13 TIPS: HOW TO GET A COMPLIMENTARY HOTEL STAY AS A BLOGGER OR INFLUENCER
If you’re a travel blogger or influencer then you know hotel collaborations are one of the most important parts of your business. We get tons of questions from our community asking how to get a complimentary hotel stay when jetsetting around the world…because no matter where you’re headed, you’re going to have to find accommodations one way or another!
Here at Sidewalker Daily, we work with hotels on influencer marketing initiatives and love being able to give bloggers and influencers insight into the client’s perspective. It’s always helpful when pitching to hotels to understand how everything works, what they are looking for and ways you can really make the partnership a success.
As a travel influencer, securing the perfect complimentary hotel stay in your next destination is always a plus. On the other hand, hotels are looking to reach a certain audience and customer base to promote their property, so you may have just the following and community they’re looking to reach.
When done right, hotel partnerships can really be a win-win for everyone involved!
How To Pitch A Complimentary Hotel Stay As A Blogger Or Influencer.
Whether you’re an experienced travel influencer or just starting out, we’re going over our top 13 tips when pitching and partnering with hotels!
Tip 1: Know and Understand The Hotel’s Key Messages
Just like a brand’s core values, or an influencer’s niche, most hotels have a set of “key messages” that they focus on when promoting their property or resort to the public. A key message is basically the main points the hotel wants their target audience to hear and remember. Some examples of popular key messages are culinary, couples, weddings, meetings and incentives (also known as MICE), wellness and families.
So if you’re trying to figure out how to get a complimentary hotel stay, knowing the type of “key messages” that the hotel focuses on will give you a deeper understanding of the type of traveler and audience they are looking to target. And then that in turn will help tailor your pitch to make it easy for them to see why partnering with you is a great idea in terms of meeting their objectives and goals!
Tip 2: Know What You Have To Offer
The first step in figuring out how to stay at hotels for free using your travel blog or influence is knowing what YOU can offer THEM.
Starting off your pitch with just asking for tons of free things and not even putting the time to think about what you can do for the hotel is a recipe for disaster. It’s important to know why you would be a good fit for the hotel to work with, and be able to communicate that in your pitch.
Essentially it’s important to know what you can offer the hotel in return for a paid or even a free stay (yes, it costs them money to host you). For example, is one of your niches culinary, and the hotel has an amazing restaurant you’d love to experience and share with your followers?
And even if you’re just getting a free hotel stay, there are ways to turn that stay into a paid partnership. Most hotels are always on the search for new images for their social media, a great video about their new spa or even a blog post promoting their destination.
Even if the collaboration didn’t start out as a paid one, if you’re prepared then you can definitely seize the opportunity to turn it into one!
Tip 3: Tailor Your Media Kit and Case Study
Another important step in figuring out how to approach hotels for a complimentary stay as a blogger or influencer is tailoring your media kit and case study to the type of partner or destination you are pitching too.
For example, try to incorporate information on some of your past hotel partnerships and collaborations in your media kit. The same goes for your case study – provide a case study that is relevant to the hotel, if possible.
When it comes to pitching, you always want to make it as easy as possible for the decision maker to make the connection that you would be a good fit for their brand and also make them excited to work with you. Tailoring your pitching materials to speak directly to the hotel you are eager to work with is a great start!
Tip 4: Understand Their Point of View
If you’re trying to figure out how to get a free hotel stay just because you’re an “influencer,” we hate to break it to you but…just because you have a following on social media or self-identify as an influencer does not mean that you are going to get free hotel stays around the world no matter what.
Hotels are in the business of making money so although it may be just a “room and some meals” to you – it costs them money and whatever they provide to you has to come out of an available budget. It’s important to understand that hotels get a ton of requests from influencers and bloggers for free stays and it’s impossible to accommodate them all.
So be courteous when making your request and if they can’t give you everything you want, try to be flexible. Working with a hotel doesn’t have to mean all or nothing – if they can’t accommodate your complete request you can always ask for a media rate and comped meals…something is better than nothing, right?
And if you see that the partnership isn’t going to work, don’t take it personal – it could have nothing to do with you so politely wrap up the conversation and move on to the next hotel!
