9 Effective Hostel Marketing Tips To Get More Bookings
July 22, 2019 Manasi Shah
Owning and managing a hostel is a challenging, yet fun task at hand. It is a completely different game than owning a hotel. We’re sure that most of you might be applying many hostel marketing strategies. Though it’s not a bad idea to check what’s working and what’s not, and then add in a few innovative ways to that if need be.
You should understand that a hostel business varies considerably from hotels. While you can say that a hotel business is pretty much straightforward (providing accommodation with maybe a few services), a hostel on the other hand cannot survive by just offering accommodation.
Of course, the hostel target market is altogether different than a hotel, and hence different requirements and tactics for hostel marketing as well.
Here are the 9 best hostel marketing tips to make your hostel thrive
Your hostel is a product and a brand in itself. Running a hostel is like running a media agency where your online presence or your brand is equally important as your product, i.e your hostel.
These tips and techniques will not only increase your hostel’s visibility, but will also make you a preferable choice of travelers coming to your city.
Go through them, implement those, analyse the results and decide whether you want to scale the strategy or kill it.
1. Register on relevant OTAs
The first thing to do if you have a hostel is to get listed on relevant online travel agents (OTAs). And when I say relevant, I mean those sites from where you can acquire guests you want to welcome. For hostels especially, it is advisable to register on niche OTAs that cater to hostel bookings.
Most of the hostels don’t consider this as a factor of hostel marketing. But believe me, your presence on these booking sites will give you an amazing credibility.
Sites like HostelWorld, Dorms.com, Bedbooker, Hostelbookers.com, etc are the most popular ones in the hostel industry. These sites will give your hostel an outreach to millions of unique viewers, and eventually get you more bookings from travelers and backpackers alike.
Moreover, the more the OTA connections you have for your hostel, the better. You’ll have greater visibility to the maximum of your audience which will land you with more bookings.
2. Get a professional hostel website with SEO
The quicker you understand the importance of a website in yourhostel business, the better your hostel will perform.
You see, technically, your website is the first and the only marketing tool that you own.
So it can be used the way you want. All other platforms that you are present on; social media, OTAs or anything else, are constantly changing. Therefore, your website must be the flagship of all your online marketing efforts. Treat your website accordingly – always! It can be the most effective hostel marketing strategy if executed well.
Now when you design your hostel website, don’t stick to the old ways of content marketing. Perform good SEO and add appropriate keywords. This will ensure that all the effort you put into designing your website doesn’t go in vain.
SEO will make your website visible and rank on the search engines. Further, local SEO plays an important role in boosting your hostel bookings. We have a blogpost for tips on SEO for hotels, which works effectively for hostel websites as well. Here are some of the best ways to do hostel website SEO.
In the end, don’t miss getting listed as a Google My Business. This will make your hostel visible when people search for hostels in your region. Viewers will be able to find your website with proper contact information about your business.
If you’re a hostel chain, then list each of your location as a Google My Business, similar to what goStops has done.
3. Run Ads on Google and Facebook
If you have some budget, then running ads on Google and Facebook is said to be one of the most effective ways to promote your hostel. Your website can be the base of these ads, because you’d want searchers to land on your website after clicking on the ads.
However, we recommend to integrate your website with a booking engine, which will let your visitors book with you directly from the website.
Google Ads – Apart from the regular search and display ads, Google offers a great way to the accommodation providers to increase their direct bookings. That is: Google Hotel Ads. These ads will be a part of your Google Business Listing once you enroll with them, and help the searchers book with you directly. Though, keep in mind that you can enroll for Google Hotel Ads only with Google’s authorized integration partners.
Facebook Ads – Using Facebook Ads, you can easily promote your Facebook page, posts and even your hostel website to the relevant audience.
Apart from all this, you also have an option to run REMARKETING ADS, which is a beneficial technique to promote your hostel. These ads follow your website visitors after they leave your website without performing any action. This way, you will be in their mind frequently, and they’ll come and book with you through the attractive discounts or deals you offer in the ads.
4. Give importance to social media
Social media is the need of the hour. Any hostel marketing plan(or any business marketing for that matter) is incomplete without engaging on the social media. With the incredible advantages that it has, it is an indispensable part of hostel promotion.
Social media is now 95% of the internet!
For beginners; you can start by creating an account and a page on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. Gradually, identify and reach your target audience, build your brand there, tell your story, and develop a connection with your audience.
Social media is a great way to interact with guests and give them the personal touch that they look for. The best part here is that there are no third-party fees involved. Social media for this segment of the industry is somewhat similar to that of social media marketing for hotels.
People often take pictures while traveling. Use these as a marketing strategy.
For example, set up a nice picture taking spot (selfie spot?) in your hostel lobby with your name and the city you are located in. Then, run a contest offering a free night stay to the most creative photo with your hostel tagged! Done! You reach a lot of people this way.
Beyond all this, don’t forget videos. Visuals have received more engagement and interaction since always. Shoot videos of the happenings at your hostel, the events you organize and everything that may show the experience you’re providing.
Check out how Zostel, India’s largest backpacker hostel chain and eZee’s happy customers since the beginning is killing it on social media.
It is like a dream to generate traffic through social media. Know your audience, talk to them in your own way and focus on the channel that works for you!
