HI FRIENDS! Today’s post is all about hotel collaborations. Getting complimentary hotel stays reduces your travel costs while generating visibility and revenue for your partner hotel – it’s a win-win.
So today I’m going to tell you guys how to pitch hotels, so that you can stay at the hotel of your dreams for FREE*. The strategies in this post all worked for me, and they’re how I went from a newbie with 0 brand deals, to regularly working with 5-star hotels.
Especially if you’re a new blogger, it can be hard to know when (and how) to get sponsored travel. I remember being so confused and overwhelmed when I first started out. I knew my business had value, but I had a hard time pinpointing what value exactly, and I didn’t know how to translate it into working with brands.
But I quickly learned that there’s an art to pitching hotels. And if you have the right approach, your odds of locking down an amazing collaboration are WAY better than you’d think.
I can almost guarantee that if you follow this advice you’ll land your first hotel collaboration soon. And to help you out, I’ve even included a sample hotel pitch email template at the end of this post 🙂
**Disclaimer: Not really free lol. You will be putting in work to deliver on your partnership, and in many cases the blogger – not the hotel – is getting the short end of the stick. More on the not-so-fun bits of hotel collabs at the end of this post.
Table of Contents
What Do You Have to Offer a Hotel?
The Main Reasons Hotels Work with Bloggers
In order for a hotel to consider working with you, you need to offer them some type of value – and that doesn’t mean something like “having 10k Instagram followers”. That’s not a valid/persuasive reason to host you, in and of itself, because it won’t necessarily be valuable to the brand.
An influencer with 400k Instagram followers could be completely worthless to a hotel if their followers never have the intent (or means) to stay at a property they recommend.
So there’s two main reasons a hotel would consider a partnership.
One, you can generate social media content (or full-on marketing content) for them – saving them time, energy, and money that they would have spent paying a photographer to shoot.
Second, your partnership (via blog, Instagram, whatever) will grant that hotel access to your audience. For the cost of your hosted stay, they’ll get targeted traffic from you, additional attention to their hotel, and bookings from customers that wouldn’t have otherwise heard about them.
Finding Your Value
Every blogger at any level beyond “beginner with 1k pageviews” has something unique to offer a brand. You need to find yours.
And – MOST IMPORTANTLY – you need to find a way to communicate how your relationship with your audience is going to translate into money for the brand. That is the ONLY thing that matters.
So you have to find your unique selling point, and then SELL THE ABSOLUTE SH*T OUT OF IT.
Maybe you have incredible, professional-grade photography that a hotel would kill to use on their Instagram page. Maybe your audience is mostly 20-something professional women who like luxury hotels and spending money. Maybe you’re getting a ton of site traffic or absolutely killing it with affiliate marketing.
Find the thing that makes you stand out – something that would benefit a brand also – and run with it.
How I Found My Value as a New Blogger
I have a small Instagram account, and a moderately successful blog. But I have an insane reach on Instagram, pretty bomb photos, and my followers are SPOT-ON, TARGET MARKET for the type of properties that I stay at and recommend. Most importantly, my site also drives a ton of hotel bookings every month.
So the way I defined my value, and the way I sell it to hotels is — a BARE minimum of 50,000 people are going to see my professionally taken and edited photos & posts about their hotel.
Better yet, that hotel can expect to see a few bookings annually (again at a bare minimum – many of my partners are getting bookings every month), directly from my site, FOREVER.
And they get all this in exchange for a few nights of accommodation at a property that wasn’t fully booked and would have lost money on that room. Instead, that tiny investment will get them consistent promotion and revenue for years to come.
…Well when you put it like that, right?
Researching Hotels to Pitch
Be Realistic About Your “Pay Grade”
You want to find a hotel that will vibe with your audience, AND a hotel that realistically would gain some value from working with you. This varies depending on your follower/reader size & demographics.
