Can Guest Experiences Serve as a Differentiating Hotel Marketing Strategy?

Sine Scott, Marketing Executive, HMSAI Marketing Advisory Board Member  

Amidst the prevailing focus on AI’s impact on marketing, I sought to steer one of our HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board discussions toward a core hospitality topic. How can we integrate enhanced guest experiences into our marketing strategies to stimulate demand and enrich the stay? We exchanged insights on how hotels and resorts can elevate guest experiences by creating unforgettable events and transforming spaces into memorable touchpoints. Such experiences foster collaboration between marketing and operational teams, cultivating brand loyalty and market distinction. 

Key Strategies and Insights  

  • Competitive Differentiation via Unique Offerings – In a competitive market, standing out is crucial. Customers are looking for unique experiences, viewing a trip as more than just a vacation, expecting a journey to personal growth. Participants explored how unique offerings and innovative space utilization can differentiate a hotel. For instance, the property can serve as a gateway to the destination, while on-site staff can act as ambassadors, such as a bartender curating a list of hidden cocktail bars
  • Activate Underused Spaces – Elevating guest experiences by creatively activating underutilized spaces has emerged as a differentiator. As one AB member noted, “Activating underutilized spaces can bring your brand pillars and positioning to life. There’s nothing worse than a non-animated lobby or flat experience.” These guest spaces can become vibrant aspects of the guest experience and integral to marketing and storytelling. For example, one hotel transformed an empty wall into an Instagrammable mural, turning a neglected space into a powerful marketing asset, driving social media engagement and indirectly promoting the hotel. “Everyone takes a picture of that spot and shares it on social media. People come and seek it out.
  • Marketing and Operations Collaboration – Discussions revealed an occasional disconnect between marketing/sales teams and operational teams regarding the value of minor yet impactful guest enhancements. Success stories underscored the benefits of collaborative efforts in personalizing experiences and providing tailored guest recommendations. This synergy between marketing and operations is pivotal for effectively implementing and showcasing the impact of guest experience initiatives. 
  • Demonstrating ROI to Leadership – Addressing the challenge of demonstrating ROI on experiential marketing highlighted the need to shift perspectives from considering guest experience enhancements as expenses to recognizing their long-term value. A strategy for demonstrating ROI includes leveraging data and sentiment analysis from guest reviews to correlate specific enhancements with positive feedback and repeat business. Additionally, creative ideas can garner significant earned media and reduce advertising costs. However, we acknowledged that not all returns are immediately quantifiable, emphasizing the need for a broader understanding of ROI that encompasses brand building and indirect revenue streams.  

The meeting underscored the significance of innovative guest experience strategies for competitive differentiation. By embracing creativity, fostering cross-departmental collaboration, and navigating the challenges of demonstrating ROI hotel teams can enhance guest satisfaction and bolster the brand. 

Supporting Articles:   

Questions for Your Team:  

  1. Why is it increasingly important to include unique guest experiences in our marketing plans?  
  2. How can we tailor experiences for different demographics while respecting privacy concerns?
  3. Can experiential marketing create demand and generate positive ROI?  
  4. How do we demonstrate the value and ROI of elevated guest experiences and personalization to our leadership team and owners? 

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles