Hotel Marketing Association

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HMA Spotlight on… Caroline Cockell

Caroline Cockell, Marketing Director, Interstate Hotels

Caroline Cockell, Marketing Director,
Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts

In the latest of our Spotlight series, we interviewed Caroline Cockell of Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts, a leading operator of hotels, resorts and conference centres of all major franchised lodging brands throughout the UK,  Europe, and Russia/CIS.: 

Tell us a bit about your history in hotels:

This is actually my first role in hotels! My career to date has been incredibly varied, with posts in travel, retail and leisure over the last 12 years, but in terms of hotels per se, this is my first and I’m loving it.

Tell us about your current role and main responsibilities?

I’ve been in my current role as marketing director for around two years now. It’s a hugely varied role, with a large part of my job to inspire and empower our hotels to maximise their own marketing plans and activity.

My role is about trying to ensure our hotels are taking advantage of the marketing opportunities available to them, and provide them with the tools they need – be it social media or website support, PR advice or by using the relevant brand tools.

There’s not always somebody with marketing experience or expertise in every hotel team, so we’re here to make it easier for them and provide that support.

Most weeks I’m out and about, travelling between our properties to meet with hotel teams, share marketing ideas and advise on any challenges they’re facing.

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing for your organisation at present?

There are numerous challenges when it comes to digital marketing, firstly the challenge of persuading people to book direct – an issue hotels and other management organisations across the country are facing, too.

The big online travel agents have a wealth of resource – both in terms of budget and marketing team size – and therefore can be everywhere at once, targeting both business and leisure travellers through multiple channels, in creative and engaging ways.

Competing for travellers’ attention and securing a direct booking is very difficult with less resource at your fingertips, but we are working hard to find more creative yet cost-effective ways to meet this challenge.

Additionally, a challenge we personally face at Interstate is the huge diversity of our portfolio. We are a white label hotel management company. We don’t own any hotels.

Every business is of equal importance to us and managing the very different marketing requirements of the brands and independent hotels we operate is a big task, but we have a great team on hand with widely varied expertise to drive performance in each scenario.

What is your most successful social media channel for the organisation and why?

Twitter is certainly our most successful channel at Interstate, due to the fact it allows us to engage directly with people and organisations.

Our properties use a variety of platforms, from Instagram to Facebook and LinkedIn. The latter are certainly useful, but it’s becoming very tough for our properties to get the organic reach they want on those platforms without putting budget into promotional posts and page boosts.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?

Video, in all its guises, is set to continue being an impactful marketing tool. It’s the way people want to consume information at the moment and I can’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.

However, as we’ve seen already on Facebook and Instagram, videos with subtitles are set to increase in popularity, as people continue to view content on mobile devices, often in public places, and therefore don’t necessarily want the sound.

I think this evolution of the way we use video will continue and we’ll see further innovations in the coming months and years.

If I gave you £30,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?

Make more videos! We’d love to create more walk-through style videos of our properties and bring what we do to life with truly engaging content.

What are you currently steering clear of with regards to marketing strategy or implementation?

In this industry, we’ve become very reliant on printed marketing collateral and so, as a team, we’re making a conscious effort to move away from it wherever we can.

For some hotels and their markets’, it may still be relevant but we’re finding, more often than not, it’s digital all the way, be it a shift towards online customer service tools, apps or simply e-mailing rather than printing documentation.

What’s your ultimate career goal?

In my current position, it’d be fantastic to be able to do more, for more hotels. I work within a very talented marketing team, but it would be amazing to have specialist areas and members of staff within the team to provide an even better, more focused marketing support service to our properties.

I very much believe that our hotel owners’ businesses come first, and so to be in a position with my career to deliver even more for them would be a great feeling.

What plans does Interstate have afoot?

We’re experiencing a period of strong growth at the moment. Just recently we announced another 13 hotels in our signed pipeline, taking our UK portfolio to more than 70 properties nation-wide.

In line with this growth, we’re working as a marketing team to continue raising the organisation’s profile and reinforce our position as a leading third-party hotel management company.

