As a travel blogger, every trip is essentially a “work trip,” regardless of if you’re getting paid, doing hotel collaborations, or fully funding your own travels.
Your career depends on documentation, whether it’s nailing Instagram shots, writing stellar blogs, recording drone footage, or a combination thereof.
So what if you could leverage your content creation skills and influence to promote hotels while also reducing travel costs?
Hotel collaborations are mutually beneficial partnerships between you as a travel blogger/influencer and your dream properties.
Properties gain free exposure and new potential bookings and you receive complimentary (or discounted) stays. It’s a win-win.
That means you can enjoy more opportunities to travel – and in turn, more opportunities to create.
Let’s explore what’s involved in a collaboration and how you can create a pitch that will garner results.
Before we delve into pitching techniques and how to collaborate with hotels, understand that partnerships require a lot of work.
They are not all champagne drinking and rose petal baths.
Those perfectly curated photos you see on Instagram are the result of hours spent perfecting poses, chasing light, and editing.
This takes time away from exploration, fun excursions, and tasting new foods (things most people enjoy while traveling).
That’s not to say you won’t also do those things, but consider them secondary to your responsibilities as a blogger.
Bloggers who treat hotel collaborations like free rides create a bad name for future bloggers. You don’t want to be that person.
At the end of the day, you’re there to introduce the property to your audience (potential new clientele).
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk research.
With so many hotels on the market, how do you know where to start?
Personally, when I begin researching, I like to start by finding hotels that work with bloggers. If a hotel has partnered with bloggers/influencers, there’s a greater chance they see the value in this type of partnership.
Unless, of course, they were badly burned in the past (see above).
This can often save you the trouble of having to convince them that hotel collaborations are worth their time.
That’s not to say you should be lackadaisical when pitching, but it helps eliminate an additional hoop to jump through.
You may be wondering how you can possibly determine which hotels have worked with bloggers.
While asking fellow bloggers is always a possibility, you may not have that many connections when you’re just starting out.
Instead, you can turn to trusty old Google (or whatever search engine you prefer).
Open up a new search window and type in: [Destination] all opinions are my own
This will retrieve articles – typically from bloggers – who have previously collaborated with hotels/tourism companies.
Most bloggers will typically include the disclosure “all opinions are my own” in their posts. The purpose of this is to inform their readership that the post was written in partnership with a brand.
As mentioned, sometimes these disclosures will be for companies other than hotels, but you will often find hotels mixed in.
Once I’ve compiled a list of these hotel reviews, I will typically delve a bit further into each blog. I’ll usually check out the bloggers’ numbers on social media to get a sense of how influential they are.
However, even if a blogger has more followers on Instagram, for example, it doesn’t mean you can’t pitch that hotel.
Be sure to take into account how long ago the blog post was written. If it’s a year or more old, there’s a good chance they were significantly smaller than they are now. (Just think about how much you’ve grown in a year as a point of reference!)
Also, just because their social media numbers are more impressive, that doesn’t mean their blog stats are or vice versa.
Everyone has something a little different to bring to the table. (We’ll delve more into your unique selling proposition later on.)
In addition to doing a little research on the blogger, you’ll obviously need to consider the hotel itself. Just because a blogger has worked with them doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be the right fit for your brand.
- Does it align with your brand? (If you’re a budget backpacker, you don’t want to pitch to 5-star resorts and vice versa)
- Would your audience/readership like to stay there?
- Will it fit with the aesthetic of your Instagram feed?
Although I like to start by researching hotels that have worked with bloggers previously, that’s only my preliminary research.
After that, I’ll do a deeper dive by looking at hotels in my desired destination that seem like a good fit. For me, that means 4- and 5-star boutique properties, but it may be something completely different for you.
Typically, I will do a general Google search for this, but sometimes I’ll also use sites like Trip Advisor.
One of the questions I get most often about pitching is who to pitch to.
The first thing I suggest is looking for the hotel’s “Contact” page on their website. Most hotels will have this, but if not, scroll down to the bottom of their home page. This information is often at least included in the footer.
While this is a good place to start, keep in mind that sometimes the contact page will have limited information. What you may find are general emails that start with “[email protected]”/“[email protected]”/”[email protected],” etc.
Although I’ve pitched to my fair share of general emails for hotel collaborations, it’s not the best way to reach someone.
The ultimate goal is to find a contact person who specifically handles media requests. Typically, this is a marketing/PR manager, press person, or media contact. If you can find this person, you’ll likely receive a quicker response, as your email won’t have to change hands.
However, if the contact page doesn’t yield the results you’re hoping for, see if they have a section for “Press.” Sometimes it will list the press contacts directly on that page.
If you’ve scoured the website but are coming up empty-handed, you can send the hotel a direct message through Instagram.
When I send DMs via Instagram, they typically look something like this:
“Hello, my name is Elena and I’m a travel blogger interested in collaborating with your hotel. Would you be able to share the email address of the individual who handles media and PR requests? I greatly appreciate your help!”
