How to get a complimentary hotel stay as a travel blogger – 2017 Edition
So it’s 2017 and the number of travel bloggers have radically increased since I wrote the first version of how to get a complimentary stay as a travel blogger. Hotels have acquired knowledge on how to assess the relationship of a blogger and their audience through an effective and easy metric system. They are slowly educating themselves to be able to see the return on investment if they are to give a complimentary stay to travel bloggers.
It used to be so easy. I’ve been working with hotels for years but I still find it very difficult to close a deal. Even if I have decent following on social media and a good Google ranking, I still have to put my best foot forward. I had to change my pitching techniques, analyse my methods and choose the best system that works.
Social media following and blog stats still matter but bear in mind that the content you will produce aka the amazing work that you do have high points as well.
I used to create content for hotels just to get it over with but when I entered the world of full-time travel blogging, I vowed to myself to always do my best when working with brands, most especially hotels. Hotels are never out of the travel picture – they are always there even if travel gets out of trend or reach its point of extinction.
Through endless analysation and experimentation, I would like to share to you what works when it comes to getting a complimentary hotel stay as a travel blogger – a method that I have applied about 4 months ago.
As the digital world evolves, attention span decreases. The subject I was using before was too long (so much that it exceeds the Gmail line, you won’t even read the whole subject at first glance). Email subjects should be short and straight to the point. Hotel people are usually busy with so many things so if they don’t deem your message important, tendency is it will go straight to trash.
You might ask why I use “Travel Journalist” instead of “Travel Blogger.” The truth is, no matter how aware the world is about travel bloggers, they still don’t understand the value of working with us. Many people still don’t understand that this is a full-time job and deserves compensation. If I put travel journalist (which is technically another term for travel blogger), it looks more professional to them and they will most likely be interested in reading the email.
I know “hey there!” is so fecking informal but the salutation where you have to change the hotel name every time you are mass sending always gets me in trouble. The copy/paste thing is a real killer so if you want to make things simple, “hey there” is the key.
“Hey there!” sucks but it’s personal. It’s short and saves you time. In some instances, remember that hotels post the email address of the Marketing person (i.e. email@example.com) so if this is available, always bear in mind that addressing people with their first names is more personal. It gives them a sense of respect and it makes them feel that the email is really for them so they should read and answer it.
Body (Paragraph 1 - Intro)
I used to have a detailed (100 word) paragraph about what my blog is all about but I realised that nobody is actually interested in that. Hotels are more particular with numbers, with achievements so instead of putting effort in introducing my brand, I now go straight to the trophies:
“I am Trisha Velarmino, a travel journalist and I run the popular adventure travel blog P.S. I’m On My Way (don’t forget to link the anchor text of your blog name) and I’m writing to you today about featuring your company in a digital travel magazine with an extra online (social media) exposure. I am also a top reviewer on TripAdvisor and have written for platforms like Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, BBC, etc.”
This is short but it gives them a better understanding of who and what you are. I also realised that if you copy/paste the “about” page of your blog as an intro, they won’t click your blog link anymore. They won’t be curious and won’t find it interesting to know more about you.
Give them a reason to click.
Body (Paragraph 2 - Details)
Put the exact date of your stay because it will give them an idea if they can host you.
“I will be going to Chefchaouen on 15 May and I would like to talk to your Marketing Manager about this opportunity of collaboration. I can make drone images and 30-sec spiels of your hotel and also make high-resolution photos for you. Additionally, articles can also be written in my luxury travel section with a link to your website (which is very good for Google searches).”
Don’t talk about social media yet. Throw them the Google card. The value of Google ranking is important to hotels because it gives them sales – people don’t book hotels through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter! I mean, if you are looking for hotels yourself, where do you go? Google, right?
Put some keywords that are very familiar (i.e. “drone footages” rings a bell to everyone) but make sure to use your blog’s specialty in doing so. Are you good with photos? Can you provide valuable content that they can use in their marketing? This is a much stronger point if you feel like you have a low following on social media. Feel free to send your work samples, too – but don’t shove it on their faces. Better to give subliminal links like attaching a sample of your work in the email.
