Hotel Marketing Strategies: Surprise Your Guests with Creativity

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Meeting guest expectations.

Making guest feel at home.

Fulfilling guest desires.

If you have been working Hotel Industry long enough (which means more than 48 hours), you likely know that it’s ultimately all about the above statements.

In theory, the more you accomplish to meet the above requirements, the more successful your hotel is going to be.

And so if I asked you: “what’s the problem with meeting guest expectations, making them feel at home and fulfilling their needs and wishes?“, you’d probably feel confused.

In fact, nothing is wrong, except this:

And again:



Everything’s perfect, but boring.

So here’s the problem: whilst failing at meeting guest expectations will immediately trigger the worst possible reviews all over the places, succeeding at at it doesn’t translate in the same proportional amount of positive feedbacks.

If you think about it, it all makes sense and it happens to all of us in every circumstances: we don’t value the obvious, but we stumble upon the unexpected.

Put another way, surprising our guests with something unexpected is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s the #1 focus of any hotel marketing strategies.

The positive news is that going extra mile can be easy and can be free: all it requires is some creativity and some good and authentic attitude from the hotel staff delivering the surprise.

In this article we’re going to explore some very interesting examples of hotels who succeeded in their attempt to positively surprise their guests and, more importantly, how this translated in terms of marketing for the hotel.

Let’s dig in.

The Pillow Fort.

First, what do I exactly mean by “positively impact the marketing for the hotel?

In simple words, this:


I first shared the above example 3 years ago at an event where I gave my speech about Google Analytics for Hotels, in the context of the bigger topic The role of Google in the Hospitality Industry.

At the end of the speech (1 hour long), I concluded with the above screenshot and my words were something like: “You know what? Forget everything that I’ve just said, forget about Analytics, about Google, about everything… that’s BS. The only thing that really matters is this: your guests.

Little did I know then that few hotels across the globe had managed to really surprise their guests in the most creative ways. Ways that made me smile, but also think: in fact, the above example was triggered by an initial odd request by the guest.

Were there ways to proactively become memorable in the eyes and minds of the customers without having to wait for them to ask something special?

Of course there are. Here I’ve collected some examples that, I hope, will help you become memorable, too. Every. Single. Day.

Have Fun. Period.

Every single item in your hotel can be turned into something fun.


Playing with fun is though some sort of taboo, especially for those hotels who are (or think they are) in the luxury segment.

By personal experience, in the eyes of many Hotel Managers, it’s as if fun is considered the antagonist of luxury.

This is of course personal and needless to say and I am so convinced fun and luxury can beautifully co-exist.

Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right kind of fun that matches the specific luxury brand.

There are in fact so many different styles of fun that I’m sure you’re going to get yours, whatever the luxury style and branding of your hotel.


Fun, but also Useful.

Surprises are welcomed in any sort of shape and form. But whilst some are just fun and trigger a smile on the faces of those guests who receive them, others are incredibly useful other than simple and fun.


This card is a piece of art: in a country where tourist operators like taxi drivers may have (generally speaking) some difficulties at communicating in English, let alone in any other language that is not of their own country, a simple tool like represents one of the biggest practical help.

Thinking about it, what if you create your own version of such card, in different languages, and you give it to your hotel guests upon check in, in their own language?

Simple, easy to produce, cost-effective. What else? So much else, check this out:


Probably my favourite, among all.

And if you work Revenue Management, do the math: how much does it cost you to clean a room? And how much for a drink?

I no way and in no country a drink will ever cost more of a cleaning service.

Plus, you’re letting your guest choose what they prefer, making them feel in control.

Free to produce, fun & useful.

Useful, with investment.

The above examples cost little to no money.

However you start seeing the benefits of this little surprises, to the point that you might be willing to allocate some budget to creating something really unique, and uniquely yours.


What I really like behind this idea is that it comes from the overall picture: it doesn’t come from a thinking of how to make guest enjoy their stay in our hotel; it comes from the thinking of how to make the entire travel experience of my hotel guests enjoyable.

If you are in travel destination, you perfectly know that two of the most frequent problems that tourists face are:

  • roaming charges:
  • the short-lasting batteries of their mobile phones, which often times leave them with not enough power to take more pictures, more videos, etc.

An idea like the one above though may require a big budget allocation.

So, why not considering your own branded powerbank?

source: soleshot.

Relief the pain of running out of battery when out enjoy the beauty of your city, of your town.

