Marketing for vacation ownership: tips to step up your lead capture

Vacation ownership has evolved over time. It started with the idea of bringing your family to a resort and creating memories together year after year. Hospitality giants like Disney, Hilton, and Marriott took note and quickly helped grow the industry.

Today, the marketplace has an abundance of options, including Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO. The internet paved the way for change, and in just a few clicks, travelers have hundreds of choices available to them.

For vacation ownership marketers especially, the task of finding qualified leads and converting them into happy, long-term owners remains a demanding job—one that’s more of a necessity than ever.

Start by considering your advantages and identifying your unique challenges

Ownership can be a ticket to better vacationing and offers a unique experience over traditional resorts. It’s an investment that provides an advantage to families as resorts are often perfectly located and offer spacious, high-quality accommodations and an abundance of amenities.

But even more, ownership gives way to memorable moments that last a lifetime—those your owners and members will want to share with the ones they love. As marketers, you can tap into these special moments to introduce your hotel to more of the people you want to talk to.

But how do you do that? Below are some tips to consider when looking to put these insights into action, and supercharge your lead capture with qualified travelers.

1. Get hyper-targeted: reach & engage the right audience

Travelers are connected to a like-minded audience of friends and family who share the same taste in travel and purchasing habits. For the savvy vacation ownership marketer, it’s easy to see why the friends and family of your owners, members and even renters alike are the perfect demographic for your property.

Get introduced by converting your members and owners into advocates. Research from Nielsen shows people trust the recommendations they receive from friends and family more than any other, making this incredibly targeted reach even more valuable.

Plus, keep in mind that vacation ownership buyers often have a strong emotional attachment to the experience—these are moments with friends and family that they’re eager to share! Encourage introductions, build better relationships, and get rewarded.

2. Use the right calls-to-action

In order to step up lead capture, the right calls-to-action are critical. That’s because not everyone you encounter as a marketer is ready to buy.

This is especially true for high-value purchases where people weigh their options to ensure they’re making the right decision. If the only option is to ‘buy now,’ you’re constantly missing the opportunity to nurture that potential future owner because there is no relevant action for them to take or reason to get in touch.

Start by taking into consideration where a person is in their purchasing journey. Are they a first-time vacation rental visitor, or an old pro? According to ARDA, 42% of new owners first experienced vacation ownership clubs by renting before making a purchase.

With this in mind, it’s apparent as a marketer that the call-to-action for these different travelers also needs to be different.

For the first-timer, instead of offering up a discount, try rekindling their favorite moment after the stay. You’ll begin building a relationship on an emotional level, giving them a reason to return. For the old pro, they may be primed to open the conversation for the long-term purchase.

By delivering the right ask, you’ll not only capture more qualified leads, but you’ll better understand their intent to buy, and know when and how to communicate.

3. Nurture, don’t spam

Once you’ve captured your leads, treat them how you want your inbox treated—with relevant messages that have the right content and context.

Why is this so important? Every time you email someone with content they’re not interested in, you’re eroding your relationship. And these are hard-earned leads we’re talking about!

Sheila's story at Westgate

Instead, inspire them with relevant content.

One way to do this is with storytelling. Your owners and guests capture the widest range of experiences and provide the most candid insights into your property.

Blending these stories throughout your marketing and communications is a great way to replace spam content that is irrelevant to your audience. You’ll deliver high-value content that makes sense. In doing so, you’re more likely to get more shares and tours than simply spamming email campaigns to your database of leads. (Read more on canning spam.)

Once you’ve readied your relevant content, remember timing and context are important, too. Craft messages based on where they may be in the buying journey—especially as the path to purchase is not a single step, and for vacation ownership can be far more complex.

By following these tips, you’ll not only reach the best audience for your property, you’ll save time and be rewarded along the way.

Have tips on marketing for vacation ownership that you want to share? Get in touch! We’re always looking for new ideas in the travel space that help shape hospitality.

Stories matter: what hotels can learn from content marketers at large

Forrester defines content marketing as:

“A marketing strategy where brands create interest, relevance and relationships with customers by producing, curating and sharing content that addresses specific customer needs and delivers visible value.”

Notice that it’s more than just creating content to put in front of your guests. It’s creating effective content with a purpose—to educate and inspire.

