February 26, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

According to the Data and Marketing Association, you can expect an average return of $42 for every dollar you spend on email marketing, which is more than four times higher than direct mail, paid search, or social media. But you know it doesn’t just happen. It requires tactics that elevate engagement, plus a dash of trial and error. Read on for essential strategies for hotel email marketing campaigns that boost bookings and up-selling. 

Discover 7 ways to boost your hotel email marketing strategy:

1. Create hotel email campaigns focused on your recipients.

Nearly half of consumers feel they receive too many marketing emails — and it leads to email fatigue. That situation where your "promotions" inbox skyrockets and you "select all" then "delete" without reading a single subject line. The only way to get past this problem is to personalize your emails so they’re relevant to the recipient. Top strategies to achieve that goal:

  • Collect data: Beyond the basics of subject headers with guest names (which yields a 26 percent higher email open rate, according to Experian), you can leverage data collected during the booking process and entered into your hotel CRM. For example, a person sharing specific dietary considerations when booking or during check-in would appreciate an email outlining specialty food and beverage options.
  • Get the timing right: A busy business traveler doesn’t need to receive emails during his or her stay inviting them back for a festival or other local events months down the road. On the other hand, a pre-visit email with check-in details, directions and Wi-Fi login info is much appreciated.

Capture more leads with better hotel marketing

2. Build a current email subscription list with guest buy-in.

To realize the best ROI for your hotel email marketing efforts, focus on the quality of your email subscribers, rather than the quantity. Be sure to use "clean" data collected directly from guests or guest activity, rather than outdated information or data from a purchased list. 

For group business, segment business travel planner data within your hotel CRM software. Best practices for building your email subscription list and collecting clean data:

Create a secure opt-in form on your hotel website:

  • Feature the opt-in form prominently on your website in bold colors.

  • Use inviting words for your opt-in button instead of simply "subscribe." Some possibilities: “I’ll Check It Out!” “I’m In!” and “Can’t Wait!” 

  • Keep the form short, with only two to four fields. 

  • Include a privacy statement and easy-to-spot link to unsubscribe.

  • Prompt guests to share their email addresses pre-visit, at check-in, and also at check-out.

  • Double-up your opt-in. Recipients are more engaged when they’ve taken a second step to join your mailing list.

Ask about specific preferences for their stay:

  • Coffee vs. tea.

  • Dietary restrictions and allergies the hotel should know.

  • Interest in spa, wellness, and exercise options.

  • Special transportation needs.

  • Business needs and support (printer, copier, Wi-Fi).

  • Plans to visit local attractions.

Clarify what guests are signing up for:

  • Discounts on hotel services, such as the spa or group classes.

  • Special offers for extended stays, future stays, room upgrades.

  • Dining and entertainment discounts.

  • Coupons for local attractions.

  • Ongoing local and event updates.

Use language that makes them feel special for signing up:

  • “Be the first to know…”

  • “Join our family…”

  • “Become a VIP…”

  • “Access special discounts…”

  • “Uncover hidden benefits…”

3. Segment your guests to ensure hyper-personalization of emails.

Parents passing through should learn about childcare options or local family fun parks. A solo business traveler doesn’t need or want that email. There are numerous ways to segment an email list to garner details for your guest profiles. Here are some of the most effective:

  • Demographics: Age, gender, income, single/couple/married, number of children, and birthday.

  • Room type: Amenities, number of beds, or suites.

  • Geographic location: City, state, region, and country.

  • Purchasing behavior: Food and beverage, parking, local attraction tickets and packages, amenities, and upgrades.

  • Current and past guests: Nights stayed, frequency of visits, number of guests per room, and date of last visit.

  • Business or pleasure: Event attendee, business development, vacation, or relocation.

  • Stay dates: Days of the week, number of days, extended stays, or seasonal visits.

  • Website activity: Which pages were viewed, length on site, and forms the guest filled out.

Your research will likely inspire email campaigns. For example, guests who visited your property’s four-star restaurant may welcome a mid-winter package including a discounted dinner for two. Extended-stay business travelers appreciate emails detailing nearby leisure and entertainment options. 

4. Automate frequent guest touchpoint emails.

Make the most of the emails your guests expect to receive and consider less bothersome. They fall into three categories: 

Transactional: Guest actions (booking, check-in/check-out, and hotel service purchases) trigger these emails. The mean unique open rate for transactional emails is 47.1 percent — it’s essential to include them in your hotel email marketing strategy. Remember, transactional emails don’t have to be plain and dull; using compelling photos along with links to featured amenities can build excitement and drive additional revenue.

Operational: Let guests know about changes that relate to their stay, so they feel informed and valued. Topics covered by operational emails can include:

  • Changes to accommodations, venues, facilities, or events.

  • Severe weather alerts.

  • Emergencies.

