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Hotel Marketing: 10 Strategies to Drive Direct Bookings

With the rise of Airbnb, hotel marketing has needed innovation like never before. 

Millennials, in particular, favor Airbnbs over hotels, which don't always offer the flexibility they desire. This young generation craves authentic experiences. Sixty seven percent said they would very likely consider staying in someone's home over a hotel on a future trip.

In this new landscape, how can you differentiate your brand, offer unique experiences, and ultimately drive more direct bookings? 

Make Your Hotel's Website Stand Out

According to TripAdvisor, 91% of hotel owners see increasing direct bookings as key for the future of their business. It's not hard to see why—the more hoteliers spend on their own marketing, the less they put money in the pockets of their distribution partners like online travel agencies (OTAs) or Airbnb. The key to doing this is improving the guest experience and booking journey. And that starts with the digital version of your lobby—your website homepage.

1 | Use a mix of earned and owned visuals on your homepage

Traditionally, hotels and resorts have relied on owned visuals in their marketing campaigns—that is, imagery created by professionals. However, more marketers in the hospitality industry are realizing that a mix helps create a more authentic, compelling and relatable user experience.

In fact, brand engagement rises by 28 percent when consumers are exposed to both professional and user-generated content.

If you’re looking for inspiration, Boca Raton Resort and Club features a well-shot video as their homepage header, using a combination of drone footage and professionally shot video. 

Further down the page, they’ve included a gallery of user-generated content (UGC) to showcase real experiences from real guests.

By putting the resort’s hashtag #RESORTBOCA at the title of the gallery, the resort also encourages guests to share their travel experiences during their stay. 

Visitors can spend as much as 90 percent more time on your site when it includes UGC Galleries!

2 | Optimize your website UX for conversions

You can prompt visitors to book or learn more by adding CTAs directly to your UGC as overlays on specific images. 

This places the next step right in front of potential guests and encourages them to take action at the exact moment they’re feeling inspired by your visuals. Try taking a page out of Hotel Del Coronado's book—they place personalized CTAs over context-specific images. For the weddings page, notice the language "Start Planning" vs "Book Your Stay" for the rooms and suites page. 

Whether you link to another page with more information, a partner website, or a booking portal for your hotel or excursions, CTAs are well-known to boost conversions and drive direct booking revenue. HubSpot even found personalized CTAs, like those Del Coronado used, perform 202% better than basic ones.

Just be sure you're measuring the right resort or hotel marketing metrics, so you know what visuals to attach these CTAs to, and generally, how to measure user behavior on your site. 

3 | Showcase the diversity of experiences your hotel or resort offers

Don't just mention that you offer bungee jumping or horse riding. Instead, show real people actually doing these things. People relate to other people, not actors who are faking it.

Cabot Links, a golf resort in Cape Breton, uses earned content related to featured activities on different pages of their website. For instance, their “Food & Drink” page includes a gallery of guests’ dining experiences, and the “Wedding” page is full of beautiful shots of ceremonies and celebrations. This helps the resort highlight the fact that Cabot Links has more to offer than just golfing.

4| Make sure your website is searchable

Changing consumer demands have influenced how people find information about hotels like yours online. It's easier for someone to type in "" on their browser and search for properties than it is to find your hotel on Google.

Still, make sure your website is easily searchable. A search engine is still the starting point for 60 percent of travelers. 

Focus on your SEO and SEM efforts, do keyword research and optimize meta-descriptions, headers, and onsite content to maximize engagement. 

I think the luxury traveler today seeks their own information and makes their own decisions a lot more than they used to.”
- Bill Walshe, CEO of Viceroy Hotel Group

5| Don’t forget about mobile!

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you might as well kiss one-third of potential customers goodbye. Make sure your design is responsive, images aren’t stretched and all CTAs work. It’s as simple as that.

Build Your Hotel or Resort's Brand On Social Media

Once you’ve nailed your website, it’s time to rev up your distribution channels.

With 55 percent of 18 - 65 year olds booking trips purely based on Instagram images, having a social media presence, isn’t enough: you need a steady stream of images that convert, and a brand people look up to. 

6| Share guest visuals on your social media channels

Your guests are already uploading tons of inspiring visuals on social media. By reposting their photos, videos, and Instagram Stories to your own feed, you can tap into their unique points of view.

Encourage users to generate their own content for social, too:

"Have an empty wall? Invite an artist to paint a mural so beautiful and unique that guests can’t help but pause for a picture," says marketing expert Brandon Wright. "Tying your brand to the positive memories made and shared by your guests will increase not only organic reach but brand loyalty."

7| Use best performing visuals in your digital ads

Effective marketing requires constant testing. Why not repurpose the visuals you’re already seeing good engagement for in your digital ads? 

Consider this: digital ads featuring UGC see a click-through rate 4X higher than traditional advertisements. We’re not saying to only use UGC, but be on the lookout for ways to make your ads stand out.

8| Use influencers who align with your mission

It’s no secret influencers have huge clout within the travel space. And they aren’t going anywhere: the industry grew by almost 40% last year.  

Use ambassadors who align with your hotel's mission to review your property. You can offer them a free stay in return, like this luxury resort in Kukuiula did.

9| Personalize your marketing to each customer segment

Another tenant of modern digital marketing is hyper-personalization. You need different visuals for different segments and experiences that travelers crave. This is super-important for resorts and luxury hotels that serve different clientele—international visitors, business travelers, families, etc.

Use these customer segments to further personalize email marketing, customer loyalty programs, and print materials. A good rule of thumb is to always create visuals that reflect the audience you want to target.

Improve Indirect Bookings—Remarketing on Online Travel Agencies

The best marketing strategies for hotel and resorts don't put all their eggs in one basket. Though direct bookings drive almost double the value for hoteliers, it's wise to fill the gaps in your direct booking strategy by focusing some effort on indirect bookings.

For example, abandonment rates for booking hotels online average 75 percent. Remarketing your hotel on OTAs can counteract this problem. This way, you can capture potential customers who might have bounced from your site, maybe looking for a cheaper deal, and turn them into paying guests.

10| Think local and remarket

You can also remarket your hotel in the local community. Food festivals, state fairs, you name it—you can advertise hotel experiences at these events.

​Always market your location, too. You can attract Airbnb customers who want to meet the locals and experience traditions and culture.

Ensure you're listed on Google as a local business, so that if a traveler is exploring Google Maps, you'll pop up. In addition, keep an eye out for what people are saying about you. Eighty-four percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as friends. This means not forgetting to monitor your reputation on sites like TripAdvisor and resolving any complaints appropriately.


Here are some sure-fire ways to improve your hotel marketing:

  • Differentiate yourself from the competition (and Airbnb).
  • Use user-generated content to boost engagement.
  • Showcase the diversity of your experience.
  • Optimize for mobile.
  • Build your brand on social.
  • Use best-performing visuals.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize.
  • Remarket your hotel on OTAs.
  • Market your location.

As a result, you can overcome the challenges currently facing the hotel industry.

Download-Guide UGC-Resorts and Hotels

About the author

Julia Manoukian is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at CrowdRiff. A former journalist, she has helped several Toronto startups raise their thought leadership profiles and scale their content efforts to influence revenue. She's passionate about storytelling, traveling, and tech.

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