And when it comes to this strategy, in particular, hoteliers can take cues from brands across every industry. From the most extreme examples like Red Bull TV to the more subtle like Leadpages, they all have one thing is common: incredible content marketing and storytelling.

The case for better content

There’s no shortage of content out there on the internet. Just about everyone is creating it. But is it effective? It’s critical to measure if your content marketing is working. To do this, you need to define what success is from the start. What metrics are important to your hotel? What are the wins (both large and small) to get you there?

Without a clear plan in place, it’s easy to fall into a trap of creating more content rather than creating content that’s actually effective at meeting your goals. Remember the endgame here—create interest, relevance and relationships with your guests.

According to Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, there’s no one way to do just that. But she does offer a few suggestions to consider for your next piece:

  • Focus on empathy and experiences
  • Focus on relevant and inspiring stories
  • Focus on making it useful

Great content = Useful x Empathic x Inspirational

It’s important to note that all three factors are needed. Without one, the system (and it’s effectiveness) fails.

The case for storytelling

The medium you use to distribute your work and even what you define as useful or relevant is completely dependent on your brand, guests and business goals. For hoteliers, in particular, stories have an important role to play.

Stories help build powerful connections with guests, creating loyalty and trust that can make a hotel stand out from the competition. Let’s dig into why.

Stories are useful

For centuries, humans have told stories to share information and teach important lessons. Over time they shape our perceptions and beliefs, whether that’s about individuals, food, political views, or even your hotel.

As your story is cultivated, it develops into a powerful means for future travelers to learn about your hotel and the experiences your property has to offer in an authentic way. When all of these things come together, that’s when your guest is ready to book.

Stories are empathetic

Your guests are the core characters of your hotel’s story and they have relevance to the people they know—future travelers perfect for your hotel. It’s hard for these prospective guests to identify with a building. But your guests’ perspectives offer an authentic connection that resonates. They’ll breathe life into your hotel with messages that traditional advertising can’t touch.

Don’t just take my word for it. Robert McKee, regarded as one of the best brand storytellers, said in this interview, “When a story stars a consumer, there’s a kind of natural empathy. That character is a human being, just like me.”

Stories are inspirational

Stories engage consumers, pulling them in to participate in the conversation, rather than telling them what to think. Plus, stories evoke emotions, and emotions inspire us to take action.

Just remember that authenticity matters here. Travelers see right through content that’s not authentic and you’re running the risk of losing valuable credibility with your audience.

Brands across every industry recognize that storytelling is an effective avenue for marketing. It captures what today’s consumers want: useful, empathetic and inspirational content. For the hospitality industry, adapting this mindset while enlisting the help of your guests will be a win-win for your hotel.

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The Crane Resort taps into the power of guest storytelling to boost their bottom line with

Caribbean mainstay widens audience to the tune of 300K in first 5 months

ORLANDO, FL — December 19, 2016 —, the advocacy platform that helps hotels reach, inspire and convert travelers has helped amplify the marketing efforts of The Crane Resort. Just five short months since launch, the century-old Barbadian resort has been personally introduced to 300,000 travelers worldwide with the help of their guests.


The Crane Resort brings to light guest stories with

“There’s no better way to learn about a travel experience than from someone you know and trust. Our guests share everything with friends and family—from their excitement about an upcoming stay to their disappointment about having to leave—all punctuated by stories of their favourite moments along the way,” noted Eboni Phillips, Marketing and Communications Manager at The Crane Resort. “With, we now have the ability to quantify social with the power of these influential recommendations.”

Touch points throughout the traveler journey let guests share their authentic stories about the hotel to travelers worldwide. The platform earns and tracks new bookings while growing traffic, leads and tracked potential guests through a true conversion funnel. Unique to the advocacy marketing platform, is specifically designed for hotels and travelers.

For The Crane, this has added up to incredible impact. Their reach has well-topped a quarter of a million since August, in addition to driving more than 23,000 unique site visitors, 2,100 warm leads and 21 booked room nights with the platform.

The Crane Resort brings to light guest stories with

The impact is made broader by the library of curated guest stories captured through the advocacy platform—stories that reveal the property’s character from a unique point of view, including everything from its magical sense of seclusion to the famed Crane Beach.