Thanks to Caroline for a fantastic overview of her strategies, challenges and opportunities. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at



Jamie Patterson is trivago UK’s Global B2B Marketing Blog & Communications expert. All hail Jamie as she puts us in the picture on WTF is Pokemon Go and how the hotel marketing community can get in on the action. 


jamie patterson

Jamie Patterson, trivago

As I’m writing this, Pokémon GO is being downloaded in the UK faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle.” Chances are pretty good that by the time you start reading this, your street is enjoying an increase in foot traffic. Not because it’s summer, but because there’s something bringing people (and their cell phones) together, and luring them all out into the streets.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Take a look out of your front window or down the alleyway. Notice a bunch of people huddled together looking at their phones? How about over by the old church or next to the statues in the centre of town?

Ah, yes. Now you see them. Those packs of people leaning on the wall by the town’s ashen war memorial, looking at their smartphone and chatting animatedly.

Those people represent the biggest opportunity for your hotel business this summer. So take a good look at them.

They’re probably at a PokéStop or a PokéGym. And if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, I’m here to explain.

Rather than just writing off Pokémon GO as some fad for teenagers who think socialising is taking selfies on Snapchat, pay attention. I am going to walk you through the basics of Pokémon GO as it relates to your hotel, and then I’ll give you a couple ways to directly capitalise on its soaring popularity.


Pokémon GO is a free-to-play game available via a mobile app that leverages GPS and AR (augmented reality). The game is being released in stages by gaming tycoon Nintendo and is being developed by the Google-backed joint venture Niantic.

This modern take on the classic RPG (role playing game) Pokémon is called Pokémon GO. It utilises Google’s GPS, bringing the gaming world and real life together through AR. This makes it exceptionally unique. Contributing to the hype is the fact that the average person can access this AR experience free of charge. What’s more, is that it’s based on a relatable set of characters brought back to life from the nostalgic childhood of the Millennial population.

The gateway to it all is the app. Through it, Pokémon trainers (players) are brought together and sent off to rediscover their hometowns and to explore new locales on their quests to virtually “catch” Pokémon (mystical cartoon creatures).


Pokémon GO may have just been released in the UK and in Italy mid-July, but it’s been available in Germany, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand for a week now.

That’s right. Just one week. And the impact it’s had on local businesses, particularly in the hospitality and travel sector, is inspiring.

First of all, the game revolves around the goal of collecting all of the Pokémon by “catching ‘em all.” Because it’s an AR concept, players have to use the app to see where Pokemon are hiding in everyday life. Pokémon are now found in and around various pre-existing POIs (points of interest). You know, like historical monuments, museums, public works of art, and the like.

These areas are known as PokéStops.


pokemon-go-casa-do-outeiro-tuiasHere players can collect in-game goodies like “candy” to make their Pokémon stronger. The stops have been pre-determined through Ingress, another AR game by the same development team. Although many stops are significant cultural POIs, there’s also a host of public buildings, cafes, bars, and even homes that are PokéStops.

And your hotel might be one too. If so, you’re sitting on a mini goldmine.

Some restaurants in the US (Pokémon GO became available there last week) realised very quickly that their businesses were PokéStops and have been quick to capitalise. Other companies are benefiting just by having mere proximity to a stop.

One such venue reported that it’s seen a significant increase in foot traffic since the game released and that drink sales are up by 30 percent.

If your lodgings are a stop, you’ll know. There will be people coming by in droves soon enough.

In addition to stops, there are PokéGyms. These are places where gamers can train their Pokémon and make them strong and “battle ready.” They can compete in friendly competitions with other trainers (players) of the same team (there are three teams worldwide) or can engage in “battles to the death” with opposing forces.

Either way, Pokémon GO and PokéGyms provide a huge business opportunity to you.


There are numerous ways in which you can join in on the fun and grow your profits at the same time. First things first, I suggest that you download the app and see firsthand what it looks like. After you’ve got a better idea of what the hype is about, try the following in and around your hotel.

Let locals Know with a Sandwich Board and classic advertising. Sometimes the simplest approach to advertising and marketing is the best.

Although this game is available from everywhere from Down Under to America to Europe—with plans to launch in Asia soon—it’s still highly local. It’s encouraging people to get out of their homes (and offices) and into the streets of their communities to rediscover cultural assets, where subsequently, they may find Pokémon.In the US, museums that had been struggling to survive have enjoyed surges in guests and foot traffic because they happen to be stops.