5. Organize events to develop community and guest interaction
There has been an outburst in travellers going around solo and more importantly meeting like-minded people. This can be a great advantage in promoting your hostel.
Cross promotional tactics
They are a good way to attract local businesses and be of mutual benefit to each other’s business. Hostellers coming to you want to explore the city, eat authentic food, have community-oriented, local and cultural experiences, buy local stuff, etc. So keeping flyers or visiting cards of people who are willing to cross-promote your hostel to their customers is a good idea to market your hostel.
Showing a local presence and effective community interaction builds a good reputation. People will note this and will recommend your hostel to fellow mates. So, the local connections and the word of mouth publicity becomes an important tool for your marketing.
Using such tie ups, you can organize events like cycling expeditions, tree plantations, food tasting tours, slum tours, city tours to attract guests, and give them a flavor of the local city.
Hostels like Zostel and The Hosteller regularly host such events like cycling tours, treks, out-of-city tours to provide a unique experience to their guests. Check it out:
Give details of such events on your social pages. This is very important to let your brand make its name in the minds of travellers. Besides this, you can also keep some things in your premises to let your guests engage with each other.
For example, keep a canvas for them to paint and offer it as a take away at a nominal price. Keep small pots with plants for travellers to take back home. Or keep a guitar in the lobby for the music lovers, some pets for the pet lovers. Keep a game zone or a recreational room where guests can play a few games. Bookshelf is also a great idea for solo travellers.
6. Associate with industry influencers
For those of you who do not know the power of influencer marketing and blogging, let me tell you that blogging is a revolution in the hospitality industry. As we talk about hostel marketing strategies, blogging should be used in the best possible way.
So how does this work? Simple. Offer these bloggers (influencers) a free stay at your hostel. Trust me, the returns are immense.
They are travellers and writers with a good number of followers or are building up the same; who can promote your hostel after a stay. They’ll give you a review on various platforms like their own website or blog and social platforms so that your hostel reaches to maximum audience.
It is not about quantity, it is about quality. Keep that in mind! Invite bloggers and even accept their requests for free stays. Have a clear guideline to work with bloggers and influencers so that both parties are mutually benefited.
Zostel recently did a video with Shivya Nath (The Shooting Star), a famous travel blogger from India who has been on the road for almost a decade. They also shot an episode with Savi Sharma, an Indian novelist.
If you don’t have a budget to tie up with influencers, then set up your own blog on your hostel website. I’d say, do it even if you have a budget for the influencer marketing. It will help you big time in your website’s SEO and even engage the travelers with new information.
Zostel’s blogs are a delight to read, filled with advice and instructions on how to travel and best places to visit near their locations.
7. Offer extra services
These days, “Hostelling” is not just limited to offering a stay in a dormitory. It is much, much more than that. The leading hostels in India at least have kept extra services as a part of their package.
Apart from your regular services and offerings, consider offering a secondary service as a part of your hostel marketing. For example, offer a bike rental service, travel services, city tours or trekking trips.
This will increase your word of mouth publicity and keep your hostel flag up even in the offseason. Make customized packages for city tours, local food tours and such likes and sell them on your website.
A few hostels like goStops also let the travelers book experiences from their website.
8. Make the most of reviews
Reviews majorly pose as a decision maker for your guests. Besides affecting your online reputation, they even affect your bookings. The industry is gradually realizing the importance of online reviews. And the sooner you do so too, the better it will be for your business.
Collect as many reviews for your hostel as you can, and respond to them. Once your guests check out, ask them to give you feedbacks on Facebook, booking sites and even Google. In turn, you can offer them some discounts the next time they visit.
Besides, you can collect more reviews on TripAdvisor for free through the TripAdvisor Review Express Program. You can explore more about it here.
9. Expand into a hostel chain
If you’re an independent hostel, one of the most recommended hostel marketing strategies for you is to expand into a hostel chain.
Once you’re all set in a city with one hostel, plan out properly on how you can set up your brand in a different city. Treat yourself as a brand.
Start with finalizing a location for your next hostel. Decide on the basis of the type of experience you provide, guests you welcome and travelers a city gets. If you implement this one in the right way, it will work in the best way possible.
Don’t take this job lightly. Take baby steps. One at a time. Ensure that you maintain the consistency in experiences you provide at all the locations. Perform the same promotion tips for all your hostels. This way, you will gradually emerge as a brand in the industry and among the millennials.
Implemented well, we are sure these hostel marketing plans and tips will help you bring your hostel to great heights in terms of service and high conversion rates. If you want to see your hostel house full this season, you better get your head on straight to these strategies.
Along with your hostel promotion, we’d also like to give you the right hostel management tips. Our recommendation is to adopt an integrated hostel management system to manage every operation at your hostel.
eZee’s end-to-end hostel software is already adopted by India’s leading hostels as well as many of hostels worldwide. With the best marketing tips in your hand, the only thing that remains is streamlining your operations.
Let us know in the comment section below on what you think about these tips and how did they turn out for you!
An engineer by degree, but a writer by profession and heart, Manasi joined eZee as a content writer. Today, she leads the Content Marketing team and is also the Marketing Communications Manager at eZee. She looks after communications, PR and eZee's branding in the market.