All content carries a full legal release, so The Crane Resort may use it to enhance their own marketing. This is critical for hotels and resorts seeking to adopt a storytelling mindset to win over new travelers.

“The authentic perspective of your guests is an incredibly effective add to your content strategy. What’s important is that hotels use it to drive actionable results, sending quality traffic to compelling experiences they own,” said Danielle Fierman, Account Executive at “It’s there where hotels like The Crane capture warm leads, revealing the opportunity to market to these travelers directly. Since they’ve been introduced by their friends and family, these impressions are more potent than any ad.”

The Crane Resort brings to light guest stories with

Phillips went on to add, “ offered us the opportunity to track and measure advocacy with a cost-effective platform that was seamlessly implemented at our resort. We’ve pushed beyond the typical offer of sun, sea and sand, instead providing personal and powerful recommendations from friends and family.”

The historic Crane Resort overlooks the famous pink sands and turquoise waters of Crane Beach—named Best Beach in the Caribbean by readers of USA Today. Guests enjoy an idyllic respite on the Southeast coast of Barbados. The property offers grand colonial styled suites featuring lush gardens, private pools and rooftop terraces, and an impressive array of world-class amenities and services including fitness facilities, spectacular cascading pools, exciting restaurants including Zagat #1 rated Zen.

To learn more about The Crane, view the stories of their recent guests, or to reserve a stay visit or call (866) 978-5942.

Stories that inspire: our favorite guest moments from November

Every guest story is an opportunity for a hotel to unveil something new. Stories reach & inspire—they’re truly memorable, sometimes magical, and a lot of times, a bit of fun.

In a way, we’ve fallen in love with guest stories, and every day see firsthand the impact they’re making for hotels. That’s why we’re sharing them with you! Check out a handful of our recent favorites below:

Royal Park Hotel a favorite guest story from November

Royal Park Hotel — Rochester, Michigan

“Making a wish for a lifetime of moments like this.” – Brittney J.

Show some love

This is the beginning of a lifetime of memories captured. Brittney’s story won first place in Royal Park Hotel’s latest photo contest, reaching 2,486 friends and family, drawing 964 site visitors, and leading to 332 warm leads.

Eldorado Reno a favorite guest story from November

Eldorado Reno — Reno, Nevada

“It’s just a short stroll down Virginia St from the Eldorado to the Truckee River, and a reward waits you every time!”– John R.

Explore Reno

Known as “The Biggest Little City in the World”, Reno might surprise you with how much it has to offer. John, a recent guest of Eldorado Reno, shared this moment from his November trip with his friends and family worldwide. He’s already driven 67 unique site visits and 17 warm leads for Eldorado, with time to spare!

SeaVenture Beach Hotel a favorite guest story from November

SeaVenture Beach Hotel — Pismo Beach, California

“We love staying at the Seaventure. It’s centrally located to all the wonderful restaurants, allows us to spend time relaxing and just listening to the ocean.” – Grace C.

Check out the view

This peaceful moment was captured by Grace, a recent guest of SeaVenture Beach Hotel. She inspired 138 of her friends and family to visit their site, leading to 29 warms leads for this oceanfront property in just a month.

Carter Estate Winery and Resort a favorite guest story from November

Carter Estate Winery and Resort — Temecula, California

“The resort felt like a true getaway from it all, the room was amazing and the view was breathtaking we cannot wait until we return!” – Jonathan P.

Relax a bit

During a perfect retreat for two, Jonathan, a guest of Carter Estate Winery and Resort, caught this favorite moment. He joined fellow guests to reach over 41,000 friends and relatives in the resort’s current photo contest, mustering 616 warm leads in just 3 months.

POSTMARC Hotel & Spa Suites a favorite guest story from November

POSTMARC Hotel & Spa Suites — South Lake Tahoe, California

“Beautiful room. Great location. Extremely friendly service.” – Paige T.

Admire more

Paige’s story paints a rich picture of the beautiful views at South Lake Tahoe, and she shared to her 388 friends and relatives. Even more shared on to their own network, reaching an even larger audience of future travelers for POSTMARC Hotel & Spa Suites.

Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel a favorite guest story from November

Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel — Anaheim, California

“My children believed Mickey Mouse gave them their own castle to stay in. Castle beds for the win.” – Laura S.

Experience Anaheim

While the Castle beds for the kids at Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel make for an unforgettable trip to Disneyland, this was a moment of pure joy!

