New Hotel Opening Digital Marketing Checklist

A new hotel opening, whether a conversion or a new development, has many moving parts.  As an owner or manager overseeing this process, you are likely wearing multiple hats.

Here is a hotel digital marketing timeline with a checklist based on the opening date for hotels. The goal is to ensure you are building your website presence early and not waiting until the hotel is open.  If you can establish a healthy channel mix sooner rather than later, you will have reduced OTA dependency down the road.

1 Year Prior to Opening: FOUNDATION

Focus on finding the right partners that fit your specific needs. Define your hotel’s unique story and ensure consistent storytelling across all platforms, where your website tells the best story.

  • Buy your preferred domain. Develop a 1-page site or temporarily redirect to a page on your management company site.  This should have contact info about sales and careers.
  • Determine opening budget. Be sure to include extensive photo shoot, NAPW (Name, Address, Phone, Website) consistency and heavy paid marketing for the first 3 to 6 months of the new hotel opening.
  • Create a fact sheet.  The sales team will need something that has stock photography, amenities, and proximity to local demand generators.
  • Pencil in a photographer. If you are a branded hotel, ensure you meet brand standards in case they require certain companies to shoot, and also specific images.  For more photo shoot considerations, visit these hotel photography guidelines.
  • Choose best technology.  For an independent hotel, ensure there is proper alignment between your Property Management System, Booking Engine, Channel Manager and Website.  Make sure respective systems can integrate with a CRM down the road.
  • Develop voice for your brand.  Who is your target audience?  How will you fit into the compset?  What are your goals, for digital marketing and otherwise?  Pull market statistics from your CVB to properly set expectations.

6 Months Prior to Opening: WEBSITE

Hopefully, your website is live or being built and these points are considered.

  • Define your unique selling propositions. Consider what is unique to your hotel and location against the comp set.  Also, what is unique about your sub-brand, in terms of food and beverage, pet policies, in-room amenities.  This is also location-based and how far your hotel is from specific demand generators.
  • Find niche keywords for your on-site search engine optimization.  Each page should be dedicated to different keywords into the title tag.  Your meta descriptions should include unique selling propositions again. Further integrate your keywords into on-page content and header/alt tags.
  • Write extensive content.  Ensure your home page lists all your unique selling propositions.  Supporting pages should be dedicated to amenities, rooms, offers and local area, at a minimum.
  • Have a working phone number. You should have your local number, but likely no front desk, so set this up to forward to your corporate office or someone’s cell phone.
  • Create a social media presence.  Keep it minimal and just start with Facebook then you can grow into more platforms later.
  • Increase Site speed. Check for site speed. A free tool like https://gtmetrix.com/ will do the trick.

3 Months Prior to Opening: RATES

  • Ensure rates are live.  Rate strategy should be built and rates should be selling on your website.  Submit to get your interface set up with the larger Online Travel Agencies like Expedia and Booking.com either through a Channel Manager or the brand.  Fill out as much as you can in terms of content plus any stock photography or renderings you have.
  • Build at least 1 local package.  It should showcase your unique selling propositions, partnerships or proximity to local demand generators.  Leverage these to get exposure on your local CVB and chamber websites.
  • Activate local listings like TripAdvisor and Cvent.
  • Check GDS strategy.  Ensure major GDS channels are live and pushing AAA at a minimum.

2 Weeks Prior to Opening: EXPOSURE

  • Write your press release. If you are a new hotel that is a flag change, the press release will need to comprehensively show the volume of the renovation.  Later, this press release will be easier to submit to TripAdvisor to wipe old reviews than some other documents they accept.
  • Execute online partnerships.  Your sales team should be in full force. As they are creating relationships on the ground, they need to think about how to promote the hotel online and get listed on local sites.  Not only will it drive referral traffic to your site, it will help with off-site search engine optimization.
  • Tweak your paid marketing budget.  Does your original budget align with hotel needs and season you are opening?  Finalize your NAPW partner to ensure your hotel is visible on all channels with correct URL, Name, Address and Phone number. Check out PropertyVIEW® Content Verification Services by HotelPORT® to help hunt down inaccuracies across OTAs, metasearch sites, directories, and mobile apps.

Day Of Opening: TESTING AND LOCAL

  • Ensure working phone number.
  • Do test reservations.  Test inventory selling for day of on multiple channels and do test reservations.
  • Distribute your press release. Consider using a national distribution service but also send to local avenues to distribute to other organizations that the hotel is a member..
  • Communicate opening on social media.
  • Claim local listings.  This includes Google My Business, Yelp, Bing and Apple. There is usually a phone verification involved.

2 Weeks Post Opening: PAID MARKETING, GPS, PHOTO SHOOT

  • Turn on paid marketing. Considerations are Google Adwords, MetaSearch, Groupon/Flash Sales, Social Media, Waze, Eblasts, Travel Ads, Retargeting, Banner Ads.  If you don’t have a database yet for email marketing (as most won’t) check with your CVB to advertise in one of their e-newsletters. Most states also have a tourism website that you can advertise.
  • Submit the new location to maps sources.  With new builds, sometimes GPS devices don’t recognize road extensions or that a building physically exists.  Check Apple Maps, Tele Atlas, Navteq, OpenStreetMap, and Waze. Submit turn by turn direction changes to Google if needed.
  • Prep for photo shoot.  Your photo shoot should be scheduled within 30 days of opening. Ensure your landscaping looks good and you have extra staff scheduled around breakfast and reception times, if applicable.
  • Gain access to all review channels.  Make sure someone has access to respond to all reviews on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, Expedia, Booking.com and Yelp.

90 Days Post Opening: CLEAN UP

  • Distribute new imagery to all channels.  Ensure consistent image story telling on your website, Online Travel Agencies, local listings and social media.  If you are a branded hotel, check distribution sources like Vscape and Yext.
  • Listen to front desk for guest complaints.  Cross-reference sites to make sure amenities and directions are not vague or misstated.
  • Check analytics and reporting.  Look for increased organic search impressions and clicks on Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Check Google My Business statistics.  
  • Plan for Grand Opening Party.  Time to celebrate and invite your favorite and potential clients for a party. Budget for food and entertainment. Showcase local vendors specific to your area.  Design custom invites and play it up on social media.

It takes an average of 6 months to establish a base presence online.  So, if you start the digital marketing process and align with sales and revenue management, the first few months post opening will be smoother. Another key aspect is a plan that spends money in the right areas for your new hotel opening until base business via sales is acquired.  

REBEL Travel Corporation is a strategic partner of Cogwheel Marketing.  Cogwheel Marketing specializes in digital marketing for new developments and conversions within the hospitality industry.  For assistance in executing on this timeline, contact Cogwheel Marketing for your hotel digital marketing needs.

About the Author:

Stephanie Sparks Smith is Founder and Digital Matriarch at Cogwheel Marketing. Get more from Stephanie on LinkedIn