Body (Paragraph 3 - Closing)
I always close my small pitch with two sentences:
“Please let me know who’s in charge of your marketing. I attached my media kit for your perusal.”
Remember you got the hotel’s email address from their website and more often, they are email addresses of the concierge or reservations so always assume that your first message will not to straight to the person who is in-charge to answer it.
Now about your social media stats, if you want to add some spice and plus points to your pitch, attach your media kit instead of putting it in the body of the email. As a travel blogger who’s pitching to brands, advertisers and companies, a media kit is a basic need. If you don’t have one yet, you better do it now!
The email sample above is short because that is just the first wave. It’s a bait. You want them to reply first as oppose to throwing them with overloaded information all at once. The reason why you are sending a short email first is because you are prepared for the second wave – the real pitch.
Usually, hotels will reply asking questions because they had no idea what you just sent – it wasn’t clear what you really wanted but leave it like that. First emails should tickle the mind of who you are pitching to. As long as you mentioned “complimentary stay in exchange for extra online exposure,” they get the picture.
And they will want to see what they are getting if they ever agreed to collaborate with you.
The Second Wave (What can you do for them?)
Now this is the more serious wave because they are finally interested in working with you. Congratulations! They took the bait! In this part, you have to give them what you can offer in the most understandable way.
Don’t just give them everything! You have to carefully choose it by looking at their property and the nightly prices of the stay. This is the time to cross reference it to your media rates (if you have any. Actually, you should have one).
For example, let’s say you charge $300 USD to write an article, $150 for an Instagram post, $40 for a Twitter shout-out, and so on… Calculate the nightly rates of the hotel you want to work with. If Hotel A charges $900 per night, take all the prices from your media rate card. Add everything and voila! You now have an offer.
In my case, as I don’t do hotel reviews, I give more social media exposure. Here’s what I pitch them:
3D/2N Stay, full board meals, (2pax)
- 1 Youtube spiel (30-sec to 1:30 min). Final file will be given to you for your company’s use, with copyright. (Valued at $200 USD)
- 1 Pinterest promotion, high res image (valued at $180 USD)
- 1 Instagram photo with tags and mentions (valued at $300 USD)
- Instagram Stories for the duration of the stay (3 days valued at $300 USD, unlimited stories)
- 1 Personal Facebook promotion with tags and mentions. (Price unavailable)
- Addition to the website’s country maps. Your exact location will be showcased in a map that is viewed by many. (valued at $50 USD per year)
- 1 Flipboard Promotion. This is a permanent link. No removal. (Valued at $120 USD)
- 1 Newsletter Ad (over 3,000+ active subscribers open our newsletter), one-time ad only. (Valued at $100 USD)
- Ad on the luxury hotels page of the website (under construction). Do-follow link and a photo of your property taken by us. (valued at $120 USD per year)
- 5-7 high-res images FOC that you can use for your personal marketing endeavours. Drone shots are also included with editing. I will give you the rights to use it as per our company policy.
Again, your offer should depend on the nightly rates of the hotel. Some hotels will offer you just one night and I usually say no to this. 2 days is not enough to do the work for them (i.e. videos, photos, etc) and more often, hotels that offer this is a complete joke and are not maximising their advertising budget. They have it, but they don’t want to give it because they are not really sure with what they are doing. It’s not worth your time and effort to work with people who don’t give you 100%.
Getting a complimentary hotel stay as a travel blogger may seem shining, shimmering, splendid but remember that this is work. Although you are not paying them monetarily, you are giving them your time and effort that deserves to be compensated. This is the work and it’s not easy.
Always remember that if you pitch and you sound like you are not believing in what you can do, you will never get the complimentary hotel stay. Having faith in the value of work that you can deliver mostly does the trick. If you know what you are doing, then you will definitely find your way in pitching hotels in this big terrain of travel blogging.
Have you pitched to a hotel before? How did you do it? Was it a successful collaboration?
Share your tips in the comment box below and help other travel bloggers make it!
Trisha is on Instagram!