Plus, Laura shared this moment with 560 friends and relatives. She already led 377 of those reached back the the hotel’s website, leading to 37 warm leads!

Alyeska Resort a favorite guest story from November

Margaritaville Island Hotel — Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

“The rooftop pool & bar was awesome! We enjoyed all the fun things to do on the island!” – Sarah H.

Discover more

Sarah put Margaritaville Island Hotel at the center of this fun moment that was shared with 132 friends & family around the globe. There’s truly no better introduction to all fun at Margaritaville Island.

Check back next month for even more. See any stories that stand out? Let us know!

Adventure back to October’s stories

Stories that inspire: our favorite guest moments from October

Every guest story is an opportunity for a hotel to unveil something new. Stories reach & inspire—they’re truly memorable, sometimes magical, and a lot of times, a bit of fun.

In a way, we’ve fallen in love with guest stories, and every day see firsthand the impact they’re making for hotels. That’s why we’re sharing them with you! Check out a handful of our recent favorites below:

The Stanley Hotel a favorite guest story from October

The Stanley Hotel — Estes Park, Colorado

“That your beautiful hotel is literally minutes from one of the best National Parks in this country!” – Irene G.

Enjoy the view

After the perfect fall retreat at The Stanley Hotel, Irene drove over 238 of her friends and relatives to their site, capturing 42 warm leads from a single advocate!

Pacific Terrace Hotel a favorite guest story from October

Pacific Terrace Hotel — San Diego, California

“Mother/Daughter Surfing Lesson on PB.” – Karen H.

Show some love

While a lot of travelers are making their way to cooler weather, Karen hit the beach for a mother and daughter surf lesson at Pacific Terrace Hotel. When Karen shared this special moment with an audience of 233, she captured the hearts of 27 warm leads.

The Lodge at Woodloch a favorite guest story from October

The Lodge at Woodloch — The Poconos, Hawley, Pennsylvania

“This chipmunk kept running back and forth by the fire pit, so I decided to hide on the other side of the landscaped hill where he was running to. Boy was he surprised to see me!” – Denise R.

Explore The Poconos

A little bit of patience and perfect timing was all that was needed to capture this amazing shot by Denise, a recent guest of The Lodge at Woodloch. Her and fellow guests have already reached 30,000 friends and family and 696 warm leads in 2 months!

Orchard Hotel a favorite guest story from October

Orchard Hotel — San Francisco, California

“Mountain biking Mt. Tam – a great look at the natural beauty of the SF area…” – Dick H.

Enjoy more

Dick’s story from a recent trip to Orchard Hotel gives close friends and family a taste of the fun to be had in the San Francisco area.

Adrift Hotel & Spa a favorite guest story from October

Adrift Hotel & Spa — Long Beach, Washington

“Loved that we could walk down the hall for an amazing breakfast and dinner! Also loved riding our bikes from the parking lot for miles in the sunset!” – Shawna S.

Relax a bit

Shawna currently sits at fourth place in Adrift Hotel’s current contest. She shared to 418 friends and relatives so far, with 4 of her friends sharing on as well. This has driven 144 unique site visitors and 36 warm leads (and the contest is only half-way through!)

Crystal Lodge a favorite guest story from October

Crystal Lodge — Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

“Great location in a town with a great atmosphere.” – Jonathan S.

Admire more

This breathtaking view of Whistler is just 1 of the 133 guest stories in Crystal Lodge’s ever-growing library of curated content.

Alyeska Resort a favorite guest story from October

Alyeska Resort — Girdwood, Alaska

“Beautiful resort, impeccable customer service, and just a first-class act all around. The spectacular weather didn’t hurt either! Views from the mountain were fantastic!” – Pam R.

Ride along

Pam just snagged first place in Alyeska Resort’s first photo contest! Her and the other 25 finalists reached 47,848 future travelers, telling a richer story for the resort along the way.

Worldhotels a favorite guest story from October

Worldhotels — Hotels in 250+ destinations worldwide

“Constance Moofushi is a paradise on earth…!!!” – Marios A.

Discover Worldhotels

Marios’s unforgettable stay in paradise was shared with 375 friends and relatives, bringing 1,711 to their site and leading to 106 warm leads (and voting doesn’t end for another month)!