If your audience is young, stylish professionals, think Instagrammable boutique hotels. If your audience is a little more treat yo self, go higher-end. If your audience is mostly younger, broker people, or you have a smaller following, try for a mid-range hotel.
That said, it never hurts to aim high. I am a brat lol, so my first-ever pitch went out to a 5-star hotel – and I got it. This is because I’m a writer and marketer first, blogger second, so my pitches were strong. Lots of tips on writing a hotel pitch below ☺️
Pick Hotels That Aren’t Fully Booked
Check a hotel’s availability for your dates on a booking platform beforehand, and base your pitches around hotels that aren’t fully or almost-fully booked. Pitching a fully-booked hotel is obviously a waste of everyone’s time (and disappointing af if they’re interested, but not available on your travel dates), but pitching ALMOST fully booked hotels is nearly as bad.
A property that has a room that’s likely to sell is probably not going to give up that revenue for a blogger of my (or your) size.
So unless it’s a place I REALLY want, I typically pitch hotels that have multiple rooms available, and my success rate is about 75%. I (correctly) assume that many properties would rather get some free promotion on an unsold room than just let it sit there.
Contact PR Reps Instead of Reservations Agents
Do some creative Googling and see if you can find the email of the hotel’s PR contact or marketing manager. You’re much likely to get a response if your email lands in the correct inbox than if you have to rely on the reservations agent passing along your email.
This strategy WORKS. This is how I landed a collaboration with the f-ing Ritz Carlton with one of my first-ever pitch emails. I found the right guy, my email landed in his inbox where it belonged, he liked what he saw, and my
2 seconds of Googling initiative clearly impressed him enough to want to collaborate.
If you can’t find a PR contact, I like to throw in a line about “please pass my email along to your media contact” and that’s had a pretty good sucess rate, even for emails that literally went straight to info@hotel.
How to Find Hotels That Work with Bloggers
An easy cheat to find hotels that work with influencers or bloggers is a quick Google. A lot of bloggers write about their hosted experiences using the same generic disclaimer “all opinions are my own”. If you Google your destination + “all opinions are my own” you’ll usually get a ton of results. Add these hotels to your list and start pitching!
I also like to do a bit of research first about which bloggers those hotels chose to work with. If it’s a popular hotel and they last hosted a huge, well-known blogger, I probably won’t bother pitching.
That said, one of the properties I worked with last hosted a press trip for a group of bloggers in the 200k-500k range. I have… 5k lol. I pitched anyway, they said yes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So again, there’s definitely something to be said for aiming high.
How to Write a Hotel Pitch Email Like a MF PRO
Act Like a Business
A surefire way to get your email laughed off straight into the trash, unread, is to start off with something like “Hi I’m Kelly and I’m an influencer, I saw your hotel on Instagram and thought it was so beautiful and I think my followers will really love to hear about it”.
These emails are f*cking garbage. Here’s why.
“Your hotel looks nice, I think my followers will love it” is not persuasive. It gives the hotel literally 0 info about why/how this random email they’re reading is going to benefit them (the literal entire point of a pitch), and it also gives off major amateur vibes.
SO. Act like a professional.
You are not an “influencer”, you are – idk, a writer, a content creator, a photographer, something with a little more prestige. You did not “see a photo of their hotel and thought it looked nice”, you are “interested in featuring them on your blog/social channels”.
You don’t “think your followers will love to hear about the hotel”, you know that “your followers frequently book hotels you recommend”. You wouldn’t “love to post some photos” you’re “interested in creating a content package for the hotel”.
And so on. See the difference?
Highlight Why Working with You Will Benefit the Hotel
The biggest mistake I see people make when pitching is talk too much about themselves and how much they would love to stay at this hotel. Explain who you are and express your interest, obviously, but don’t go overboard. Get straight to business.
The point of a pitch is to convince the property that a complimentary hotel stay is a GREAT BUSINESS CHOICE FOR THEM. So focus less on you, more on what you can do for them.