Keep it short and sweet and save the details for your email.
If you don’t receive an answer within a few days, go ahead and send your pitch to the general email.
I learned early on that it’s not about hitting a certain follower number before you start pitching. It’s about being confident that you have something of value to offer in exchange for a stay.
I know content creators who landed their first hotel collaborations before they hit 2k Instagram followers.
What matters is what you can offer and whether the hotel you’re pitching is in need of that skill.
Start by brainstorming what you can provide the hotel in exchange for a stay. What’s your unique value proposition?
Do you have a large, engaged following on Instagram? Are your monthly website visitors something to be envied? Is your blog subscriber list impressive? Perhaps you have some mad photography or videography skills you can leverage.
Now’s the time to focus on your strengths. Don’t obsess over your weaker areas.
Some people are blogging masters, but are completely clueless when it comes to Instagram and vice versa. You don’t have to be good at everything. Just know what your strengths are and how you can leverage them for successful hotel collaborations.
If you’re confident you have value to bring, it’s time to start perfecting that pitch.
Regardless of how you decide to format your email, the most important thing is that you make it about the hotel, not about you.
This is not about getting a free vacation; it’s about you offering a mutually beneficial partnership.
What you don’t want to say: “I want a free stay at your hotel.”
Instead, say: “I can offer you ‘x’ which will provide ‘x’ benefit.”
For example, “I can offer my photography expertise to provide you with professional-grade photos for your marketing efforts.”
By the way, while we’re on the topic of photography, most of the time bloggers will share the photos they take on their own blogs and social channels.
However, after a collaboration, a hotel may want to use your photography in their marketing materials. This was actually the case for me, after a great experience working with The Pand Hotel.
After submitting my blog link, they asked to use some of my photos in their brochure.
While this can be wildly exciting – and great to include in your media kit – just make sure the hotel either credits you by linking back to your blog/social channels or offers monetary payment.
In my case, I was more than happy to receive credit, but since that experience, I’ve added a clause to my initial pitch. It says: “I’m happy to make available all photos taken on-site for you to use on your own social channels and marketing efforts, if that is of interest.”
I use the term “make available” so that I can later offer them the ability to purchase the rights to the photos or pay for them on a case-by-case basis.
In any case, I’m sharing a rough pitching outline to get you started.
Some people prefer to keep the intro conversational with a “hello,” but I always favor the more professional intro. This is particularly useful for pitching hotel collaborations in Europe.
Dear [INSERT MEDIA CONTACT HERE],
[INSERT ICE BREAKER HERE]
My name is [INSERT NAME HERE] and I [INSERT CREDENTIALS HERE]. I’m planning a trip to [INSERT DESTINATION HERE] from [INSERT DATES HERE] and I’m looking to collaborate with a hotel during my stay.
I discovered [INSERT HOTEL HERE] and was impressed by your [INSERT NOTABLE FEATURES HERE]. Your property will be a great fit for my brand/audience because [INSERT REASON HERE].
In exchange for a complimentary stay, I can offer [INSERT SERVICES HERE], which will provide [INSERT BENEFITS HERE].
I have attached my media kit for your reference.
Please let me know if you are interested in moving forward with a collaboration.
I hope to speak with you soon.
[INSERT SIGNATURE HERE]
Obviously, this is a rough template, but it’s intended to hit on the main points you want to get across in your email:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Why you’re qualified to do this
- The reason you want to work with this hotel specifically (what makes them special)
- What value you can offer
You should not copy this word for word, but use it as a framework or jumping off point.
Then, before you hit send, you’ll need an appropriate subject line. Hotels can receive hundreds of pitches a day, so you want to make sure yours isn’t lost in the mix.
I would advise against writing something flashy and attention-grabbing, although it may be tempting.
I like to keep my subject lines brief, direct, and straightforward. Typically, I will write something along the lines of: “Social Media Collaboration for ‘X’ Month,” “Influencer Collaboration for ‘X’ Month” or “Blogger Collaboration for ‘X’ Month.”
However, some people prefer to refer to themselves as “Travel Journalists” instead of bloggers. The reasoning behind this is that more people tend to recognize journalism as a legitimate career.
Lately, I’ve been keeping it really simple with “Collaboration Proposal for ‘X’ Month.”
You may decide to leave the month out, but I incorporate it to add a bit of urgency. Most people won’t want to delay answering an email if it’s time sensitive.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of following up.
In fact, I actually landed two hotel collaborations (that I wouldn’t have otherwise had) just because I followed up.
Think of it this way.
While you’re counting the minutes until a reply, the recipient is either swamped, out of office, uninterested, or forgets to respond.
Your follow-up is often the reminder someone needs to take action. This could mean reading your email, passing it along to the appropriate contact, accepting your offer, or declining.