Check back next month for even more. See any stories that stand out? Let us know!

Adventure back to September’s stories

Stories that inspire: our favorite guest moments from September

Every guest story is an opportunity for a hotel to unveil something new. Stories reach & inspire—they’re truly memorable, sometimes magical, and a lot of times, a bit of fun.

In a way, we’ve fallen in love with guest stories, and every day see firsthand the impact they’re making for hotels. That’s why we’re sharing them with you! Check out a handful of our recent favorites below:

Royal Park Hotel a favorite guest story from September

Royal Park Hotel – Rochester, Michigan

“Hospitality, cleanliness, friendly staff, smooth, easy, relaxing wedding weekend.” – Danielle K.

Admire more moments

Danielle, a recent guest of Royal Park Hotel, shared a moment that captured the beginning of a lifetime of memories. She and fellow guests have reached over 14,000 friends and relatives in 3 months with authentic guest stories.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa a favorite guest story from September

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa – Temecula, California

“Fabulous facility, great spa and pool and excellent restaurant” – Barbara V.

Enjoy the view

After the perfect getaway at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Barbara and fellow guests have introduced the hotel to over 21,000 friends and relatives, capturing 442 leads for potential guests of South Coast Winery in just a month!

Aava Whistler Hotel a favorite guest story from September

Aava Whistler Hotel – Whistler, British Columbia

“Friendly staff!! Great location!!” – Kristie M.

Experience Whistler

Kristie put Aava Whistler Hotel at the center of this fun moment that was shared with 359 friends & family around the globe. There’s truly no better introduction to the lakeside fun at Whistler.

Mary's Lake Lodge a favorite guest story from September

Mary’s Lake Lodge – Estes Park, Colorado

“We only stayed the 1 night but just the overall feeling of Home when we opened the door was more than we expected.” – Jennifer J.

Show some love

In two weeks Jennifer has shared this special moment with 385 friends and family, driving 122 visitors back to the lodge’s website and generating 10 warm leads (and that’s just one advocate!)

Garden of the Gods Club a favorite guest story from September

Garden of the Gods Club – Colorado Springs, Colorado

“We loved the beautiful view, the relaxing atmosphere, the excellent food, and the superb service from the staff!” – Cora H.

Relax a bit

Cora captured this gorgeous poolside landscape during a visit to Garden of the Gods Club, captivating friends, relatives and future guests alike. Combined, guests have already reached over 45,000 friends and relatives in 5 months.

The Orchard Garden Hotel a favorite guest story from September

The Orchard Garden Hotel – San Francisco, California

Explore the bay

Orchard Garden Hotel launched less than 2 months ago and their guests have already inspired more direct business by being personally introducing over 2,000 friends and family to the Bay Area property.

The Crane Resort a favorite guest story from September

The Crane Resort – St. Philip, Barbados

“The Crane is so welcoming from start to finish. The staff make our whole vacation experience relaxing and enjoyable each year.” – Kyriacos M.

Laugh a little

The exceptional hospitality Kyriacos and his family experienced during their stay at The Crane Resort made an impression. 28 guests have already reached over 76,000 friends and family leading to 577 warm leads in 2 months.

Hotel Andaluz a favorite guest story from September

Hotel Andaluz – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Rooms were clean and nice. Hotel was beautiful. Food service was very good.” – Thomas K.

Enjoy Albuquerque

This peaceful moment shared by Thomas to his 498 friends and relatives is truly awe-inspiring—it’s one he’ll never forget. 6 of those reached shared his story to their own connections, reaching even more future travelers.

Check back next month for even more. See any stories that stand out? Let us know!

Adventure back to August’s stories

Stories that inspire: our favorite guest moments from August

Every guest story is an opportunity for a hotel to unveil something new. Stories reach & inspire—they’re truly memorable, sometimes magical, and a lot of times, a bit of fun.

In a way, we’ve fallen in love with guest stories, and every day see firsthand the impact they’re making for hotels. That’s why we’re sharing them with you! Check out a handful of our recent favorites below:

The Stanley Hotel a favorite guest story from August

The Stanley Hotel — Estes Park, Colorado

“Fly fishing the way my father taught me.” – Matthew G.