  • Transportation updates (shuttle breakdown, public transportation delays).

  • Food and beverage updates.

Promotional: Guests expect (and even welcome) a limited number of marketing emails during their stay, so long as they are relevant. Possible promotions, cross-sells, and up-sells: 

  • Accommodation upgrades.

  • Discounts on hotel services or local attractions.

  • Extend-your-stay offers.

  • Food and beverage offers.

  • Return visit offers.

5. Get creative and knock your one-time email campaigns out of the park.

These need to capture attention with intriguing subject lines and headlines. Some types of one-off emails include:

  • Seasonal: “Indulge yourself this winter with a well-earned break.”
  • Holiday: “Give the gift of a getaway this holiday season.”
  • Time-sensitive special deals: "Save 20 percent when you book in the next 48 hours."
  • Newsletters: “Welcome to Journey, your source for unique travel tips, trends, and deals.”
  • Upcoming events:  "Don’t miss out on the excitement of [EVENT NAME]!"
  • Re-engagement: “It’s chilly! Reunite your frosty toes with our heated outdoor pool.” 
  • Last-minute availability: “Treat yourself to a real day off this weekend.”  
  • New hotel amenities or renovations: “We’re excited to share...”
  • Notable reviews: “[INFLUENCER NAME] loved it here!”
  • Top local attractions: “Rest well for [ATTRACTION NAME]!”

Finally, create unique content around the topics that make your hotel stand out from the crowd. Some possibilities:

  • Original recipes from your rising-star chef.

  • Profiles of local artists with art showcased in your lobby. 

  • Spotlights on your monthly on-site food truck festival or mindfulness meditation mini-retreats.

6. Focus on email deliverability so that your messages get through.

Don’t write wonderful emails that wind up in your recipient’s spam folder. Follow these strategies to improve deliverability:

  • Start small to stay ISP-friendly: Don’t send a new email campaign out to your entire mailing list at once. This is a red flag to ISP filters. Instead, create a smaller email list of engaged recipients to send to first because filters trust emails people open. Once you establish trust, you can send to your list in several batches. 

  • Double your opt-in: This means higher open rates and lower spam complaints. 

  • Avoid using spam language: As a start, don’t use all-caps and avoid exclamation points in your subject lines. Words like "order now" and "urgent" are also considered spammy. High quality email service providers, like MailChimp and Constant Contact, flag spammy words, symbols, phrases, and oversized images. There are also free and fee-based tools to check content and test emails before they hit your guests.

7. A/B test emails and adjust.

Known also as split testing, A/B testing segments recipients and presents them with the same overall content, presented in different ways. By measuring success rates you can better determine what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to hotel email marketing messages. Some of the various elements you can A/B test include:

  • Subject line: Try different personalization options, along with magnet words or emojis.

  • Voice: Explore professional and playful language for your different guest segments. You may find business travelers appreciate a professional, yet fun voice, while vacationers want a call to adventure and beauty.

  • Headers: Your first header will show up as your preview text, so choose carefully. Keep these to a minimum throughout the email, two to three tops.

  • Design: Keep some balance between images and text, ideally achieving a 60/40 split. High quality (but not excessively large file size) photos go farther than cartoon images or clipart. Keep everything centered, with text and images alternating above and below; do NOT do many (if any) side by side to make your emails readable on mobile devices.

  • Images: Too many images or one super large image are not the preferred way to go. Opt for one compelling hero image, and maybe two to three small thumbnails.

  • Call to action: When asking your guest to do something, make sure they understand what they'll get out of it. Remember to ask, not tell, in your requests.

  • Content: Your choice of words is huge within the main content of your email. Be approachable, yet professional, and keep things between 125 and 200 words for the best click-through rates. 

The structure of effective hotel email marketing:

Now that you know the strategies of successful email campaigns, let’s take a look at the structure of a marketing email.

  1. Subject line: Personalize it with the guest name — either their full name or just their first name. Keep your subject line under 45 characters, otherwise they may become truncated when viewed on mobile devices.

  2. Preview text/intro: In most emails, preview text appears within the subject line. Write a short line to use as preview text, or the first line of your email will go in that spot. Ask a question related to your guest's profile in the preview text to generate curiosity.

  3. Main copy: Relevant information, rather than pure solicitation, is the best approach to email content. Keep things short and to the point, and be authentic in your appreciation. Guests appreciate two to three relevant options for up-selling. More than that and they’ll tune out the offers.

  4. Call to action: Every time you write “If you need anything, contact us” or “To learn more about this service” be sure you include a link and/or phone number for the guest to use now or later. If you list a phone number, make sure there is someone to answer 24/7 or you’ll prompt negative feedback. 

  5. Signature: Include a final "thank you" and the name of the guest services manager. Alternatively, you can sign, "The Guest Care Team at [HOTEL]."

