Hotel Email Marketing Strategy in Today’s Travel Climate

Your once carefully planned-out email campaign strategy has probably been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride since mid-to-late March. In addition to likely lightening up your sends, there’s probably been a good amount of change to the kind of content you’re pushing out, as well as the overarching tone behind it. And that’s only natural, because while it has been important to stay in touch with your past and future guests through email, you have also needed to be careful and thoughtful about your messaging during what was a pretty unusual and unprecedented time.

So how about now, as things begin to reopen? Like we stressed in one of our recent posts, “Blog Post Ideas for Hotels & Travel Brands in Our “New Normal,“ as much as we crave a return to business as usual, you won’t be able to revert back to your pre-pandemic marketing strategy in a snap.  It’ll require a ramping-up period, where you address guests’ concerns, followed by a conscious and careful reintroduction to travel content as the world grows more comfortable with taking trips again.

While your content strategy and blog topics are the important first part of this strategy, your plan for email will also need to follow the “slow and steady” pace. Again, using Opal Collection as our client example (Opal is a luxury resort company that we manage a blog and email strategy for), we highlight the factors you should consider as you evolve your email strategy to be in touch with today’s travel climate.

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Reevaluate Frequency & Reintroduce Email Slowly as Content Allows

Chances are, prior to the pandemic, you were typically sending multiple emails a month to speak to different clients in their buyer journey.

For example, for Opal Collection, we were doing one “Opal-wide” campaign, which delivers monthly to blog subscribers and past resort guests, and another “property-specific” campaign, sent out twice a year to subscribers and guests who have traveled to one or more of the respective 19 properties in the last year.

Both these campaigns push out destination-focused content that lives on the Opal Unpacked blog we manage. However, once stay-at-home orders hit, we paused the property-specific campaigns and only kept our monthly Opal-wide campaign going, which, since March, we have been using to promote more “at-home” posts (recipes from local chefs, mindful exercises to practice at home, etc.).

However, as all the Opal hotels have now reopened, we are slowly reintroducing the property-specific campaigns as content allows. By that we mean that the appropriate content to build a campaign around needs to exist – we can’t push out an old post rooted to a destination that shows busy beaches or highlights dining at restaurants that may not even be open yet. And neither should you.

Sure, it’s less of a solid plan and something you’ll have to play by ear as the landscape evolves, but it’s better to link to relevant, accurate content over something that is out of touch. Especially as guests will be looking to trusted travel brands to provide an up-to-date portrayal of what’s open and what the destination experience will be in the coming months.

Carefully Consider Email Marketing Content Selection

Again, the posts you’ll be pushing out via email likely won’t be those evergreen pieces as the travel landscape is still not 100-percent back to normal. Rather, you should include posts that speak to the drive-market (as this will be most hotels’ core audience in the coming months), address destination activities you can easily do while social distancing, or help maximize life at home (because, while things may be opening again, not everyone is ready or able to travel).

Read “Blog Post Ideas for Hotels & Travel Brands in Our “New Normal“ for additional types of content we suggest for your email marketing. Future travel ideas and inspiration are okay to promote, but it’s key that you communicate that they’re just that: future travel inspiration and not necessarily the experience you’ll get now.

Opal Collection June email campaign

To see some of these pointers in action, our June Opal-wide campaign (pictured above) offers a bit of a mix of all the above, including content that addressed concerns about social distancing (“Our Favorite Opal Private Retreats”), wellness (“A How-To Guide for Forest Bathing”), and other “at-home” branded lifestyle content (both Opal Sands’s style and design inspiration and how to make the perfect backyard burger for your summer cookout).

Continue to be Mindful of Your Language & Imagery

It’s important to still be mindful of the language you use in your emails. For example, be cautious about insinuating what is essential or a need (for example, “the post-quarantine trip you must take NOW”) as the new normal has redefined what people deem essential.

Rather, focus on how a trip to your hotel/destination could bring them a bit of much-needed relief after the last few months. And while you should always sound positive, you should also be the voice of the current reality – if you don’t, readers might interpret your avoidance of the subject as naïve or insensitive.

Similarly, be attentive to the kind of imagery you use to advertise your email content. A few months ago, images of a busy downtown or a packed bar wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows – in fact, they were desirable, showing that this is the place that everyone wants to be, so why aren’t you here, too? Now, as these are the very scenes the public is trying to avoid, these images can make people uncomfortable and lead to unsubscribes.

Don’t Oversell Your Product(s)

While we all love a great deal, if you are repetitively marketing discounted hotel stays or other deals, it can come off as desperate…not to mention, consumers are thinking twice now about whether or not they want to purchase something, regardless of how steep the discount. We’re not saying to do away with them entirely – just be aware of their frequency.

Email sections usually dedicated to product CTAs might actually be better suited to send subscribers to other places. For example, in our April and May Opal-wide emails, we used the bottom blue CTA section, usually reserved for promoting a special offer, to direct users to the client’s Instagram and their blog website’s newly revamped landing page.

Consider Other Campaigns That Cater to the New Normal

Just because you’ve had to pause some campaigns doesn’t mean you can’t use your efforts to create new ones. We helped unroll a series of five road trip–inspired posts on Opal Unpacked rooted to different Opal destinations (again, since most hotel stays will be the drive-market in the coming months). Opal is then sending out five subsequent campaigns (one example pictured below) to promote these trips to local residents in the greater areas of those destinations.

Opal Collection Road-Trip email campaign

Note their use of language in the campaign: “After months cooped up, travelers are eager to pack a bag and hit the open road with their quarantine crews. Fortunately, if you’re thinking about an Opal road trip – be it Florida, Maine, or New York – all routes lead to stunning coastal/lakeside drives that deliver a much-needed change of scenery.” Not only do they address this new normal and sound positive while doing so, but they also hit home how this could be that much-needed bit of relief, rather than making it sound like a necessity. Our hats off to them.

Related Reading

Looking for more inspiration and information on how to achieve hotel marketing that stands out from the crowd? Be sure to check out:

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