-conscious remains a common priority for hotel marketers. On top of that, there’s a growing pressure to continue driving demand while keeping costs down.
Whether it’s on television, in top publications or on the most lucrative of blogs, there’s a common belief that brands need to dish out a big out-of-pocket expense to reach consumers and capture audiences. The truth is allocating a large cash spend towards paid advertising is not the only option. Exchanging room inventory is proven to maximize ROI, stretch marketing dollars and boost hotel occupancy. Here are four ways you can exchange your hotel rooms for marketing dollars.
Influence and Engage
A recent survey found that 67.9% of US marketers will use influencer marketing this year with that jumping to 72.5% in 2022. With that in mind, it’s no secret that collaborating with the right influencer can ignite travel demand in a number of ways. Whether you partner with a social media influencer, a podcaster, or even a TV or radio personality, third-party credibility and content helps you engage audiences authentically. Leverage dates with left-over inventory to place the right partner at your resort. Be aligned in your messaging, curate an itinerary that highlights key amenities like a new room product or a brunch menu, or even work with them on pushing seasonal offers for shoulder season through a promo code. A fan sweepstakes or a social media takeover can help you build long-lasting momentum, while a social media summit can give you impact across several audiences. If social media is not your goal, go the editorial route and work with a freelance travel writer or influential media publication through press trips or a unique story angle that appeals to their readers. Whichever route you do go, timing can be everything. To push a slower period like the fall, you have to get ahead of it with a robust and cost-effective marketing plan that is rolled out in the summer for example.
Give the Gift of Travel
Partner with a like-minded brand to offer their audience a free stay at your hotel through a sweepstakes or contest giveaway. Promotional partnerships are a cost-effective way of driving awareness and revenue for your properties. In fact, over half of companies say that partnerships drive more than 20% of their total revenue. In exchange for the travel prizing, you can garner exposure to their customers through emails, digital inclusion on their website, social media, and at times even in-store or on product packaging. The timing and theme of the campaign can help you communicate a specific message to a specific target audience while layering in a promotional offer can incentivize your brand partner’s customers to book a stay for shoulder season.
Ease into Events
Events not only deepen brand engagement but they inspire action — action to book, to engage, to share, and to interact. Whether you are targeting vacation club members, new guests, or even your travel partners, events can deliver buzzworthy experiences that get people excited. With hotels having implemented enhanced safety protocols like increased sanitation and socially distanced layouts for over a year now, you can start thinking about easing back into in-person events. A live performance musical series or festival coupled with a radio broadcast, for instance, lends itself to exciting packages that drive revenue and reach mass audiences. On the other hand, a slower period with low occupancy can be the perfect time to host your top suppliers for an industry event that rewards and incentivizes their loyalty to your business.
Believe it or not, there can be a silver lining for hotels in the off-season. Lower occupancy not only means unused room inventory but can also mean under-utilized spaces or common areas. Maybe that’s a terrace commonly used for weddings or a convention space reserved for groups. Hotels can convert those available spaces into a seasonal activation or resort programming to deliver added value to guests. Unique and “Instagrammable” experiences like a mixology pop-up, a variety show, or an interactive activity can excite guests and organically generate social media exposure and UGC. Alternatively, you can opt for an out-of-the-box paid experience that helps generate some revenue while giving you a unique offer to push through your marketing campaigns and channels.
As you head into planning and budgeting for the next year, keep in mind that you don’t have to compromise reach for the sake of keeping your costs down. You also don’t have to allocate the majority of your budget towards traditional ad spend and media planning. Instead, reach into your inventory of rooms, leverage seasons with availability, and get creative by using your hotel rooms as marketing currency.
Alliance Connection works with Caribbean and Mexico travel brands to drive awareness and bookings through strategic marketing partnerships and powerful brand interactions across a highly selective portfolio of brands, media, and influencers that connect, capture and influence travelers across the U.S.
To be part of our connected community and join in on the fun, follow along at @allianceconnection