Since you obviously don’t want to come off as desperate, I suggest following up anywhere between five days and one week after your initial email.
If I don’t hear anything after the second time, I will usually give it another week before following up again.
More often than not, the hotel will appreciate your interest and thank you for the reminder, if nothing else.
While I’d love to tell you that every pitch you send will be a home run, it’s simply unrealistic to expect everyone to say yes.
In fact, you should actually prepare yourself for rejection (or the cold shoulder) while pitching, because both are inevitable.
There are a number of reasons a hotel may decide it’s not a good fit, but (almost) none of them will have to do with you.
Here are some common reasons you may hear:
- We have too many blogger requests at the moment and cannot accommodate all of them
- Since we’re a small hotel, we cannot offer complimentary stays
- There are not enough resources in our budget for hotel collaborations
- We cannot accept collaborations in the high season/during “x” event going on
- Our hotel is highly selective and can only accept collaborations with bloggers/influencers who have “x” number of followers
While arguably the last one has to do with you, don’t beat yourself up. Use each rejection as a learning experience to better prepare for future pitches.
The best advice I can give is to remain flexible while pitching hotel collaborations.
While you won’t always land the stay, sometimes a hotel will offer a media rate, a free dinner, a spa treatment, etc.
Hotels sometimes provide a media rate (discounted cost) to bloggers, journalists, and photographers to help offset the cost of the stay. This is either calculated as a specific percentage off a standard stay or a set amount established by the hotel.
Accepting a reasonable hotel media rate can be a smart move when you’re just starting out. You can gain experience while also building up your portfolio.
However, you’ll still be expected to provide the same amount of work for a media rate. Make sure what you’re getting seems like a fair exchange.
If you agree to a discounted service (such as a spa treatment), you’ll want to adjust your pitch accordingly.
Once hotels start replying (or you need to start following up), you’ll understand the criticality of staying organized.
Scribbling contacts down on scraps of paper (or not keeping track of information at all) can eventually backfire.
The last thing you want is to follow up with a hotel who declined, unknowingly pitch the incorrect recipient, or send the same pitch repeatedly.
To avoid these common faux pas, I’ve developed an effective organization system with my very own Hotel Pitching Tracker.
Every time I send out a pitch, I plug all of the information into the tracker, which lives in Microsoft Excel.
I keep track of everything from hotels I’ve pitched to, to important media contacts, to social media stats, to detailed property notes.
Now that I’ve been using it, I honestly don’t know how I managed without one.
That’s why I’ve decided to make it available to you for free.
You can download my free Hotel Pitching Tracker here so that you always know where you stand while pitching.
Hotels that regularly work with bloggers typically provide a contract outlining the scope of work prior to the collaboration. This is to protect both parties and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
However, if you’re pitching smaller hotels or properties that haven’t worked with bloggers, I highly recommend laying out your terms.
I send an email outlining my exact deliverables and when the hotel can expect them before my hotel collaborations.
The goal is to manage expectations and prevent miscommunication or confusion later on.
When in doubt, give yourself more time than you think you need, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.
Plus, once you get into the nitty-gritty of editing photos and blogging, you’ll likely discover things take longer than anticipated.
I typically state that all deliverables will be completed no later than two weeks post-stay to allow for any hiccups.
With bloggers constantly pitching hotel collaborations, you may wonder how you can stand out from the competition.
This is where your media kit comes in.
Done right, a media kit can help give you a competitive edge and put you in a more professional light.
If you’re not already familiar with what this is, think of it as a resume or portfolio for your brand. It can be anywhere from a single page to multiple pages outlining the key statistics and demographics of your blog/brand.
While your pitch serves as an introduction to what you can offer, a media kit fills in all the details.
- Your blog name
- “About Me” section introducing who you are/what you do
- Your audience demographics (including age, gender, and top countries)
- Past brands you’ve worked with
- Information about the services you provide (content creation, videography, blog writing, etc)
- Your contact information
Media kits are important to hotels because they provide pertinent information about a blogger’s audience. This can help a hotel determine if a collaboration will be the right fit.
For instance, if a Canadian hotel wants to target American millennials, a Spanish baby boomer audience won’t be a fit.
From a blogger’s perspective, a media kit can help you build social proof and clout. If, for example, you’re pitching Paris, you’ll likely have a better shot with glowing recommendations from other European hotels.
That said, everyone has to start somewhere.
If you’re ready to start pitching hotel collaborations but don’t have the time, resources, or design expertise, I’m here to help!
I offer a convenient, fully-customizable media kit template to take your pitches from blasé to ballin.’
All you have to do is download the template and plug in your content in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Then you can customize the colors and fonts to suit your brand aesthetic.
Or, if you’re really strapped for time (or design illiterate), I also offer custom design services. You can enjoy a hands-free process and save tons of time.
Need help creating a media kit? Get yourself a template or inquire about my custom design services and start landing your dream hotel collaborations!