Let passers-by know if you’re a stop or a gym. If you’re not, offer deals to game players to encourage them to visit.

For example: On your quest to “catch ‘em all”? Stop by for a refreshment in our hotel bar and enjoy a Pokémon trainer exclusive discount.

You can try other messages too. This game is played on smartphones and presumably, takes up a considerable amount of battery power. Encourage players to recharge at your hotel with a message like this: En route to the next PokéStop and your battery’s about to die? We’ve got charging cables for (enter phone types here). Come on in and borrow one for a while.

Phone chargers have never been more affordable, so I suggest you stock up on several major varieties.


Slack-for-iOS-Upload-1Though the Pokémon GO game is free to play, there are a couple things that can be purchased. One of these things is called a Lure Module.

Lure Modules can be gained through regular gameplay for free, but if you’re looking for some more immediate action, you can affordably buy and drop a Lure.

I highly recommend that you do this for your business. And tell people about it. Each Lure Module costs about US$1 (75p) and gives you 30 minutes of Pokémon luring. Buy several and set one every hour on the hour for the duration of your opening hours. If you do go this route, try a message like this on your Hotel News feature: We’ve heard there’s Pokémon around here, so we’ve got our Lure Module set constantly.

You know the restaurant I mentioned earlier, the one that saw beverage sales increase by 30 percent? They spent US$10 (£7.50) on Lure Modules to encourage that extra business.

So, are you out to “catch ‘em all” when it comes to converting players into patrons?


You can get more tips from Jamie and trivago by following the trivago Hotelier Hub UK blog.






Five step guide to generating direct hotel bookings

In this month’s Branding Notes, Harry Fielder of Umi Digital shares his must-do tips for hotels seeking greater direct booking engagement. Over to you, Harry….

Harry Fielder, Umi Digital

Harry Fielder       Umi Digital

Umi Digital was set up in 2010 for one major reason, which was to empower hotels and hospitality business to drive direct revenue online. Since then we have seen the competition for online dominance explode with the OTAs, now becoming some of the largest marketing companies on earth, spending inordinate amounts on advertising every year. Over the last six years there have been a great many changes on and offline, but we have seen the five pillars of achieving competitive advantage remain largely the same. Across the Umi network we get the chance to see all sorts of marketing approaches but without fail, the best hotel marketing efforts follow the following points closely.

1. Cohesive Online Presence

A hotel’s online presence has a great many touch points online and offline. The online touchpoints may cover:

  1. Website
  2. Booking Engine
  3. TripAdvisor
  4. OTA Listing
  5. Social Media
  6. Newsletters
  7. Google Maps

A prospective guest will usually experience at least three or four of these touch points prior to every booking they make, so it is essential that all the information across these mediums is consistent. While consistency in information is crucial, so too is the consistency in brand and voice. If your facebook page is super jovial and casual and your newsletter is written in prosaic formal language then the prospect will experience something called cognitive dissonance, or a clash in meaning which will leave them confused.

Google have recently shown that guests actually visit an average of 21 different websites before making their decisions and 87% will check and be affected by the social media presence of a hotel. These two statistics combined show that it is absolutely essential to have highly converting, sticky website and cohesive and holistic approach to all brand display online.

2. Multiple Booking Methods

Catering for absolutely everybody is often a sure fire way of confusing things, but you are shooting yourself in the foot if you do not offer at least a few different ways for people to book. At a minimum a guest should be able to:

Clearly see a phone number to make a booking.
Clearly see an email address or contact form to enquire further.
Book online using a non-OTA booking engine.

Choosing the right booking engine is a topic for another day, but there are certainly a number of cost effective solutions out there. One we highly recommend is Globres, which is a version of the Synxis engine but tailored to independent hotels.

So this is your minimum. To go further, you may wish to implement Live Chat on your website so people can book through an instant message or support WhatsApp so they can simply text the reservations desk. We all have our favourite means of communications and your guests will as well. Different demographics are more familiar with different types of technology so don’t leave potential guests struggling to book if they find themselves wanting to come direct!