I ran into danish-based Soleshot a few years ago and immediately loved the concept: easy, useful and cost-effective.

Furthermore, you can turn this benefit into a direct-booking benefit only, so that you place your own direct channel with a practical competitive advantage over the OTAs.

In this case, the way you sell the idea will make the difference. In fact, just like in any other marketing initiative, your copywriting will dictate your results.

So imagine something liken this:

Did you know that X% of our guests have declared that they are scared of running out of phone battery in just a few hours?Ā 

Our [city] has so much to offer that it’s a shame not being able to take all the photos, selfies and videos to share with your friends and family.

We at [hotel name] want you to enjoy your stay with us, but more importantly we want to contribute to make your experience in [city] an absolute memory, by making sure you’ll not miss a single beauty it has to offer.

For this reason, if you book direct on our website, you won’t have to worry about photos, videos and GPS directions: Upon your arrival, you’ll find our rechargeable phone battery, compatible with all devices. Take it with you during the day, recharge it during the night. Oh, btw, it’s completely FREE. And it’s yours, forever: a little gift from us that will follow you back home.

How does that sound?

Easy peasy…

I mentioned above the one idea I like the most, among all.

Now it’s time for the one I like the least: towel characters.


I normally travel quite frequently and especially in certain countries this towel-fad has become quite popular.

And quite inflated, to be honest, especially because most times you’ll get to see towel swans.

At least some came up with some new ideas and subjects.


Bathroom Amenities

We’ve talked about room amenities that can be fun, useful, and also branding weapons.

What about room amenities? They can do, and be, the same: fun, useful and branding weapons.





Branding weapon:


A rubber duck a branding weapon? Well, it can be all-in-one: place your brand name on it (or under it) with a message that says Steal Me, Please. Or Bring me home with you šŸ™‚


In the room, in the bathroom. Where else?

Everywhere, in and around your hotel.

So what about the stairs to the room floors.



I hear the voice: these are just jokes, this is not serious.

I seriously got this comment when talking about being fun, being creative and ultimately being less… formal.

Let’s be honest: isn’t it all about contributing to create some chilled, relaxed and distressed moments for our beloved guests?

But ok, if fun makes you turn up your nose, what about (wannabe) useful?



Hotel Rules: from Boring to Memorable

Raise your hand if you offer late check out on weekends.

Ok good, probably all of you reading this post.

Remember when a moment ago I said copywriting is everything, highlighting the fact that the how is more important than the what?

Late check-out is such a commodity that more often than not it doesn’t even get perceived as a benefit.

It does, though, when your personal touch kicks in.



Memorable Restaurant Menus

What is the one and only thing kids from all over the world want, no matter the culture, the country, the language?

Everything is a game. And if it’s not, they will turn into one.

Make the kids have fun, and not only you’ll make them happy, you’ll also make their parents love you.



Pet friendly

If children are sacred, quite often dogs are too in the eyes of their owners (I know it because I am one of them šŸ˜).

You accept my dog in your hotel? You’re good.

You give me this? You’re my hero!


I don’t know the currency of this memorable menu, but would I pay, say, 24 US dollars to feed my dog?

My left brain hemisphere would probably say: “what the hell are you talking about, idiot?!?

But my right hemisphere would likely say: “shut up and just… do it!

Too extreme of an example?

Then maybe something more… soft would suit your creativity:


A Good Touch

More and more people have rightly become more and more sensitive to environmental topics. And so is the hotel industry.

The number of green hotels is rapidly climbing across the world, probably not as quickly as the environment really need.

It’s not up to me to say and judge. However I believe each of us can become a little bit more green, other than memorable, with some small things.

Things like this:



It’s no secret the number of benefits that plants can bring in a house, or even in an office space.

So why not in a hotel room?

I think this initiative is really great and it’s part of a way bigger message that aims at spreading some love among people, by tapping more and more often into the nature.

Hiding Heroes

I hope by now you got inspired and will start elevating your way of thinking hotel marketing to be less commodity, and more unique.

I started this post with a memorable response of the staff of a hotel to a weird and fun request of a guest.

Let’s conclude with another odd and sensitive request. And let’s stand up and give a huge round of applause to this man:


There are heroes hiding behind our front- or back-office desks. Let’s cheers and reward these brothers, the way they deserve.

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Let’s talk about it and see IF and HOW we can help.

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Let’s talk about it and see IF and HOW we can help.

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Let’s talk about it and see IF and HOW we can help.


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