See some top hotel email marketing examples:

Here are four examples of hotel marketing emails designed to discover personalization opportunities, keep guests informed, and generate repeat stays and revenue beyond the booking.  

1. Booking example

Thank your guest for choosing your hotel while building enthusiasm for their stay. This email should be short and sweet, with easy-to-find details at a glance and a prominent photo emphasizing an impressive element of your facility or brand. Include an option for them to share more information to help you improve their stay, such as whether they’re visiting for business or vacation, or will require hotel business center services

Subject line: [GUEST NAME], thank you for choosing [HOTEL NAME]

Preview text: We’re excited for your visit!

Body copy: We appreciate you deciding on [HOTEL NAME] for your stay in [LOCATION]. Please find your reservation information below; if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at [RESERVATION-ORIENTED EMAIL] or call us at [RESERVATION-ORIENTED PHONE] for immediate assistance.

Reservation Details

[PHOTO OF HOTEL ROOM/AMENITY]

We want to make your stay the best it can be. Please let us know if you have personal preferences we may consider on your behalf! 

[LINK TO PERSONAL PREFERENCE SURVEY/WEBSITE LANDING PAGE]

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, [AUTHOR NAME/CONTACT INFO]

2. Pre-visit example

Strengthen your relationship with your guest while tapping into revenue via upgrades. Include photos tied into your guest’s profile, such as a person working on a laptop in a comfortable setting with a coffee and scone on the table. 

It’s okay to send more than one pre-visit email, but space them out and save the up-selling for closer to arrival. Include helpful details about their stay, the hotel, and the local area, while offering discounts appropriate to the guest. 

Subject: We look forward to seeing you soon

Previewt: Do you have the info you need for your trip?

Body: Dear [GUEST NAME],

We wanted to share some important details on your upcoming visit to [CITY] in advance of your arrival. To make your experience as enjoyable as possible, please find information below about transportation, check-in, and facilities. We've also taken the liberty of including some items that might be of interest to you. Please feel free to contact [NAME/DETAILS] with any questions you may have.

Sincerely, [AUTHOR NAME/CONTACT INFO]

  • Check-in details

  • Directions

  • Local information

[PHOTO OF HOTEL AMENITY]

Our hotel offers... [SHORT DESCRIPTION OF F&B OR OTHER AMENITIES]

[EXPLORE] (link to landing page on hotel website)

3. On-site example

These welcoming emails are generally triggered after check-in to showcase your hotel’s services and amenities. They can continue intermittently throughout the guest’s stay, with relevant announcements about airport transportation issues or the pending arrival of a food truck on site. 

Subject: Helpful info for your stay

Preview: We thought you might like to know...

Body: Dear [GUEST NAME],

Welcome to [HOTEL NAME], we are thrilled to welcome you to your home away from home! Here is some information you may find useful during your stay: 

Wi-Fi login info

Pool/gym hours

Check-out time

[PHOTO OF PEOPLE WORKING IN A MEETING SPACE]

Hungry? We've got you covered, no matter where in the hotel you are. Find out more about delicious meals delivered to you anywhere via our mobile app.

[PHOTO OF SPA/EXERCISE CLASS]

It's important to focus on wellness when traveling. Find out about our group classes and world-class spa. 

[PHOTO OF FRONT DESK]

If you need any information about what to do in the area, best places to eat, or need anything for your room please contact our concierge and guest relations team [CLICK HERE]

Sincerely, [AUTHOR NAME/CONTACT INFO]

4. Post-visit example

Continue your relationship with your guest with an invitation to provide feedback via an online survey, including discount or reward offer for participating. Invite them to sign up for a newsletter or loyalty program, or offer discounts for referrals. 

Subject: [GUEST NAME], thanks for choosing us

Preview: How was your stay?

[PHOTO OF HOTEL AMENITY]

Body: Dear [GUEST NAME],

Thank you once again for choosing our spot to relax! Please take a few moments to fill us in on your experience, and earn DISCOUNT OR REWARD INFORMATION. Your information and privacy is important to us; we look forward to getting your feedback.

Sincerely, [AUTHOR NAME/CONTACT INFO]

[SURVEY LINK]

[HOTEL RESERVATION INFORMATION]

[LOYALTY PROGRAM INFORMATION]

Improve your hotel email marketing campaigns today!

Hotel email campaigns that won’t cause an unsubscribe are all about personalization and timing. It isn’t an exact science, but with these best practices and a dash of creativity, you can design email campaigns that benefit guests and your business.

Grow leads with better hotel marketing

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Laura Fredericks

Laura brings a decade of insight to improving marketing, as she has worked in technology since 2010. She has experience starting and scaling a business, driving customer marketing, and speaking at live events, including WeDC Fest 2018. She founded Describli and Paradigm Labs, and currently works with companies to improve their customer relationship management and content strategy.

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