Old-school vs. New-school Hotel & Travel Marketing

brown Blog, The Marketing Minute

Hospitality and travel marketing has shifted dramatically in recent years—the traditional “directory-based” approach, with a few pictures of your property and a list of details about the services and amenities you offer, just won’t cut it anymore.

Today, the most effective strategies and tactics focus on creating emotional connections.

Think about lifestyle brands in the automotive and luxury retail spaces. The imagery and words they use are carefully crafted to tell a brand story, to relate to potential customers, to appeal to their desires. Mercedes-Benz, for example, doesn’t target people who simply need a new car; the company’s messaging connects with a higher-end audience—those who want “the best or nothing.”

Many leading brands in our industry are utilizing a similar approach. If you’re not there yet, now is the time.

Connecting today is easier than ever, thanks to the web and social media. Creating an emotional bond, however, takes a little more effort. Virtually every hotel team I consult claims their No. 1 unique attribute is “authenticity,” but they usually don’t have an answer when I ask: “Authentic to what? Do you have a story that serves as the foundation for this authenticity?”

Let’s take a look at the difference between “old-school” and “new-school” marketing, and how you can create a story that truly connects with guests.


Empty hotel rooms and lobbies—we’ve all seen these typical hotel photos. What do they tell you?

Old School


These are great for the GDS and fine for your travel directory. Now, however, put yourself in the shoes of a potential guest. What emotions do these images conjure? Not the kind that lead to personal connections. Instead, these photos say, “This hotel is nice—just like all of the other hotels I’ve considered so far.”

This strategy appeals to people seeking the lowest price, such as customers of online travel agencies. OTAs are working hard and spending big to generate business—they’re among the top spenders across all industries in Google AdWords. If those are the customers you want to attract, these photos will work. Keep in mind, however, that the competition is stiff; you are up against the OTAs and the vast resources they’re expending to target these guests.

New School


What if you want more, though? What if you want guests who are driven more by the experience they’ll have than the rate they’ll pay? To attract them, you have to market differently. You have to tell your story well and be authentic to it.

Don’t these photos create a different reaction than the standard room and lobby shots? You’ll always need to show potential guests your property, of course. But the best photos do that while layering in some emotion, too.


Do you speak at your guests, or do you connect with them? You’d be surprised how often a hotel will tell me, “We just re-did our website,” only for me to discover it still sounds exactly like every other hotel website.

Old School

Located just blocks from bustling downtown, Hotel X features 50 contemporary guestrooms and suites. Our lobby bar is open until midnight so you can wind down after a long day, and our restaurant specializes in farm-to-table cuisine.

Blah, blah, blah. Set a scene instead. Help your customers picture themselves staying with you. Don’t just tell them where they’ll stay; illustrate what they’ll experience.

New School

Escape. Indulge. Improve. Renew.

Welcome to Resort X, a stunning 400-acre sanctuary of discovery. A place where our nurturing team will curate imaginative experiences to ignite your inner spark. A setting that can help you bring greater meaning to your most important relationships.

Our casita-style rooms, suites and villas are inspired by nature and designed for comfort. They are the perfect base for greeting each new day, and celebrating each day’s experiences.

Everyday life is filled with noise. At Resort X, you’ll find respite—an opportunity to quiet your mind and reflect on your life, your dreams and your journey.

How does this make you feel, compared to the more traditional version? Do you feel understood? Are you confident this resort knows what you need? That they can provide you experiences you never even realized you wanted?

Words matter. Use them to your advantage.


Hospitality marketing teams are usually stretched thin—I know, because I’ve been in your shoes. I can step in quickly and provide immediate support in the following three phases of marketing:

Phase 1—Brand Evaluation
Brand development (or redevelopment), including logo, visual design communication, stationery/brochures/OSE in-house collateral, positioning language, photo/video shoots and more.

Phase 2—Brand Launch Plan
Annual marketing plan, critical path, marketing budget development and execution. See how I’ve helped other brands by clicking here.

Phase 3—Launch!
Social media, advertising, online marketing, PPC/SEO, email marketing, guest retention and acquisition strategies, PR, etc.
For complete detail about all of our services, click here.