Explain that your followers are constantly saving, commenting, booking hotels you stay at. Explain that you’re a photographer and think you could create some beautiful content. I mentioned finding your value earlier — this is the time to sell it. Spin it in a way that makes the hotel realise, holy sh*t, this person can make us some BANK.
Do Your Research and Include Details About the Property
For God’s sake, throw in at least one or two lines that make it clear you aren’t just spamming every hotel in a 10-mile radius. There are hotels out there getting literal HUNDREDS of pitches a DAY, and I guarantee they can pick out who gave a f*ck about doing some basic research, and who didn’t.
Point out that you love their pool, or that their decor caught your eye, etc. If a hotel offers it I will ALWAYS mention sh*t like afternoon teas or floating breakfast or an epic pool view (and mentioning – of course – how much my followers/readers love them).
Hotels are often pretty keen to work with bloggers if they have a new service they’re trying to promote – new room styling, new restaurant services, etc – so if you notice something like that MAKE SURE to include it in your pitch. I guarantee it will stand out to the person sifting through their 50th garbage email of the day.
Provide Specific Stats About Your Site / Instagram
You’re trying to sell yourself here, and the hotel needs to know what they’re buying. Please do NOT LIE about your stats. But think of it like a resume – frame everything in the best way possible. If your followers are low, say, focus on reach or impressions. Monthly sounds more impressive, so tally that sh*t up.
Example: maybe you only have 5k Instagram followers, but over 200,000 people see your posts every month. Maybe all your posts reach around 15k people, so agreeing to 2-4 in-feed posts means the hotel is guaranteed 30-60k new eyeballs on their beautiful infinity pool. Maybe 200+ people saved a pic from your last collab for planning their future travels. And so on.
The example is me lol, so I know this works. Again – don’t be dishonest. Present yourself in a truthful way, in the most flattering way you can.
Subject Line Matters
How you title your email is half as important as the pitch itself. The idea is to pique the hotel’s interest and make them, you know, open your email.
I personally title my pitches “Media Request : Hotel Name” – to the point, and professional. Other people I know use things like “media inquiry, press inquiry” etc. Just make sure it’s specific to the hotel, and looks like a legitimate, formal press request.
No response doesn’t always mean no. Emails get missed sometimes, or saved for later and then forgotten. If you don’t hear back from a hotel after a week or so, don’t be afraid to send a follow-up email.
I landed many of the brands and hotels I’ve worked with in the past with a follow-up email, when my first one went unanswered.
Hotel Pitch Email Template
If you made it this far and are like, ok decent advice but I still don’t know wtf to actually SAY, I got you. Here’s a pretty standard hotel pitch email template – it’s not the exact one I use obviously, but it incorporates everything I mentioned in this post.
Make changes as needed, specific to you and the hotel. Highlight your selling points & research, research, research.
Media Request: Hotel Name
Hi [name of marketing manager],
I’m a [travel writer, travel photographer, just say anything here but “influencer”] visiting [destination] this month, and I wanted to reach out about a potential collaboration.
I’m [writing a travel series / taking a photo series ] highlighting the best places to stay in [destination] and was hoping to include [hotel name]. [Detail about property here. Explain why you wanted to include them, based on all that great research you did earlier]
The [article(s) you’re writing / photos you’re shooting] normally reach between [monthly blog / social stats]. [More detail about your amazing stats here]
I’ll be in [destination] between [your dates] and would love to work with you — please let me know if you’re accepting any collaborations!
[I like to throw in some extra info about my audience here, ex. my followers are mainly based in the USA/Australia, they’re frequent travelers (even better if they’re frequent travelers to this country/continent, they love boutique hotels, etc.]
I’d be thrilled to create a content package for [hotel name] in exchange for [2-3 nights typically] accommodation. Normally I offer [2-3] in-feed Instagram posts and Instagram Stories throughout my stay, plus a feature in [whatever post you’re writing].
