May 20, 2024
By Kim Campbell

The independent hotel market is not just growing in size, popularity, and profitability—it's thriving. In 2024, independent hotels generated an average daily rate (ADR) index of 120, up an average of 20% from 2019. However, this notable growth is not a product of chance. Independent hotel marketing has been pivotal in shifting the industry's focus toward unincorporated, independent, and boutique properties, making them the preferred choice for many travelers.   

As we explore how independent hotels differ from chain and branded properties, you’ll uncover the unique benefits and strategies independent hoteliers harness to keep up with their bigger, better-funded competitors. We’re digging into 10 independent hotel marketing strategies your team can use to generate buzz, boost bookings, and promote your business to a broader audience.   

Unleash the power of independent hotel marketing   

The increasing demand for unbranded, authentic travel has provided independently owned properties with a unique opportunity to highlight what they offer. More solo travelers, corporate travel agents, and event planners are sourcing out-of-the-box, independent, and boutique hotels. But why?  

Why do travelers find independent hotels appealing?  

Modern consumers want to spend their time and hard-earned money on travel that matters—whether that means relaxing at a remote wellness retreat or getting to know the locals in a new destination. Without the constraints of brand or corporate standards, independent hotels have more opportunities to think outside the box, get creative, and generate personalized, authentic experiences. Free from the limitations chain properties face, independently owned hotels—  

  • Provide cultivated bespoke travel experiences. 

Dedicated, intimate customer services are becoming increasingly rare, driving consumers and organizers toward lodging partners who can provide more authentic experiences. Independent hotels have the time, freedom, and opportunity to offer guests more tailored personal services than most chain competitors.   

  • Work with local culture and ethos, not against it. 

Sustainability, eco-conscious travel, and community protection are growing considerations for planners, corporations, and solo travelers. They want to immerse themselves in travel destinations, truly experiencing unique cultures while preserving and protecting them.   

Unlike many corporate chains, independent hotels commonly strive to align with the surrounding culture and values instead of forcing their surroundings to adapt. Without top-down pressure to increase profits each year, solo owners may have more opportunities to invest in eco-friendly facilities and sustainable services.  

  • Offer more unique features and design elements. 

Most chains implement brand standards, dictating how hotels look and operate under their umbrella. This ensures travelers can expect similar experiences when staying with the brand—no matter where they travel. Conversely, independent hotels have more freedom to design, decorate, and use hotel space creatively, like Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth, Washington, which boasts a fresh-air sculpture garden with giant glass icicles.   

10 independent hotel marketing strategies for 2024 and beyond 

Whether your hotel is easy to find or off-the-beaten path—whether it offers luxury-level retreats or homey hospitality—how you advertise it can make or break your business. Implementing these independent hotel marketing strategies can help your property reach more people and take charge of this unique period in hospitality history.   

  1. Pinpoint what makes you stand out  

What are your property’s unique selling points? What’s special about your hotel, city, region, or landscape? Identify what amenities, characteristics, or services set you apart from big-name competitors nearby. Whether you’re a luxury boutique property or a cozy BnB tucked away in the woods, don’t be afraid to own what makes your property different from all the rest. What does your independent hotel offer travelers, groups, and events that your corporate competitors cannot?  

  1. Create an immersive experience for guests  

Like big-box stores and corporate giants, larger chain hotels may focus more on profits than the customer experience. Employees are often tracked and evaluated based on their data-based productivity, not consistently accounting for the personal touch skilled customer service agents provide. Simply put, big-brand competitors don’t always have the time or drive to create immersive, personalized stay experiences for their guests.   

Focus on personalizing every part of the booking, stay, and post-stay stages. Create captivating advertising that engages the senses, and invest in innovative in-room smart technology. Partner with local businesses, attractions, and outdoor recreational hosts to offer travelers and tourists all-inclusive stay packages. Look for opportunities to connect with the companies, features, and elements surrounding your property to cultivate more immersive travel opportunities for guests and businesses.   

  1. Intertwine your property and destination  

Whether you have a unique ownership origin story or are in an exceptionally distinct destination, embrace it. Tell the story of your property and allow your surroundings to inspire the hotel’s interior design. Showcase who you are and what you stand for while decorating the space with destination-inspired elements to create a sense of authenticity and cohesion with the natural setting.   

Are you in a city bustling with busy workers, corporate executives, and luxury travelers, or are you settled in the countryside against a romantic, natural backdrop? Business travelers and digital nomads may find flexible workspaces or in-room technology more appealing in a busy city center. In contrast, country inn visitors may relish the opportunity to disconnect, unwind, and take in a new area.   

  1. Boost your online presence 

Strengthen your hotel’s online reputation by reviewing and updating all your channels, including your primary website, third-party booking sites, online travel agency (OTA) listings, venue directories, and other locations. Revitalize sites with up-to-date photographs of your property, highlighting the amenities and facilities your target audience will find the most appealing. Link social media pages, add a virtual tour, and highlight user-generated feedback about past stays at your hotel.   

Focus on improving your hotel search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, which is critical in determining how high your content appears in search engine result pages (SERPs). SEO-friendly content features search-friendly, relevant keywords and high-quality content—written and visual. When travelers turn to search engines to find hotels, using phrases like “hotels near me” or “BnBs in Jacksonville,” your independent property will have a better chance of populating near the top.  