Explore the Rockies

Some things always stay with us. For Matthew, a recent guest of The Stanley Hotel, it was how his father taught him to fly fish. He joined his fellow guests to help this historic Rocky Mountain hotel reach an audience of 135,000 in 2 months.

Barefoot Cay Resort a favorite guest story from August

Barefoot Cay Resort — Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

“Terrific Dive team led by Christian. My BC failed on day one, and they had excellent gear as backup. By the next morning, my BC was fixed and ready to roll. Soguey Ariza was one of the best Dive Masters we’ve ever experienced in 30 years of diving.” – Dana V.

Dive in

After an unforgettable stay at Barefoot Cay, Dana shared this special moment to 270 friends & family, leading to 46 warm leads from a single advocate alone.

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel a favorite guest story from August

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel — South Lake Tahoe, California

“At the resorts complimentary beach! Great family fun.” – Leo J.

Take a beach trip

Leo’s story paints a rich picture of the family fun at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, and he shared to his 609 friends and relatives. 6 of those shared on to their own network, reaching an even larger audience of future travelers for Lake Tahoe Resort.

Crystal Lodgea favorite guest story from August

Crystal Lodge — Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

“Great customer service at the Crystal Lodge at check-in and check-out. The staff was friendly and the location was perfect!” – Alison P.

Take the leap

The exceptional hospitality Alison experienced during her stay at Crystal Lodge made an impression. She and fellow guests helped this mountain lodge reach an audience of 50,000 in the last two months.

Row NYC a favorite guest story from August

Row NYC Hotel — New York, New York

“Amazing view of 8th Ave. from our room at RowNYC” – Dimitri F.

Enjoy the view

This breathtaking view of The City That Never Sleeps inspired over 552 of Dimitri’s friends and relatives to visit Row NYC Hotel’s website, leading to 76 warm leads in less than a month.

The Shawnee Inn a favorite guest story from August

The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania

“The best part of our experience at Shawnee is being able to connect as a family! We enjoy all of the outdoor activities and making memories year after year!!!” – Lyndsey M.

Make memories

The Shawnee Inn is at the heart of many memories for Lyndsey and her family. She captured this one during a beautiful summer day on the lake, giving future travelers a taste of all the fun to have at this Pocono Mountains getaway.

La Casa del Zorro Resort a favorite guest story from August

La Casa del Zorro Resort & Spa — Borrego Springs, California

“‘I’m just going to look up at the stars the whole time,’ our six year old told us on the way back to the room after dinner. This moment seemed too perfect not to capture.” – Samantha S.

Gaze at more

A starry night becomes a cherished moment for Samantha and her son. In just two weeks, her story has captured the hearts and minds of 324 friends and relatives worldwide.

Mirror Lake Inn a favorite guest story from August

Mirror Lake Inn — Lake Placid, New York

“The best part of our experience was in the beautiful way the grounds are maintained. The service and dining experience was absolutely first class. Highly recommend Mirror Lake Inn.” – Richard D.

Experience Mirror Lake Inn

Beautiful views and unforgettable service from an exceptional staff. All part of this timeless story shared by Richard to friends and relatives about Mirror Lake Inn.

Check back next month for even more. See any stories that stand out? Let us know!

Adventure back to July’s stories

Hotels vs. OTAs: the issue isn’t what you think it is

At, we’re constantly working with people in the industry that inspire us. Here’s a special post from our own team member, originally featured on LinkedIn Pulse. Looking to collaborate? Get in touch and let’s do something amazing together.

It’s virtually impossible to read hospitality headlines nowadays without seeing at least one piece on how hotels can “take back control” from OTAs. A noble pursuit indeed but do hotels know what sort of “control” it is they’re trying to take back? I would argue the answer to that is no in most cases.

Let’s look quickly at what OTAs are designed to do and why they’re good at it. OTAs are conversion machines. They bring in massive amounts of traffic and then excel at converting that traffic into room nights, car rentals, airline tickets, etc.

They’re able to do this because they’re better at getting consumer attention than hotels are and their websites are better at selling than hotel websites are.

Expedia spent, collectively across all of its brands, nearly $3 billion on marketing in 2014. If they’re willing to put that kind of money into the marketing aethers then it’s a sure bet they’re serious about converting that traffic when it lands on their sites.