Also, word to the wise is don’t make your pitch just about getting free hotel rooms. You need to figure out what the stay and accommodations they will be providing you are worth and then determine if the social promotion you are providing them in return is equivalent or exceeds the value. That’s a good place to start to ensure the partnership is fair for the both of you.
And how do you figure out what kind of value you can offer the hotel? Start by really understanding your influence, social reach and engagement because at the end of the day your ability to get your followers and fans to take action is what you have of value to the hotel partner.
Tip 5: Pitch To The Decision Maker
When pitching partnerships and collaborations, one of the most important ways to ensure you have a chance at collaborating with a hotel is to find the right person to send your pitch to. Why? Because there is no guarantee that someone who receives your email is going to send it off to the decision maker… so you want to strike when the iron is hot.
That means, yes, sending your pitch to a generic “info” or “hello” email address is risky. So take some time to do your homework and find the right person to contact from the start.
Many hotels are represented by a PR agency so do some homework on the agency who handles all media requests for the hotel, and go from there. Also, the hotel website may have a press or media section where you can find the appropriate contact or some hotels, like the Starwood in Hawaii, may even have a link on their website for influencers to fill out a survey directly online.
Bottom line – do your best to find the right email inbox that you want your pitch to land in…getting in front of the right person is half the battle in the partnership process.
Tip 6: Understand The Ins And Outs Of The Hotel
One of the best tips we can give you on how to approach hotels for a complimentary stay as a blogger is to do your research on what is actually happening on property! Hotels are constantly having special events or improving their property and amenities for new and returning guests. You should always investigate the hotel before pitching to see if there are any upcoming events or changes at the hotel that would be a good fit to share with your followers or fans.
For example, if you are a travel and food blogger and the hotel is opening a new restaurant around the time you are requesting to stay, you could angle your pitch as a way to have that culinary experience and then promote it for them on your social media or blog.
Or if you focus on the wellness niche in travel and the hotel is opening up a new spa, you can position yourself as the perfect influencer to experience it firsthand and share with your followers who are are always seeking destinations with a wellness component.
Also, let’s say there was a natural disaster recently, talk about how you are working on an article that shows X city is back in action and why Y hotel is the place to be. You need to pitch creatively and don’t just ask for free rooms, but make it part of a larger editorial angle.
Hotels are always looking to promote their property to travelers, so connecting the dots for the hotel and your brand/influence is a great way to stand out from the other bloggers vying for the same partnership.
Tip 7: Make Sure You’re Following The Hotel On Social Media
When you’re figuring out how to approach hotels for a complimentary stay as a blogger, it’s important to understand that your pitch and media kit isn’t all they look at when considering your partnership request.
A big mistake bloggers and influencers often make when pitching to brands is telling them how much they love and are obsessed with their brand, but are not actually following them on social media.
Most brand reps and PR agencies do their homework and vet your website, social media and Instagram account before even engaging in a partnership conversation with you. And as part of their investigation, representatives often check to see if you’re following the hotel property on social media. So we definitely suggest you do so before pitching…you wouldn’t want them to pass on your partnership request for something as trivial as a follow on Instagram.
Of course we understand that you can totally love a brand and not follow them on social media but in this case – actions speak louder than words, so just don’t forget. It’s also a good idea to engage with the brand before you make your pitch in case they ask the social representative if they noticed any activity from you beforehand.
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Tip 8: Make Sure To Over Deliver
When you do a hotel collaboration, partnership or any campaign for that matter, the key to making the brand excited about the partnership and to feel like it was a win is when you OVER DELIVER.
You know how good it feels when you buy something and get something extra, a bonus or more than you bargained for? It’s the same thing for brands and companies when working with influencers.
So if you promised the hotel 2 permanent posts on Instagram and 6 Insta Stories then why not do 3 permanent posts and 10 stories if you have enough content? You’ll not only be able to ensure you proved your worth to the hotel, but also you’ll show that they made the right choice in working with you over someone else.