3. Leverage the OTAs

While Umi Digital are fairly guilty of OTA bashing most of the time, there are occasions where we need to step back from our intolerance of the 20% commission rates and over-reliance hotels have on them. They are damn good at one thing. Marketing. They will get your hotel in front of more people that is reasonable to achieve on your own and this does not have to be a bad thing for direct bookings. We are seeing that a great many people that visit your listing on the likes of subsequently visit your webiste. This is the opportunity to capture them directly! Too often it is the case that the guest simply returns to the OTA because of the easier, more intuitive booking process.

If you understand that OTA visitors will visit your website then you can get into the mindset of what you might like to see to draw you to book direct as opposed to going back to the OTA to book. The first and most important part of this is to offer something the OTAs cannot.

4. Compete on Value

Price parity rules state that neither party can undercut the other, but this works in two ways – you can offer a best rate guarantee and claim that you are the best price on the internet. All of which is technically true! Price parity works in two ways.

Aside from price, the advantage that you have over the OTAs is that they cannot be as creative about added value. There is absolutely nothing stopping you advertising things like a free breakfast to those who book direct or a bottle of wine if they stay two nights. The reason that ‘best price guarantees’ and added value should be so front and center is that 76% of guests genuinely believe they can get a better deal through an OTA. You need to show prospects that this is not the case. It has also been shown 85% people (Google, 2016) are actually brand agnostic and will consider many different options every time they book. This shows the opportunity, you just need to showcase your product in the right way.

5. Adapt Over time

Even if all your efforts on the four points above have generated success in the short term your performance will decline if your online presence goes neglected. Websites are no longer billboards or static catalogues, they are living breathing things that are meant to be changed frequently. The first step is to ensure your menus, galleries and other text is always up to date, remembering that this information often features on mediums like Google Places, Facebook ‘about us’ and more. There is nothing more frustrating to a guest than unmatched expectations and incorrect information.

Building on this, the successful hotel will also be proactive in making sure the entire online presence is kept fresh by taking advantage of:

  1. New booking technologies.
  2. New engagement opportunities like Live Chat.
  3. New content mediums such as videos, drone photography, 360 virtual experience etc.
  4. Keeping on top of design trends and making sure the design  caters to the way your guest uses your website.
  5. Fresh perspectives on hotel marketing and never being afraid to try something new.


NB: This is advertorial content. To enquire about placing advertorial content with the HMA please email 


HMA Spotlight On… Patrick Farrell

Patrick Farrell

Patrick Farrell

In the first of our new Spotlight series, we interviewed Patrick Farrell, presently with The Wellesley in London: 

To kick off, tell us a bit about your history in hotels

Originally from Galway in the west of Ireland, I have worked in hotels for the past ten years. I received a diploma in International Hotel Marketing from Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, paired with a Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Marketing from National University of Ireland, Galway. I began my first marketing based role whilst in Dubai working for Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts. I began as a Rooms Marketing Executive which involved assisting each Jumeirah hotel and resort in Dubai with rooms marketing activities, which included major revenue generating campaigns, such as ‘Winter Flavours’ and ‘Summer Flavours’. I then progressed to become a Digital Marketing Executive, focusing on one hotel, the iconic Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This was at a very exciting time as social media played a big part of that role, whereas it didn’t exist a few years previously. I then moved to London with Jumeirah, to be Marketing and PR Executive at Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in Knightsbridge. I worked there for two-and-a-half years before moving to The Wellesley to lead the marketing and communications for the hotel.

Tell us about The Wellesley and your current role?

The Wellesley is known as London’s finest-boutique grand hotel located in Knightsbridge/Hyde Park Corner. The hotel is young in comparison to its long-standing neighbours, having opened in December 2012.  As Marketing and Communications Manager, I am responsible for managing and delivering the day-to-day marketing and public relations activity, online and offline, for the hotel whilst being required to support the delivery of hotel revenue targets. It’s an exciting role for me, and my first independent hotel to work for in a marketing capacity.

What style/type of hotel is it? 

