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Today we're going to talk about 6 hospitality email marketing strategies to use to dramatically increase your bookings. It's an important part of vacation rental marketing, especially to capture past guests.

We learned that we can't rely solely on Airbnb.

So using other marketing techniques will help you get more direct bookings and be in control of your business – and its cancelation policies.

The industry is developing fast. More and more inventory hits the markets and hosts are becoming more professional. To do well in the current environment, hosts have to think outside the box and utilize every marketing channel that’s available. 

Hospitality email marketing is the technique you need to be using today.

hospitality email marketing

Very few entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry have an email marketing strategy. And you know what? They're leaving money on the table. Out of all the marketing channels that exist today, email is still considered the most effective way to sell. Does that surprise you? Go online and visit any number of websites. What’s the first thing you can do on most sites? Leave your email address. 

Times have changed, and so have vacation rental businesses. I create a vacation rental business plan you can use to set solid foundations to make it out of this crisis with a thriving business.

By collecting the emails from your guests, you can keep in touch with them, let them know what’s going on in your area, and send them promotional content, such as special deals and discounts. This leads to more return guests, and thus more bookings.

It can also help boost occupancy during Airbnb off season. If you have your own direct booking website, then this strategy is even more effective as guests won’t have to pay the Airbnb fees, thus making your offering more attractive. (Learn here how to easily create your own direct booking website). 

Why are Airbnb hosts slow to catch onto hospitality email marketing?

hospitality email marketing

It's one of the best marketing strategies for vacation rentals. But almost none of us do it. Why?

First of all, because Airbnb only provides a temporary email address to hosts. The guest’s real email address isn’t disclosed. So if you want your guest’s email, you have to ask them for it, and there are different ways to do that, as you will learn in this blog post. 

Secondly, even if hosts do collect the emails of guests, they often don’t know what to do with these emails and how to efficiently manage an email database. And I don’t blame them. You can’t expect hosts to be online marketing experts. 

The good news is that if you start using hospitality email marketing, you will develop an edge over your competitors. This means more money in your pocket. Plus, those email marketing skills might come in handy in any business venture you may find yourself in in the future. So, let’s dive in.

hospitality email marketing

How to capture your guest’s email addresses 

There are different ways to capture your guests’ email addresses. Before we dive in, let’s think about how to evaluate the different ways to collect emails. 

Ideally, our email collection process:

  1. Doesn’t hurt the guest experience 
  2. Has a high conversion rate (i.e. most guests will provide their email) 
  3. Doesn’t require a lot of work for us hosts 

Now that we’ve established what a “good” process is, let’s look at the different options. 

Guest email collection strategy 1: A good old fashioned guestbook 

If you’ve stayed in a few traditional B&Bs or family-run guesthouses, you may have come across one of these. A real guestbook, made of paper. A place where guests can leave a message for the hosts, and a place where you can ask for their email. 

How well does it live up to our standards? In terms of the guest experience, it’s pretty good. No guest will object to the presence of a well-placed guestbook. 

However, the conversion rate tends to be quite low though. Not all guests will write a message, and those who do still may not leave their email. Even if they do, you will lose some emails due to unclear handwriting.

This is probably only getting worse in the future. I’m not even sure of our current college graduates have ever touched a pen or pencil in their lives. 

It’s also a lot of work. Every time your guests leave, you have to check the guest book, find the email and enter it somewhere online (preferably an email autoresponder like Active Campaign

Related post: Touch Stay Review: Digital Guest Welcome Books for Airbnb

Ask your guests for their email in person or through a message 

Just ask them, simply as that. Nothing wrong with this method, and most guests will probably give it to you. The drawback is that it does require manual work on the part of the host. It’s one more item on the already long list of things we have to do as hosts. 

Another issue with both these methods is that you won’t capture all the email addresses. If you host a group of eight, what’s the chance all eight guests will leave their email? It's low. 

Use technology to automatically collect your guests’ email addresses 


Wait, what? There’s technology available to capture guests’ emails automatically? Sign me up!

In fact, there are a few tools available. They offer a non-intrusive way to capture the emails. 

