As we look forward to the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on how much the world has changed in only a couple of years. What’s fascinating is how technology that existed before the pandemic was harnessed by the hospitality industry to make it through these difficult times with grace, optimism, and warmth despite otherwise sterile and socially distanced environments.
Through the power of touchless technology, automated processes, and online services, we’ve seen a shift in hotel marketing toward greater personalization than ever before in response to physical distancing. This trend carries on into 2022 as emphasis continues to be placed on nurturing customer relationships through hotel marketing that is highly personalized, relevant, and valuable.
And while travel has opened up somewhat, staycation and regional travel trends are here to stay. Keep reading as we dig into 2022’s hotel marketing trends—from social media to the metaverse—as we call attention to how each aspect contributes to nurturing relationships through the clever use of technology.
1. Push onsite bookings (over OTAs)
From Travelocity to Expedia, Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs) have been essential to extending a hotel’s reach, showcasing rooms and services, and highlighting reviews. When two out of three travelers refer to OTAs during their travel planning stage, keeping OTA listings up-to-date and responding to reviews continue to be an important part of any hotel’s marketing plan. However, when margins are already lean, OTA commissions are burdensome enough that hotels are putting more energy into capturing direct bookings—starting with your online booking engine! Along with maintaining rate parity and incentivizing offers to increase direct bookings, keep up with your hotel digital marketing (here’s a checklist) to bring guests directly to your hotel website.
2. Social Media: Less emphasis on FB, more emphasis on short video, and make your hotel Instagrammable
Due to terrible organic reach and highly competitive and limited ad space in the newsfeed, Facebook is becoming less important as a viable marketing platform for hotels in favor of other platforms, in particular TikTok and Instagram Reels. While hotels won’t completely abandon their Facebook initiatives, more and more will have fun with short videos that showcase their property and personality. While video continues to dominate the Instagram space, stellar images go a long way to entice guests, especially when it comes from a third party! Make sure to share user-generated photos in your grid. You can encourage guests to share by posting your hotel’s hashtags around your property, particularly in Instagrammable spots. Think scenic viewpoints, selfie spots in front of wall art, and dining room menus.
3. Automated Email & SMS Campaigns
Email marketing still delivers the highest return on investment than any other digital marketing initiative on average. It’s also the most intimate as you’ve been invited into their personal inbox. Hotels that treat this privilege with respect will reap the greatest rewards. What does this mean? Marketing emails must be highly personalized, relevant, and valuable to your guests out of respect but also to be effective. How? Gather your guests’ data—using customer relationship management (CRM) solutions like Revinate and Cendyn that are informed by your property management system (PMS) data—and create guest segments based on specific demographics and interests. This makes delivering relevant email offers and information a cinch, especially when the process is automated by your PMS or email platform. Lifecycle drip email campaigns can ensure your emails are relevant and timely, too.
The same is true for SMS, only the campaigns you share must be much more concise. Younger demographics have traditionally been more open to marketing via text messaging but older generations are coming around to this in 2022. Use SMS to personalize communication during guests’ stays, too, by asking if they require anything or offer on-site promotions, such as restaurant offers.
4. Hyper-localized and Personalized Service
To support guest segmentation as mentioned above, ensure to collect what information you can during the reservation process and then guest registration. Hotels that are successful at this are cognizant to not ask too much all at once, which is off-putting to guests. Once the relationship has been established (such as through loyalty campaigns), guests become more forthcoming with what they’ll share to receive more personalized service and offers.
One trending marketing tool for 2022 that is already helping some hotels deliver relevant dynamic website content is the chatbot. A perfect example of how technology can be used for personalized content, chatbots are your 24/7 online concierge, at your service. Based on the questions asked by your online guests, your chatbot can serve up relevant links to offers and content.
5. Loyalty Programs and Memberships
While nothing new to mainstream hotel chains, 2022 will see more independent hoteliers incorporate loyalty programs into their marketing plans as well. When travel is more localized than ever, there’s an even greater opportunity for independent properties to tap into return visitors. Loyalty programs work because they nurture existing relationships and allow you to deliver very targeted offers. Hotels can set up loyalty programs and memberships in-house or leverage companies like Stash Rewards and Voila to access readymade programs that incorporate other properties as well.
6. Touchless Tech and Customer Expectations
We’ve talked extensively about how hotel guest expectations have changed due to COVID-19, which continues into 2022. Guest expectations around flexible cancellation policies, high sanitation standards, and safety measures may be forever changed. Touchless hotel technology that was available prior to the pandemic stepped into its own over the last couple of years, allowing hoteliers to provide safer and socially distanced services, such as self-check-in, mobile messaging, keyless entry, and smart room technology to reduce physical contact. Promoting the ways your property is meeting guest expectations and keeping guests and staff safe will remain a key hotel marketing strategy in the coming year. Keep your guests informed of your property’s Covid protocols and initiatives through your property’s website, digital ads, and email communications.
7. Hotel Sustainability and Cause Marketing
While the year 2020 didn’t bring us perfect vision, it certainly made us take a deeper look at our collective imperfect vision around social injustices and ecological issues. Hotels in 2022 are not only telling guests what they’re doing to make a difference, but offering guests to take part. This can be done, for example, via a giveback program where x% of each booking goes toward a particular initiative. It’s also important in 2022 for local businesses to lean on and lift each other to support the economy. Local services and partnerships help your community and are of interest to guests, too. Highlight local businesses—from restaurants to activity providers—on your social media and website. Partnership offers could also be included in packages or as add-ons.
8. Provide unique experiences
We talked about pushing direct online bookings in an effort to compete with OTAs. One way hotels will do that in 2022 is to make their website more of a one-stop shop like an OTA. Expect more hotels to provide ideas and offers for local attractions while highlighting what’s unique about their property. Remember, guests have missed family vacations and special occasions over the last couple of years. Hotels that highlight how a stay at their property provides memorable and unique moments to make up for lost time will have the best shot at thriving in 2022. If your hotel’s PMS manages activity bookings, then you’re already one step ahead.
9. Hotel SEO in 2022
Hey Google, is SEO still important for hotel websites in 2022? SEO continues to evolve for hotels in 2022 as hotels optimize their websites for voice search. With the rise of Siri and Alexa in our lives, we’re using search engines with increasingly conversational syntaxes. Setting up questions and answers within your hotel website content (such as an FAQ section) will help you capture related searches.
It’s no surprise that Google plays a large role in your hotel’s SEO; hotels without a Google business profile could be left behind in 2022 due to the increase in “hotels near me” searches. Speaking of Google, their free hotel booking links went live this year. You may also appreciate two free tools the search engine is now providing—Hotel Insights and Destination Insights—to help you tap into marketing trends.
10. The Future: Metaverse, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality
Metaverse, virtual reality, and augmented reality are buzzwords for 2022. While your hotel may not incorporate these in 2022, it’s certainly fun to let your imagination run wild about what hotel marketing could look like in the not-too-distant future. We’ll start to see the larger chains with big bucks leap first with virtual reality. Imagine a guest being able to step into your hotel and visit their room before booking, virtually of course.
Gateway technology for virtual reality is augmented reality. This might look like online meeting and banquet planning that allows planners to move and design aspects online to meet their needs.
Augmented reality can be used during guests’ stays as well. QR codes or maps can be used with smartphones to indicate services, features, and offers in the palm of your hand. Or, if your hotel caters to families, imagine a scavenger hunt like Pokemon Go for finding treasures in real life but on a device. Such features provide unique experiences that will have guests sharing widely on social media.
While the metaverse does not exist yet, it’s fun to keep an eye on developments and let your imagination run wild. Maybe virtual hotel stays are on the horizon for those armchair travelers who long to visit from further afield?
Over the last year, we’ve really seen how technology—once seen as impersonal—is an effective tool in building and nurturing relationships with guests and this will play a large role in hotel marketing in 2022. As customer relationships have always been a priority within the hospitality industry, the transition to using technology for building personalized service and connection will, overall, be a seamless one. We’re constantly inspired by our hotel clients and can’t wait to see what innovations you have in store in 2022!
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