The hotel is classed as ‘boutique-grand’. Some might find this a juxtaposition, but I find it really explains what The Wellesley truly stands for. With just 36 bedrooms, it really is a ‘boutique’ hotel, but guests experience the ‘grand’ element the minute the door is opened by our doorman. Attention to detail in the construction and finishing touches was paramount to our owner and this has served extremely beneficial to me and the wider teams, in terms of promoting what is a real unique find in London.

What are your main responsibilities when it comes to your hotel’s marketing?

I oversee the promotion and awareness of the hotel across all markets, which I often refer to as ‘reputation management’. PR is still a very important and influential channel for us so I employ an agency to attract key media from the UK and US markets. The value of a good online review from a prominent media outlet online can last a very long time so ensuring we are targeting relevant media outlets is key to us at The Wellesley. ‘Traditional’ marketing, such as print brochures and leaflets for distribution within the hotel, are still quite important to us as many of our guests and visitors like to take something with them, as a memory per se. Working with quality printers is key. I’d much rather create artwork in-house, rather than outsourcing as you save time and money. But this isn’t always possible, as you cannot beat the expertise offered by (some) agencies. I work with a digital agency to ensure our PPC and SEO efforts are performing efficiently. Social media also falls under my remit, which I am a big fan of and very protective of!

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing for your hotel at present?

The largest chunk of my marketing budget is currently spent on digital activity: everything from search and display ads, selected social media advertising and also third party partnerships. I am always aiming to improve the ROI with digital spend and this is easily trackable, which makes my role justifiable!
At The Wellesley, our key source market is the Middle East, so creating relevant, compelling offers for those countries is very important. Not having the resources in place in those countries to support our marketing activity can sometimes be a challenge. For example, I do not employ a dedicated Arabic translator or team in the Middle East, so I’m potentially missing out on new audiences there. Another challenge which I sometimes face is convincing my Executive Team internally the value of digital marketing and the importance of being digital savvy and investing in the right areas.

What is your most successful social media channel for the hotel and why?

I would say Facebook is our most successful channel to date, based on the number of referrals we receive. We are active on the other main channels, (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube), however, I find the targeting and scheduling options on Facebook a real winner. From a visual point of view, Instagram wins hands down, and we do maintain quite a healthy engagement rate there but as with anything, there is always room for improvement and optimisation, which reminds me of a quote in the back of my mind an esteemed General Manager told me years ago: “The largest room in any hotel is the one for improvement”.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months? 

Mobile messaging and targeting. Users (guests) are spending more and more time on their phones. At The Wellesley, we have implemented a WhatsApp reservation service, which connects guests directly to our reservations team via mobile messaging. I have found this a very popular channel with a fantastic ROI. At the end of the day it’s all about giving potential (and current) guests a choice, a convenient way to book their stay with us.

If I gave you £10,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it? 

Mobile optimisation and investing in website translation / adaptation per market. It’s so important to realize that not all users read your content the same way. Some markets prefer image-led displays whilst others, (particularly in Asia), prefer facts, which generally means straight-to-the-point text about your hotel. I would also invest more in subtle, dynamic marketing and remarketing via online channels and try to be on the top of the users’ minds when they decide to book their stay in London.

What are you currently steering clear of with regards marketing strategy or implementation?

I’m not a fan of the pushy pop-ups asking the user to fill in their details before they leave a website. Specifically, in the luxury market, we need to be very careful. In order to keep users on a site, it’s my job to devise an experiential journey on our website.

What’s your ultimate career goal? 

I have some exciting projects that I’m currently working on and one big one just about to begin, after which I would love to be in a position where I am leading the marketing function across a brand and providing inspiration for the younger generation of hotel marketers. Taking all the experience I’m building up now, I aim to open my own marketing consulting agency, but I have a lot to learn until then…

Thanks to Patrick for providing our members with such great insight into his role and career to date. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at 


Fuelling a RED Revolution

In our latest Branding Notes, we asked Edinburgh-based creative agency Teviot more about their approach to delivering Carlson Rezidor their exciting new brand, Radisson Red. Agency Development Director Steve Christie takes it up from here.  



Carlson Rezidor had a new concept in mind for the hotel industry, a brand that was going to grab the sector by the scruff of the neck, spray its hair red and scream that tattoos are always cool!