  1. Use social media to target ideal guests 

Create captivating, valuable, and engaging social media marketing content crafted to appeal to your hotel's target audience. Work with social media savvy employees to post high-quality content regularly. This year, independent hotels should—  

  • Focus on short-form video content. Short-form content (60 seconds or less) continues to be the most popular form of social media marketing, thanks to the rise of TikTok and other platforms’ adaptations of their feed style (e.g., Facebook and Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts). Use video marketing to show real-world snippets of life at your hotel, connect with viewers, and build a closer relationship with social media users.   
  • Avoid overspending on mega-influencer partnerships. Although their content tends to reach a large audience, superstar influencers may not connect with a specific demographic or your target market. Instead of working with famous social media stars, invest in influencer partnerships with creators on the rise.  
  • Partner with creative, niche influencers. Niche content creators tend to have loyal followers who respect and find them credible due to their extensive expertise in a particular area, subject, or destination. For example, a country inn may benefit from partnering with a smaller influencer who cultivates their content about farm-to-table dining or digitally disconnecting in today’s modern world.   
  • Incorporate interactive tools. Adding interactive tools, like live polling and Q&A, can help make your social media marketing more engaging. Regularly read and respond to user posts and reviews, as consistent engagement increases the reach and conversion potential of social media marketing.   
  1. Connect to the Global Distribution System (GDS) 

Although your hotel may be independent, it can still benefit from travel agencies working on its behalf, which can be set up through a global distribution system. The GDS is a network of systems that communicates and shares data to provide planners and travel agents with everything they need for sourcing—from air travel to hotel options—all in one place.   

Instead of spending valuable time and resources negotiating and attempting to get various vendors to market your independent property, connecting your hotel to a GDS enables thousands of decision-makers to access your venue with just a click. Partnering with a GDS gives independent properties the broad exposure big brands have. And although exposure is critical to continuing success, independent hotels must maximize profits wherever possible. That's why driving direct bookings should also be a core part of your independent hotel marketing strategy.   

  1. Make booking easier  

Is your website old and outdated? Is it easy for social media, app, or review site users to find where to book? Walk through the booking process like it’s the first time; try to imagine what visitors experience. Complete a reservation from start to finish, putting yourself in their shoes.   

  • Is the process smooth and simple? 
  • Is the site clunky?  
  • Are your photos up to date?  
  • Is hotel contact information (i.e., phone number and address) visible? 
  • Are essential details (e.g., location, room types, and amenities) easy to find?  

Assess how your website looks to potential clients, including event planners, corporate travel agents, and organization leaders. Does it display event space, packages, and technology in easy-to-find locations? Can interested parties book directly online, using smooth systems like Instant Book, without negotiating with the sales team? Create a booking process that makes it easy for travel agents and event planners to visualize a stay at your hotel.   

  1. Make data-driven decisions 

Hotel benchmark reporting, destination trend analysis, and key performance indicators (KPIs) help hoteliers better understand their business, consumers, and market. Use Business Intelligence tools to track property performance, identify market trends, and create proactive, data-driven advertising strategies. Analyze how various independent hotel marketing campaigns perform to determine which strategies appeal to your target audience and which efforts you can reduce.   

  1. Build a local network of independent partners 

From dining establishments to outdoor adventure guides, many consumers seek independently owned and operated hospitality businesses for the immersive and memorable travel experiences they desire. When tourists, business travelers, and groups seek authentic travel experiences, they want every part of their trip to matter—not just where they sleep.  

Build a network of reputable independent companies to assist travelers and event planners with everything they need. Include various business types, from event venues to specialized service providers. That way, you’ll always know who to turn to, even when you don’t have the answers. Network with hospitality partners like  

  • Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs)  
  • Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) 
  • Restaurants 
  • Wineries and breweries 
  • Farms 
  • Farm-to-table restaurants 
  • Local tour companies 
  • Historical Landmark Association  
  • Entertainers and performers  
  • Colleges and universities   

Organizations like the Independent Hotel Network (IHN Group) foster connections between hospitality-based businesses across India, including lodging and dining services. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) offers a voice to every type of hotel, including recognizable chain brands and independent hotels.   

  1. Keep an eye on the competition  

Which hotels do you compete against? Are you up against recognizable names like Hilton, Marriott, or IHG? Or are your primary competitors vacation rentals and boutique event venues? Establish your hotel comp set, and research their marketing techniques. Review the competition's websites, social media pages, and venue listing platforms to understand their marketing strategy.   

  • What advertising techniques do they use?  
  • Which strategies have been the most successful?  
  • Does the comp set focus more on highlighting facilities, amenities, or low rates?  
  • Do they host groups or events?  
  • Which competitors offer a loyalty program for repeat guests?   

Establish who your competition is targeting and how to determine what your property should do to stand out and capture consumers’ attention. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (or so some say), so don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from successful competitor strategies, but give credit where credit is due. In addition to building trust amongst the local hospitality community, lifting other independent businesses could increase word-of-mouth recommendations for yours.   

Create inspired independent hotel marketing based on what you do best 

Now that you understand what makes independent hotels different from their corporate competitors and why so many people seek them out, you can develop a strategic marketing approach to capture more attention and attract travelers to your destination 

 

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list.

Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.

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