Beyond that they’ve also invested heavily in keeping those customers coming back. They’ve accomplished this through a loyalty program, long-term nurturing, and a purchasing/discovery experience that favors the user. Not one of these three things is beyond the ability of any hotel reading this.

In most cases when I read these articles about wresting control from the OTAs the focus is on share of revenue and room nights. How can hotels shift more of that into their ecosystem? The issue with this “control” narrative is that it’s focused on symptoms and not the causal factors mentioned above.

Share of attention

As a hotel, it can be overwhelming trying to compete for the fleeting attention of travelers. Never before in human history have so many sources been competing for a person’s attention. OTAs are good at this because they have scale and budget. They can be in most places the consumer cares about, but not everywhere.

For hotels this means competing in spaces where OTAs are not yet part of the equation, and via means unavailable to them. To achieve this the hotel needs to be in front of the guest before that person is even in the travel-planning mindset. It’s better to stand out early than to be part of an arbitrary sorting algorithm on a third-party website.

On top of this, social media is so underutilized by hotels it’s hard to believe it’s actually 2016. This is a low-cost platform that can drive massive value for the guest both pre- and post-stay and yet more often than not I see hotels sending people there versus collecting traffic from those sites.

Experiences designed to sell

OTAs are good at selling. They’re really, really good. That’s because they don’t really care that much about which product someone buys, just that they buy any product while they’re on their site. That’s their advantage, money notwithstanding.

Conversely, for the average independent hotel, they have a single product to offer. Sure there are different rate plans, add-ons, packages, etc. In the end though the guest can only buy that single experience. That being the case, why is it that most hotel websites feel and function like digital billboards? It’s like, “hey, you’re in my shop but here’s an ad for my shop anyway.”

Bulleted amenity lists, professional photos of rooms, and canned descriptions of the product abound. It’s incumbent upon the hotel to nurture that visitor down the path to becoming a guest. Hotels can provide insight into the experience the guest can expect unlike any OTA possibly can.

Remember, the OTA is putting piles of hotels in front of the consumer. That person is there for options.

When a potential guest lands on a hotel’s website something has already grabbed her attention and she’s interested. Give her something worth her time, not a product spec sheet.

And on the subject of time, the importance of design cannot be overstated. Imagine if, instead of feeling like work, learning about a hotel was an experience in and of itself. An experience that’s just a taste of what the guest can expect during a stay.

That’s the sort of “control” that wins the day. Winning more share of attention and designing experiences that convert will ensure more business comes direct. But it has to be earned, not taken back.

Unlock our new e-course: Reignite your loyal base

Together, loyalty and advocacy spark huge return for repeat business. Enroll in our e-course to learn how to harness recognition and extend personal interactions with your guests.


Turn loyal followers from simply point-redeemers into a marketing powerhouse.

With a new lesson sent to your inbox each week for 5 weeks, we’ll cover the industry shift towards aspirational marketing and what it means for hoteliers, plus how to attract, inspire and keep loyal guests.

As you’ll soon see, loyalty done right fosters advocacy, and the two are a more powerful than the sum of their parts. Each read takes only 5–8 minutes, so, you’ll be able to apply these lessons and lift your loyalty program to new heights in no time.

Join us as we explore more in-depth lessons with every installment.

Get enrolled

Meet the instructor

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Richard Dunbar

Director of Partnerships

Hi there—Richard here at I’ve been in the hospitality space for over 15 years, including several at one of the largest providers of independent loyalty reward programs worldwide. After picking up my fair share on loyalty, I’ve been able to put it all together with revenue management, e-commerce, and now advocacy. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you as you come aboard.

Advocacy is knocking: 50 booking partners open new doors


Reaching 50 booking engine partners is a huge milestone for our team, but an even bigger deal for hotels.

Why’s it such a big deal? It’s because we’ve built deep relationships with our partners so we can ensure quick and simple onboarding for our customers.

Getting started with is as easy as a copy and paste into your booking engine and website–similar to how you’d set up a Google Analytics tracking code. That’s it. Once you’re set up, the whole platform is out-of-the-box and ready for your hotel to start letting your guests introduce your hotel to their friends and family across the globe.

Check out the full-list on our Partners page. If you don’t see your provider, just let us know! Thanks to our strong industry relationships, there’s a good chance we know your provider, and can get you up and running in no time.