The newest addition to their portfolio, Radisson Red, is heavily influenced by the music, fashion and art scenes and is aimed at a customer base with a free thinking, tech-savvy mind-set rather than a traditional ol’ marketing demographic.

At their heart they’re comfortable, accessible, ultra-stylish hotels but Carlson Rezidor want staying at a RED hotel to be an experience, something more akin to an art gallery social media rock gig!

Taking that thinking as our lead, we directed every aspect of the development of the brand from strategic workshops that defined the audience as the ‘Ageless Millennial’, which in turn informed the direction of a visual brand that can rather proudly be described as ‘in your face’.

The first challenge… How do you market a hotel brand that didn’t actually have any hotels yet? (the first is due to open 18th April, 2016) RED is a visual, tech-driven brand, so social media and blogging were the only places to be for the majority of the pre-launch marketing. We created highly targeted social content and interest pieces that played to the audience demographic and deployed them across a variety of platforms. The resulting engagement and awareness figures were pretty huge, even by our expectations and will only continue to grow as more hotels are added. RED is already, by any measure, the most socially engaged brand of the whole Carlson Rezidor portfolio.

red-website         red-advert

We weren’t only talking to guests though. A massive part of the RED experience are the employees, not only recruiting the right ones but making sure they’re 100% engaged with the brand and they understand how much of a part they play in the RED story.

So how do you find the right people? By talking to the right ones, in the right way, in the right places. We ran a bunch of short, sharp, quirky films across Instagram and Facebook to advertise employee castings. RED wanted to unearth the unique, the misfits, the unconventional and sometimes the just plain weird. It certainly worked!

So, you ageless rockers, throw your half finished beers over the snogging couple in front and put your phones in the air for Radisson Red.

Learn more about Teviot by clicking here


NB: This is advertorial content. To enquire about placing advertorial content with the HMA please email 



Come Together*

Ed Purnell, Chairman, Hotel Marketing Association

Ed Purnell, Chairman, Hotel Marketing Association

I am delighted to announce that we have now been able to align the Hotel Marketing Association with HOSPA, the Hospitality Finance, Revenue Management and IT Professionals Association, as part of a new management agreement. It’s an exciting new proposition for commercial specialists within the hospitality industry, one that many of ours and HOSPA’s communities will see as not only sensible, but already reflected in the microscale of their own daily tasks.

It’s always been a bit of a cock-fight inside the meeting room, with Sales & Marketing clashing with each other, let alone with Revenue Management and Operations. It was especially pleasing to hear the thoughts of the panel at a recent HMA event, led by Simon Francis of Flock – The Marketing Transformation Company, all of whom suggested that the last 12 months had seen a much healthier, positive working relationship between departments.

I’m personally of the belief that brands and hotels should be implementing change by creating a Commercial title into their organisation chart if they have not already. This role’s sole responsibility is to effectively project manage Sales, Marketing, Revenue Management and IT to ensure that they are focused on delivering what is required to meet the universal goals of the company. Too long has this title been slanted in name towards Sales or Marketing or both, resulting in caginess for either discipline and an imbalanced direction in strategy.

This Commercial role, however high and mighty it needs to be to allow for politics, succession and audibility within the Branded/Group sector or for clarity and focus in a single business unit, I hope will find this new management agreement between HOSPA and the HMA of particular relevance and interest.

I look forward to spending time with people and organisations that want to discuss ways in which they can participate in events, networking and content within the HMA and HOSPA in the wider context. I’d also like to mention the National Hotel Marketing Conference in May 2016 at which I hope to see many familiar and new faces.

* Headline inspired by the collaborations of George Martin (3 January 1926 – 8 March 2016)


It’s not too late to plan for Christmas…2016



Christmas is coming…but how can your business make the most of the season of goodwill. Ed Purnell, founder of TAPPED Consulting and Chairman of the HMA, highlights his top ten marketing tips for capitalising on Christmas in the hotel trade.


‘Tis the season to be jolly, but for the hotelier it is also the season to be prepared for your busiest time of the year. No one can fail to notice that for all business seasonal marketing is of course at its strongest around Christmas. In our trade we have to be savvy but there are some key points I would advise everyone to follow at Christmas.