Have you ever been to a hotel, cafe or restaurant where the WiFi is provided through a separate login screen? I’m sure you’ve seen this. There’s a reason why hotels and food & beverage establishments use this system: it provides them with email addresses that are automatically captured in an email autoresponder. I use Stay-Fi to capture guest emails.

Why is this so good? First of all, it doesn’t affect the guest experience much, as the guests only need to login once. You can tell them your network is more secure and faster this way. I’m sure your guests will understand these benefits! 

Secondly, the conversion rate is almost 100%. Every guest wants to use the WiFi. This means you will capture ALL email addresses, not just the one from your main guest. And, if your guests ignore your house rules and bring extra people, or throw a party, at least you’ll have some evidence and you get to spam those un-invited intruders. Justice! 

Finally, this process doesn’t require ANY work on your end. It’s all automatic, so it saves you time. 

The only drawback of course is…it ain’t for free. Technology costs money. Flamengo-WiFi costs $40 a month. That may sound like a lot of money at first, but you should think about it in terms of how many email addresses you capture. 

If you host 40 people a month, that’s just $1 per email. That’s insanely cheap, given the fact that these are extremely highly targeted emails. Most marketing companies spend up to $10 per email lead, and these aren’t customers yet, they are just leads. 

If you receive just a few extra bookings a year, you’ll make that $40 a month back easily. It may not be for every host.

Since the cost is fixed, the higher your revenue and the more guests you host a month, the more it makes sense to purchase and use it. AND, it only makes sense if you’re actually going to develop an effective email marketing campaign of course, which is what we’ll cover next. 

How to set up an effective hospitality email marketing campaign

Ok so you’ve got your emails, now it’s time to figure out your email marketing strategy, which consists of three parts. 

hospitality email marketing

  1. The content (i.e. what you’re going to send your guests) 
  2. The timing and frequency (i.e. when and how often do you email your past guests)
  3. Which email automation tool to use to automate the process

Related Post: How to Easily Create Your Own Vacation Rental Website

The content

The goal of the email marketing strategy is to entice your past guests to come back. You can do that by:

a) Staying on their radar and

b) Giving them incentives to come back. 

These incentives could be in the form of special offers, such as discounts or a free airport pickup. Another option is to let your past guests know what’s going on in your area. This is where you can get creative. 

Think about the reasons that your guest came the first time.

For instance, maybe they needed a place to remote work cause there are too many kids at home. Let them know you got a new ergonomic chair or noise-cancelling headphones! If they were escaping the city – tell them about how beautiful it is there at the turn of the season.

 The idea is to not be too salesy and provide some value to your past guests with information that they will probably be interested in. 

The timing and frequency

You obviously don’t want to spam your past guests with weekly emails. If you do that, your guests will most likely unsubscribe.

Unsubscribe? Yes, if you send automated emails you have to give the receiver the option to unsubscribe. More on this in the section on email automation software. 

On the other hand, you also want to email them often enough so that they won’t forget about you. There’s no obvious sweet spot, but I suggest to email them once a month at most, but at least once every three months. 

Related post: The Real Way You Need to Promote Your Airbnb Listing

Automation software for hospitality email marketing

You could send out manual emails of course, but that takes way too much time. Instead, what you want to do is use email automation software, also known as email autoresponders.

The way this works is simple. You add all your contacts to a database within the software. Then, when you want to send out an email, you compose it and sent it out to everyone automatically. 

This saves a ton of time, but there are other benefits.

You can see exactly who has opened your email for example. That allows you to test different types of content to see what your past guests appreciate most. You can even see who has clicked on any links that you include in the email. Trust me, these tools are the bomb. 

The question is, which one should you use? I personally am a big fan of Active Campaign for hospitality email marketing. It’s intuitive and gives you a lot of freedom to deliver different messages to different audiences (fantastic if you have several listings that are totally unrelated to one another).

It allows you to tag different people and segment them, so if you know some people went skiing but others went mountain biking (they came in different seasons, for instance), you can target them with the right kind of content.

Times have changed, and so have vacation rental businesses. I create a vacation rental business plan you can use to set solid foundations to make it out of this crisis with a thriving business.