How Digital Marketing Can Help Flagged Hotel Properties Differentiate Themselves Online
Having your flagged hotel attached to a nationally recognized brand has a number of perks, but when it comes to hospitality marketing, there can also be a few challenges.
As a flagged hotel associated with a brand like Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, or one of the many other branded hotel chains, your hotel has the benefit of carrying a strong reputation and experience with it. There is a decent chance a traveler has stayed at another flagged hotel within your brand, and even if not, the name is recognizable and trustworthy.
But that doesn’t mean marketing or filling up rooms comes easy. Don’t make the mistake of hoping the brand name will do all the work. While corporate often takes over sales and marketing for branded hotels, relying on those marketing efforts alone isn’t sufficient.
The brand marketing team is handling marketing efforts for hundreds of hotels just like yours and many corporate marketing teams have shrunk in recent years, making it even more challenging to provide the depth of marketing assistance they once did. There is also nobody who can tell your property’s story or who knows the local landscape like you.
It is increasingly difficult to stand out in a crowded field — even within your own brand! Take Marriott for example. Today, the company has 30 different brands internationally. While it’s important to carry that prestigious reputation with your hotel, you always want to stand out and differentiate your hotel from the rest. That’s why it’s important for hoteliers at flagged properties to have their own hotel digital marketing plan that can help separate them from the pack.
Is a vanity website right for your branded hotel?
If travelers have seen one Brand.com website, they’ve seen hundreds of them. Sure, Brand.com websites have a familiarity to them, but they don’t set your hotel apart. The cookie-cutter template doesn’t allow you to show off your hotel’s unique personality and doesn’t have the ability to expand so you can show off everything your property has to offer.
Standing out from the Hilton across town is all about being different. Guests are looking for unique experiences and luxurious amenities. Your status as a flagged hotel might pique their interest, but it’s your story that can close the booking. A vanity website, which is a standalone website separate from your brand site, gives you the freedom and flexibility to show off all that your property has to offer with a unique design and vivid photos.
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Want to let travelers inside your hotel? A vanity website allows you to add virtual tours. Have a restaurant that guests ask about? Post the menu online. With a vanity website, you give travelers all the information they need and more. And the benefits are bigger than simply standing out. One of the biggest benefits of a vanity website is the ability to rank for niche keywords on Google. More quality content means better Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which in turn leads to more traffic and an increase in direct bookings.
In the chance that your hotel ever de-flags, you’ll maintain control of the vanity website.
Broaden your reach on social media
As a flagged hotel, you’re not only using the same hotel website as all the other hotels in your brand, but likely the same sales and marketing materials. While you’ve been given the same marketing assets as all the other hotels, you can still create your own identity.
Your hotel has a unique story to tell, and there is no better place to tell it than social media. If that wasn’t already important today, it’s only going to become more important in years to come. Today, more than 40% of consumers are Gen Z, and 60% of that group books travel online through a mobile device. Where else are they? Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
A study from Travolution found that 40.1% of Millennials chose a travel destination based on its Instagrammability. Here were the results, in order:
- How ‘Instagrammable’ the vacation will be – 40.1%
- Cost/Availability of alcohol – 24%
- Personal development – 22.6%
- Chances to experience the local cuisine – 9.4%
- Opportunities for sightseeing – 3.9%
The fact is, younger generations want to share their experiences. Visiting picturesque destinations has always been part of the equation, but social sharing is increasingly a bigger part of that picture. Sharing vivid photos and videos of your hotel and interacting with guests on social media can be a valuable tool in your hospitality marketing arsenal.
Reach travelers where they are
Sure, your hotel name carries a lot of weight. But success in hospitality marketing doesn’t always come solely from hoping guests will find you. Sometimes you have to reach travelers where they are in their customer journey.
No matter what involvement corporate has in your property’s sales and marketing efforts, you have the ability to extend your reach through various advertising channels. There are five most common advertising channels that hospitality marketers should consider, and a mix of multiple channels tends to be the best strategy for most hotels:
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
- Online Travel Agency (OTA)
- Metasearch Marketing
- Display Advertising
- Social Media Advertising
PPC, OTA, and metasearch advertising are the most common and offer hotels a good mix that can occupy the majority of online real estate that travelers search. PPC and metasearch can help place your hotel at the top of Google search results, and OTAs like TripAdvisor, Trivago, Expedia, and others are important components given how much of the market they’ve seized.
As a hotelier at a flagged hotel, you have name recognition and prestige working in your favor. It’s important not to squander that by ignoring marketing efforts that can ensure your property is set apart from both independent and branded hotels.