Please let me know if you are taking on any collaborations currently! I’d be delighted to work with you. [Last detail about how much you love their specific property].
Thanks so much for your time!
The Not Fun, Need-to-Know Sh*t About Hotel Collaborations
They Are Less Fun Than You’d Think
You will spend a good chunk of your “fun and relaxing holiday” stressed af over generating contractually obligated content. Before you can jump into your comfy lookin bed, you need to shoot photos of the entire room before it gets trashed.
Before you can enjoy your bomb, free breakfast, you have to shoot your breakfast, and more than a few times my nitpicky perfectionist ass has taken so long to get The Shot that said bomb, free breakfast ended up ice-cold. And so on. It’s a constant parade of sh*t like this. Instagram v reality lol.
The pressure is on, especially if you’re struggling to get the shots you need.
You are Probably Offering too Much
When I first started out, for 2 nights of accommodation at, like, a 4-star hotel, I’d offer something like 4 Instagram posts, a dedicated blog post, and 1-2 features in separate, high-traffic (SEO’d) blog posts. That is ABSURD. That is an absolutely absurd amount of work to do in exchange for a room that was not booked, and so is essentially generating the hotel free promotion.
It can be tempting to offer EVERYTHING because you really want to land the collab, but honestly – sometimes it is just plain too much. And sometimes the hotel literally doesn’t even have enough good photo ops for a ton of quality pics.
So both you, and the hotel, need to agree on a fair and doable content package. If you can’t, stop negotiating and move on.
I once had a (to be fair, extremely expensive and extremely dope) hotel ask me for ten high-res photos, SIX TO EIGHT INSTAGRAM POSTS (!!), and a blog post, in exchange for ONE NIGHT OF ACCOMMODATION. I don’t think it would even be possible to shoot that much content in one day. The request was, in my opinion, completely ridiculous, and I politely turned it down.
These days, since I’m more established, I never write dedicated review posts and offer a single feature in an optimised post that I know will earn the hotel (and me) money. I typically offer 2 Instagram feed posts, maybe 3 if I know the hotel is going to be easy to shoot. And I request something else to be comped in addition to the room (food, spa service, whatever).
You Need to Review Your Contract & Retain Your Photo Rights
If you’re working with a hotel on a collaboration, the contract should specify in which ways your photos can be used. When I offer social media posts, for example, the brand is free (and encouraged!) to repost on their social platforms too.
HOWEVER. Sometimes, a brand will want to take your nice high-res photos and use them for their other marketing materials. And if that’s the case, they need to pay you. Do not give away rights to your photography for free.
You Shouldn’t Always Accept a Free Hotel Stay
Sometimes, the allure of a sponsored hotel stay can make you blind to the fact that you’re making a terrible decision. Example. I once stayed at a hotel in a city I knew I hated, because I was new to collaborating with hotels and I was excited to get a free stay. And I had a terrible time, because I hated the city lol.
The property isn’t always a good fit for you, even if they say yes. Don’t like, go out of your way to stay at a place you have no interest in staying in just because it’s free. Don’t agree to create content for a hotel that is literally plain af and going to require a literal miracle to get a fire photo.
When Is It Too Early to Work with Brands?
If literally no one is going to book that hotel on your recommendation, it’s straight up too soon for you to pitch. I’m sorry 🙁 If you want to work with hotels, you are need to be a good business partner – someone who’s going to bring them revenue.
This might not be what you want to hear. But it’s important to remember that we’re representing the entire blogging industry when we work with brands.
If you know that a partnership with you will be beneficial to you (free hotel) but not for the brand (no return on their investment), that’s not a win. It delegitimises the industry. Partnerships are meant to be mutually beneficial. AKA the whole “partner” bit.
So please don’t go hunting for free stays if it’s not warranted. Focus first on building an engaged audience in your target market. Create beautiful images, sell the image you want. Once people are responding to your content and you’re confident you’re able to make sales, then start pitching.