Tip 9: Always Show The Hotel In The Best Light Possible
At the end of the day whether the hotel is paying you to create content and leverage your influence, or if they just comped your stay and meals for a few days, remember they are a client and it’s your job to show them in the best light possible. Hotels are run by humans and mistakes happen. Maybe the person at the front desk was having a bad day, or the room wasn’t as big or luxurious as you had expected…it happens!
So if you had a bad experience and have something negative to say about the hotel – there’s always the right way to say it. We are by no means suggesting you be inauthentic with your followers, but if you do have something negative to say try to do it in the most least harmful way possible. It’s not only the right thing to do but also important if you want to make it in this industry.
For example, let’s just say the wifi was spotty during your stay at the hotel. Let’s go over two different ways you could communicate that to your followers on Stories:
Version (A) “Hey everyone, I’m so annoyed…I stayed at X hotel the past few days and the wifi was HORRIBLE, could barely get a signal and I can’t believe they would ever think it’s acceptable to have such bad wifi…so that’s why I haven’t been in touch UGH.”
Version (B) “Hey everyone, just got back from X hotel and I’m so sorry I haven’t been in touch as much as usual. The hotel had a random issue with their wifi so couldn’t give you a play by play of my stay but wanted to share with you how amazing the property was now!”
So basically in both versions you are addressing the wifi issue…just if the hotel would have to choose, we know they would choose version B. 🙂
And sometimes it’s better to just say nothing at all, especially when something is out of their control. For example, one time we were on a trip and the hotel room we were given smelled like mold. We could have very well gotten on Stories saying, “Ewww we just showed up here and the room we got is disgusting,” but that’s just not cool. Instead we told management and asked to be moved to another room. They were apologetic and got us moved to a new room as soon as possible. All of @sidewalkerdaily’s followers didn’t need to know that…you feel us? And the rest of the stay was amazing and over compensated for that small blunder!
Tip 10: Provide a Social Media Report
So you’ve done all your deliverables – produced the video you were hired for, posted all your images from the hotel, shared all your stories, and/or wrote the blog post you promised. The next step is to create a social media report and provide it to the hotel or PR agency you were working with on the partnership.
A social media report is basically a recap of all of your deliverables, engagement and reach to show them a comprehensive overview of the value you brought to the partnership…essentially, what was the bang for their buck?
How to Land Sponsored Travel as a Blogger – Post Collaboration Tips!
Tip 11: Don’t forget To Say Thank You
Be appreciative! Paid partnership or free stay, you got something of value that was obviously worth it to you or you wouldn’t have gone to the hotel or accepted the partnership. So remember to be grateful and say thank you to the hotel representative or PR rep who helped coordinate your stay. At a minimum send a thank you email, but a handwritten note or small gift is even better!
Tip 12: Keep Them In The Loop
If any new developments occur after the partnership is completed and your final social media report is submitted, don’t forget to share it with the hotel! Did you receive some awesome comments on your blog post a few months afterwards, or a nice DM from a follower thanking you for recommending the hotel because they ended up staying there on their honeymoon?
The thing about being a travel influencer is it’s hard to measure sales or conversions because travel has such a long lead time. Someone may not be heading to the destination you’re promoting for a few months to a few years, so you won’t know how effective the partnership was until sometimes way into the future.
So don’t be afraid to send a quick email (even if a few months later) passing along the positive feedback from your followers or community. It’s a great way to make the hotel feel like the partnership was a win and it’s also a great way to keep in touch with the PR rep or hotel staff – you never know what other partnerships or campaigns they will recommend you for in the future.
Building great relationships in this industry is how to get a complimentary hotel stay and even paid partnerships for your future trips!
Tip 13: Pitch To Their Sister Properties
Some of the best advice we can give you about how to get free trips as a travel blogger is to THINK AHEAD.
Maybe you didn’t get paid for this particular hotel collaboration but there’s no reason you can’t leverage it into a paid partnership in the future!
If you had an amazing stay and were able to produce valuable content, get awesome feedback and tons of social engagement, then you now have the perfect case study to create for this partnership.
If the hotel has sister properties, or is part of a larger hospitality company with other hotels around the globe, you can always pitch to them for any future trips. What’s great is that you now have a case study that is directly on brand and gives you the credibility you need…if one of their sister properties already worked with you, then you’re vetted and already have one foot i