The Power of Travel Influencers for Hotels: 8 Ways to Increase your Online Impact
Luxury. Relaxation. Escape. Travel influencers share carefully curated photos of these concepts on their social media accounts, beckoning their followers with wanderlust.
These gorgeous fantasy photos create a longing, a yearning—FOMO, fear of missing out on these fantastic experiences. For those in the hospitality industry, travel influencers and hotels are a natural fit. If you want to get noticed online, tap into the power of travel influencers.
Travel promotion has changed drastically in the past few decades. Hotel owners are no longer able to rely on their location or even their competitive rates. As they recover from the blow of 2020, those in the travel industry have to get more creative with their online presence.
After all, the first place people look when they’re booking travel is online. They may go to Kayak, Expedia, or one of the many travel websites out there to learn more about their travel options. Often, they aren’t merely searching for flights and lodging—they’re looking for an experience.
For hotel owners, influencers offer a great way to promote your business. Most travelers rely on reviews to tell them which accommodations are worth their time. Influencers offer reviews with photos and a taste of the experience. Their audience members see these aspirational images and think, “I want that too.”
Does influencer marketing work? In some studies, 87% of Millennial travelers get inspiration for their trips from social media. So, in short, yes. Travel influencers and hotels can make great partners—to the benefit of both parties. Here are 8 ways you can tap into the power of travel influencers.
1. Understand Influencer Culture
In the hotel industry, do you need to understand every aspect of travel influencer marketing? Of course, that would be a big undertaking. But it can help to understand a little about the trend, especially if you want to use online marketing to attract more visitors.
The idea of travel influencers is a relatively new concept that’s only taken off in the last five years or so. For travel, most influencer marketing is on Instagram—the preferred platform for travel pictures and aspirational photos. Much of the influencer market is aimed at the under-40 demographic, although if that isn’t your target audience, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore the power of social media influencers. There are a growing number of influencers in nearly every market.
Travel influencers are all about sharing the experience and evoking a certain feeling or mood with their images. Many of them spend months, even years, curating their “brand” and creating the perfect niche for their audience. For micro-influencers, that audience might be between 10,000-50,000 very loyal followers. While this may seem like a small crowd, their audiences have a high degree of trust in the brands and information they share.
2. Be Proactive in Your Pursuit of Travel Influencers
You could wait for influencers to come to you, but if you want to get the right travel blogger or travel Instagrammer to visit your hotel, you should seek them out. If you’re working with a marketing specialist, they should actively seek out influencers to partner with on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and even LinkedIn.
Look for people who fit your hotel’s demographic and personality. An excellent way to explore your target audience is to reverse-engineer your search. Look at those who have tagged your hotel in their photos or added your hotel as a location. Check out linked accounts from positive reviews.
If you’ve seen travel influencing happening organically, you can further foster it by commenting, liking, and even offering to repost. Using this method, you can boost your social media reach without ever spending a dime!
3. Set Your Budget
Check out your advertising budget, and then consider the reach you would get from comping a few nights for some well-known travel influencers. Chances are, it’s well worth the investment to engage with influencers and lure them to spend some time with you. You can join networks if you have the budget and would like to take a more hands-off approach.
But if you’re like many in the hospitality industry, you’re probably running on a tight budget these days. So reaching out to some travel influencers individually could be a great option. Another method is partnering with a local business, like your hotel’s restaurant or your visitor’s bureau, to promote travel to your city as a whole.
Look to the circles and connections you already have to find travel influencers. You may often discover influencers without having to extend your budget (or your search) too far. Strike up conversations with visitors and encourage staff to take note as well. Even if patrons don’t consider themselves influencers, they may have a surprising social media reach.
4. Keep it Small and Simple
Again, micro-influencers often have a more loyal audience than macro or mega-influencers (think the Kardashians). Unlike celebrities, whose followers may be there for a myriad of reasons, micro-influencers have a hyper-loyal following of people who specifically love their brand. That means, if a vegan travel influencer promotes your town as a great place to visit and shares their great experience at your eco-friendly hotel, their audience will follow suit.
A great influencer can offer a 650% ROI for every dollar spent, making them a far-better return than most advertising endeavors. By providing them a free stay in exchange for a few social media shares, you may see many benefits.
To tap into the power of influencers, you don’t need a huge effort to start. Make sure your hotel has a social media presence. Consider creating a unique hashtag and then reaching out to a few key influencers (even former guests) to see how you can connect.
5. Add Perks for Events
Loyalty programs and block discounts can boost your hotel’s influence. Are you hosting a wedding? A conference? Offer a few amenities, including an option of sharing a unique hashtag and your location for guests. When guests share photos of the great event, they’ll be promoting your hotel as well.
Similarly, if you want to tap into the influencer market, look for blogging and technology conferences. These influencer events can be an ideal opportunity to promote your facilities. Go the extra mile to make them feel welcome and cared for while they’re staying in your accommodations. Be sure everyone has plenty of WIFI access and lighting for the perfect Instagram shot.
Food and luxury touches are especially popular options. Something as simple as an umbrella in a glass by your hotel pool can look great in a photo. Think of the touches that make travel an experience—the fresh towels folded on the bed, the pretty room service presentation, and the fun spots around your hotel like a wall mural. Conference-goers and party guests will love sharing beautiful photos of their fancy accommodations.
6. Consider Setting Up an Influencer Agreement or Program
If you’re running a lodge that particularly appeals to an audience—say spa-seeking bachelorettes or family fun—keep in mind that you might be a hot target for influencers. Some larger hotels have found that influencers have become so persistent that managing the relationships can become overwhelming.
If you want to be sure you’re getting the most for your offer, consider creating a standard influencer agreement, including an application form that lays out expectations. As part of the process, you should screen influencers to ensure they really have a high number of followers. You may want to offer them a trackable link or discount code they can share so that you can monitor the response.
While travel influencer and hotel relationships are based on a certain level of trust, it can be a good idea to set forth guidelines, so everyone is satisfied. After all, just like an influencer can attract their followers to your hotel, they can also share bad experiences that could negatively impact your business. It’s important to remember that this could happen in any circumstance, which is why you should follow up on reviews and ensure all travelers (regardless of their influence) are satisfied with their experience.
7. Remember the Offseason
Most hotels experience some off-peak times when business is very slow. People don’t necessarily visit during winter in Minneapolis or mid-July in Phoenix. There are also times when your city may be experiencing more traffic for events like festivals or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
While influencers might reach out to you during these times, chances are you’re not having a hard time keeping down vacancies when business is jumping. It’s the off-peak times when hotel-owners can really tap into the power of travel influencers.
Engage with influencers to share great activities in the area during the less-busy times. Ask around local businesses to help curate a fun “influencer package” at the concierge. What activities can you suggest to your important guests to help them realize how great it is to stay at your hotel all year long.
8. Watch How Others Use the Power of Travel Influencers
Social media travel influencers do well because they’re connecting personal stories with their audience. Stories draw people in and help them get into the fantasy of their potential travel experience.
Some of the more prominent brands are using travel influencer promotion well because they’ve helped these online gurus create narratives that appeal to their audience, such as asking influencers to film YouTube videos or create Snapchat posts, and then cross-sharing those posts on their hotel account.
Even if you are running a small hotel, bed and breakfast, or resort, you can engage with top influencers using these same techniques. Think of ways to make sharing and posting fun and exciting. When influencers enjoy their time at your hotel, they’ll want to share organically too.
The travel influencer market is growing and only getting bigger. If you’re looking for new and different ways to promote your hotel to potential guests, don’t miss out on this massive opportunity to grow your influence!