How Hotels Can Harness Popular Culture to Make Money

Have you heard of Taylor Swift? Of course. But have you heard of the Swift Effect? CNN recently reported on the phenomenon of the effect Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is having on the travel industry. As airlines increase seats to locations to coincide with concert dates (bringing enormous wave after wave of Swifties to the highest-grossing concert tour of all time), hotels are breaking hotel occupancy records. It’s been a ‘Love Story’ for the tourism sector, with Swifties contributing upwards of $10B in total economic impact, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

But what if Taylor Swift isn’t coming to your town? ‘Shake it Off.’ There are plenty of other ways hotels can cleverly use popular culture to boost their revenues, from theme rooms to fan packages that leverage everything from sporting events to festivals. The potential for hotels to harmonize with pop culture trends is as limitless as Swift’s repertoire of hits—where the only ‘Bad Blood’ you’ll find is in a Halloween-themed cocktail! 

Embrace Pop Culture: Local Opportunities Hotels Can Harness

Transform an ordinary stay into an extraordinary adventure! Begin by staying attuned to the cultural zeitgeist. Be in the know about what’s happening in and around your region, and tap into popular trends farther afield that can somehow be incorporated into your hotel to attract guests.

To stay ahead, keep a finger on the pulse of pop culture. Regularly peruse platforms like TikTok, check what’s trending on Netflix, Crave, or Prime, and set Google Alerts for your town. This insight can inspire timely and relevant hotel themes or events.

Your hotel’s location is a goldmine for tapping into pop culture and historical events. Is your hotel nestled in a city where famous movies were shot or significant historical events took place? Embrace this! Create unique experiences by leveraging these aspects. Here’s how:


Offer guided tours that showcase local film locations, historical sites, or cultural landmarks. For instance, if your hotel is near a beach made famous by a blockbuster movie, organize a themed tour that takes guests behind the scenes of that cinematic masterpiece.

Special Events

Watch for festivals, concerts, trade shows, sporting events, Comic-Cons, or literary events in your area. Tailor your hotel’s offerings to these events with themed rooms, special packages, or exclusive services. For example, during a major music festival, transform your hotel into a haven for music lovers, complete with a pop-up vinyl store or live performances.

Be Clever with Marketing

Use your location creatively in your marketing strategies. If your hotel is in Paris, Texas, why not play off the “Emily in Paris” hype to attract guests? A clever twist in your advertising can draw attention and set you apart. It’s about creating a buzz-worthy connection that makes potential guests curious and excited.

A concert crowd enjoys a performance
Large concerts and festivals provide a great opportunity to draw a big crowd!

Leverage Popular Culture: Strategies Hotels Can Incorporate

Inspired by the union of your location and pop culture, your next step is to brainstorm ways to incorporate these trends and events into your hotel experience.  

Innovative Room Decor

Transform regular rooms into captivating spaces with decor inspired by popular movies, TV shows, or music icons. This is especially effective if there is a tie-in to the region or era of your hotel so that it makes sense. For example, our love for the ’80s was reignited with the popularity of Stranger Things. While you must respect trademark restrictions, you could embrace the Stranger Things vibe at your 1980s-built hotel and deck out a few rooms (or your whole hotel) in ’80s-inspired memorabilia, complete with arcade games. This would also make your hotel the perfect place to host a D&D convention.

Themed Packages Leveraging Partnerships

Collaborate with local events or brands to create themed packages. For instance, during a film festival, offer a “Cinephile’s Dream” package with movie tickets, themed room decor, and a guide to film locations in the city. A popcorn machine in your lobby would also be a nice touch.

Hosting Themed Events

Organize events that resonate with pop culture trends. This could be a ‘Game of Thrones’ banquet night or a ’90s retro dance party, providing unique experiences that guests can’t find elsewhere. Make it great and it will be travel-worthy to bring guests in to stay for the night, or a few nights to explore the area. 

Creative Menus and Entertainment

Spice up your menu with playful references to popular culture. Items like “The Godfather Spaghetti” or “Sherlock Holmes’ Mystery Pie” can intrigue guests. Pair this with a curated playlist of popular tracks or introduce a signature cocktail named after a current hit show or movie.

Add-ons and Promotional Bundles

Allow guests to personalize their experience with add-on options when booking or bundling packages. For example, for sporting events, offer a package that includes team jerseys and fan gear. This creates an immersive experience for sports enthusiasts and adds value to their stay.

Exclusive Packages with Extra Perks

Collaborate with local venues to offer combined packages, like concert tickets with a hotel stay. If direct ticket partnerships aren’t possible, offer VIP experiences like room upgrades, limo service to the event, and pre-event in-room cocktails.

Leveraging Your Hotel Space

For hotels without a restaurant, utilize your lobby or common areas for themed happy hours. Cater to concert-goers with appetizers and drinks, or create a sports lounge atmosphere with classic games on big screens, beer, and snacks.

Creating Booking Urgency

Use urgency messaging on your website and advertising campaigns, especially during big events in town. Highlighting limited availability of themed rooms (“Only 3 Rock Legend Suites left!”) encourages prompt bookings and capitalizes on the high demand.

Your Hotel as a Culturally Relevant Destination

The integration of popular culture into the hotel industry is not just about riding a trend; it’s about creating an ecosystem where your hotel thrives as a dynamic, culturally relevant destination. By tapping into local tours, events, and cultural phenomena, your hotel can resonate deeply with guests, offering them an experience that goes beyond the ordinary. 

Be innovative and adaptive, whether it’s by hosting your own unique events or transforming aspects of your hotel to align with local happenings. However, it’s crucial to carefully navigate legalities. While hotels can’t claim official affiliations without proper agreements, there’s always room for creativity, like transforming your hotel parking lot into a skateboard park to celebrate Tony Hawk being in town. 

Finally, don’t forget to promote and amplify your pop culture initiatives across all your channels, from socials to OTAs to marketing emails to your website. If you strike the right chord with your guests, you’ll make their ‘Wildest Dreams’ come true!