The Four Stages of Experiential Marketing for Hotels

23 hawthorn creative hospitality marketing The Four Stages of Experiential Marketing for Hotels feature

Hotel marketing isn’t just about talking about amenities anymore. It’s about building a lasting connection between your brand and your guest through experiential marketing – the kind of content marketing that draws guests into your destination through experiences and adventures that go beyond your hotel rooms and lobby. Once that connection is established, guests become loyal return visitors and effective brand ambassadors doing your hotel’s word of mouth marketing for you. For example, a guest who books a life-changing outdoor excursion based on the curated destination guide you linked to in a pre-arrival email is likely to become your brand’s best and most effective advocate.

While we could go on and on (and on and on) about the scores of different experiential marketing campaigns we might recommend; for the sake of keeping the word count of this blog post down, we’re going to give one or two examples in each phase of your travel buyer’s journey.

Research and Booking

As they dream about that vacation from the stress of everyday life, 65 percent of travelers research online before deciding on a destination. What kind of content helps travel buyers at this phase of the journey? The kind that helps them determine where they want to go. Do they want beaches? Mountains? Lakeside luxury? For hotels, it’s critical in this phase to market the experiences and adventures available in the given destination to target audiences.

What kind of experiential marketing works to capture a travel buyer’s attention? Think of the way your guest would search for “things to do in XYZ” – and build content around those queries.

  • Blog posts and video destination marketing are all valuable tools that enable guests to get a bird’s-eye view of what they might experience. Play up that aerial adventure or the centuries-old sailing vessel available to charter – the kind of experience that makes a trip at your hotel more than just a run-of-the-mill vacation.
  • Social media campaigns are an increasingly powerful tool to capture the attention of potential guests. Forty-eight percent of Instagram users will utilize the platform to make destination choices, so this is your chance to shine with high-resolution images, video snippets, or maybe even an influencer campaign that shows just how much fun a guest can have in your area and on your property.


Once the hotel and flights are booked, your guest is in the anticipation phase. And what are they doing at this point? They’re asking themselves what’s nearby, what they should do during their stay, what kind of experiences are available to them. But only 27 percent of hotels are providing this sort of destination-specific content to guests during this phase.

The power of providing thoughtful, valuable content at this stage is threefold: (1.) You’re feeding their giddy excitement about their upcoming trip; (2.) You can pique their interest with interesting details about on-property amenities, like your spa, to increase ancillary revenue on services and outfitters booked ahead of time; (3.) You’re ensuring they have a better vacation while doing less work, creating a loyal brand advocate in the process.

Though we have many suggestions, one idea we love right now is a different kind of pre-arrival email:

  • We know that you’re already sending a pre-arrival email to confirm their stay and nail down the details, but what about one that specifically builds excitement about your destination and informs their stay? By creating digital destination guides that paint a comprehensive and compelling picture of your area, you can not only tap into their giddy pre-vacation energy, but that content can also be repurposed and repackaged for your blog site and beyond. A quick pre-arrival email that leads guests to that content can boost their loyalty and save them the trouble of having to research elsewhere.

During the Stay

So, your guest booked their room, you sent them the pre-trip goodies, and now they’ve arrived, so you’re off the hook, right? Not so fast. Sixty-seven percent of guests use smartphones to search for activities while on vacation. We know that the average traveler is busier than ever, so your pre-travel emails may have gone unopened due to a lack of time. Now’s the time to swoop in to the rescue.

There are few better opportunities to serve up a helping of experiential marketing that will build a more comprehensive travel experience for the guest and build a connection between them and your brand.

During their stay, here are two ideas:

  • Whether it’s via the log-in page for your Wi-Fi that entices clicks to Pinterest boards you’ve curated (super easy to do, by the way), an email, or a custom printed map full of notes on your recommendations, use the on-property opportunity to offer your take on local gems and highlights. They won’t thank you enough.
  • Fire a “turn-down” email with a suggested itinerary for the weekend. Include recommendations on events but also more “evergreen” recommendations of what to do in that season – which also means less ongoing customization of the email on your end.
  • A custom magazine not only gives them the “go, see, do” essentials, but also really shines a light on what makes both your property great (ancillary revenue opportunities again!) and the regional culture in a way that no other medium can match. Check out these two examples we’ve done recently for Hotel Healdsburg and management company Noble House Hotels & Resorts.


Upon returning home, 76 percent of travelers will post photos to social. (Which is great, because 52 percent of travelers report being inspired by a friend’s or family member’s travel photos.) Your guests will return to those photos to relive the experience, but there are a few things your hotel can do to cue up that nostalgia more often:

  • Send a post-stay email to cement loyalty. This is also a great opportunity to encourage guests to share photos via social, especially if your hotel has a branded hashtag or is running a social contest.
  • Give them a clear reason, above and beyond your exceptional hotel, to come back. Tee up content that reminds guests about their vacation experience, and keep them up to date on new features/events/attractions within your destination and not just promotions. This could be automated drip campaigns or a custom-built email campaign.

If you’re ready to hop aboard the experiential marketing bandwagon but need a hand identifying the content that’s going to drive bookings and brand loyalty, our team of content specialists is ready to dive into your destination. Not only can we expertly tell the story of your destination, but our experience with distribution strategy also means your content will land in front of the right people.

Feeling Inspired? Let’s Talk