Stay on plan

Go into Christmas with a strong social media plan and stick to it. There will be many temptations to over-elaborate the message or react to external factors, such as what the competition are doing. A resolute, pre-planned social media schedule, across all channels but particularly Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, will stand you in good stead for guest engagement and keep them switched on to your posts for the rest of the year.

Build the bigger picture

There will be a tonne of people in your hotel in the lead up to Christmas and New Year who will only see what’s in front of them – a party venue, an afternoon tea, a bar. Think about how you can build awareness of the rest of the hotel and inspire an additional experience from this crowd.

Forward-thinking hotels will have installed beacon technology to capitalise at this time. Naturally, traditional methods such as tent cards, bill stuffers and posters can still play a part, but let’s embrace the technology available to us and grow your appeal with these guests and drive future visits.

Collaborate the Christmas

Christmas is a time for collaboration. Leave no stone unturned in bringing relevant partners to light to surprise and delight your guests and gain that all important local PR. It’s a great way to get your staff motivated too, but make sure you train, train, train the message to ensure consistency and clarity as to why you have partnered with that particular brand.

Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree

The tree – ah yes, the good old Christmas Tree. Is it up yet? We all know that some hotels take their Christmas Trees to the max in pursuit of international fame. It’s great fun to read about trees adorned with £7million worth of jewellery in Abu Dhabi, or the 8,000 macaroon tree at the InterContinental in Paris. This all goes to show, don’t underestimate your tree’s appeal – it’s part of the tradition, it sets emotions racing and should be the centrepiece of the festive season at your hotel.

Set a retail strategy

Do you have a retail strategy in place for your hotel? Many of your guests will have their minds fully focused on shopping at this time. They will be scrutinising every inch of their stay for ideas and inspiration as to what to buy colleagues, friends and family. Furthermore, this should be a year round strategy, not just for Christmas.

This can be as simple as spa gift sets or hotel experience gift vouchers. Some of the more progressive hotels are beginning to sell interiors, artwork and local provenance goods; the holidays form a major part of their retail strategy. Check out what The Hoxton has created with its Hox Shop, for example. They’ve really excelled at bringing the outside in, curating the experience in each of their destinations.

Stick with your Christmas brochure

Christmas brochures – to print or not to print. Ok, let’s face it, we’d all prefer not to print one but the fact remains there’s life in the old dog yet. That said, it’s a tiresome process that needed to start in April and be in distribution from summer onwards. The age old challenge for marketers is to avoid the flying cutlery when asking Chef to meet the copy deadlines.

Keep it in the community

Playing your part in the local community at Christmas time is very important. But why just at Christmas? It’s important that you build the holidays into your CSR strategy rather than look for Christmas charities to support.

Start the year with Christmas in mind – build up to a great event during this time where you can celebrate the partnership and reflect on what part your hotel has played in raising awareness, funds and spirits throughout the course of the year.

Know your audience

You need to be mindful of how your guests will be receptive to your Christmas marketing. Be mindful of cultural sensitivities, but that doesn’t mean that your content needs to be ‘politically correct’. After all, your guests have chosen to come to your hotel and destination to experience it at first hand. Just make sure that you apply the right levels of commerciality and sophistication as necessary to support your service culture and level of hospitality.

Let your staff shine

Let’s face it, by the time December arrives it’s down to the staff on the ground. This is their time to shine. Make sure your marketing team do not to get in the way of the operation and allow your staff to build relationships with guests who are likely to be repeat customers, and who you would definitely like to see again. In effect, the Marketing team’s job on Christmas should be done by now and for you it’s about setting upon the data available to you during this time to generate repeat purchases and experiences.

Don’t forget family

Christmas is a time for family, whether that be a couple, parent’s with three young children, or four generations coming together for the first time in months. Be clear about your offering and try to cater to all within that. Mirror the importance of this festive, family holiday in your own hotel and the guests’ will feel right at home.


Ed Purnell is an experienced hospitality marketer, having held various senior roles with some of the world’s leading hotel brands, including InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts and Small Luxury Hotels of the World. In 2014, Ed founded TAPPED Consulting and currently serves as Chairman of the Hotel Marketing Association. He is also Marketing Director of HotelEtail


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