Leisure & Hospitality: Marketing the Great Outdoors

By Hyaat Chaudhary

For hospitality professionals looking to connect with new and potentially lucrative demographic segments through online advertising and digital media, outdoor enthusiasts are an ideal resource. Many outdoor recreation enthusiasts are tech-savvy family men and women who enjoy adventure and will travel at great lengths to experience it, whether it is hiking in Colorado, fishing in Texas or taking in the water activities in the Great Lakes State.

They research new equipment online and actively join digital forums connecting with others who enjoy the same activity, all while discussing their travel experiences. With the hotel industry looking to attract and retain leisure travelers, hoteliers have begun to take note of this active, highly travel-focused demographic and market to them where they already spend their time: online.

Demographic synergy
Outdoor sports and recreation is a $600 billion industry. For hotel decision-makers, capturing a bigger piece of that pie makes sense, especially when you consider that 80 percent of the money spent by outdoors sports and activities enthusiasts goes toward related travel and lodging logistics.

Whether they are hunters, fishermen, campers or canoeists, all outdoor enthusiasts tend to have something in common: a passion for what they do. Spending time outdoors is not an idle or casual pursuit, but a deeply ingrained lifestyle choice. The way they spend their money and their time reflects that passion, as more than half of the households in this demographic have average incomes exceeding $75,000, and they spend a disproportionately high percentage of that income on the sports, hobbies and activities that they love.

As a group, outdoor enthusiasts also tend to be very brand-conscious, cultivating a deep and lasting sense of brand loyalty. Trust, reliability and familiarity are important within this demographic; a dynamic that applies whether it is a comfortable and familiar fly rod or a trusted hotel brand.

Consequently, this is an extremely valuable space in which to make inroads. Hotels that can connect to the outdoor community will not only get more out of their advertising and marketing dollars, but will forge a lasting connection with a particularly loyal and lucrative demographic.

Meeting the travel needs of this huge and influential economic segment, and understanding how to reach them and appeal to them through impactful emerging digital media channels, requires a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of who they are, where they are, want they want, and what you as a hotel can do for them.

The proliferation of online forums and websites where outdoor enthusiasts are able to share stories, photos, experiences and advice about their outings and adventures has been astonishing. For hotels looking to target this audience, the digital world has opened a variety of new marketing opportunities. Hotel owners and operators looking to make a connection with this group should understand the key strategies and accepted best practices required to design and deploy an effective marketing, advertising and communications strategy targeting this population.

Site planning
A hotel’s website is the first and most important way to deliver targeted content that will resonate with outdoor enthusiasts. Delivering seasonally appropriate content with targeted landing pages for appealing outdoor activities in the area not only enables a hotel to precisely focus on specific resources and services, but also helps with the kind of SEO optimization than can attract a new digitally-savvy audience.

Showcase services and facilities
One of the best ways to appeal to guests who have specific outdoor activities in mind is to demonstrate that your property can facilitate or even enhance their experience. Be sure to actively promote any and all outdoor amenities offered by the hotel. If your property is on a lake, do you offer access to boats? Complimentary fishing supplies? Kayaks or canoes? If a hotel is located out in the country or near scenic trails, are bikes made available for guests to ride? What about maps of local trails and sites? Does your hotel offer adventure tours? Be sure to highlight any day trips or other activities that guests can participate in that are sponsored or scheduled by the hotel, including things like fishing charters, horseback riding and guided tours.

Promote regional assets
Outdoor-related travel is almost always a group activity between friends and family. As a result, successfully appealing to the community of outdoor sports enthusiasts and hobbyists means offering them a hospitality solution that has something for everyone. Hotels should promote nearby outdoor attractions that are fun and easy on the wallet. Whether your property is in the mountains, near the beach or somewhere in between, local, regional and national parks are a great fit, and any activities available at those parks (hiking, fishing, kayaking, water sports, etc.) should be a point of emphasis in your digital marketing and communications campaign. Be sure to mention any associated amenities the hotel offers—a shuttle to and from the park can be an appealing extra—as well as any noteworthy special activities (zip lining, bungee jumping) available in the region that might appeal to guests with a taste for outdoor adventure.

Right message, right time
When it comes to connecting with outdoor enthusiasts, timing and positioning are everything. Instead of expensive national or regional ad campaigns, get more bang for your buck by strategically targeting those digital arenas where outdoor enthusiasts are present and active. Whether you are designing an ad, a video message, or a full digital campaign, consider the following proven tips to optimize your messaging:

Relevance—Target and tailor your messaging. Your advertising should be contextual and demographically specific. Ensure that your advertising works in context, avoiding standard formats and utilizing outdoor images and messages as much as possible.

Timeliness—When it comes to timing and message precision, hotels are in a position of power with respect to marketing to outdoor enthusiasts. The seasonal nature of so many outdoor activities makes it possible for marketing and advertising initiatives to be timed and designed accordingly.

Format—Video can feel like a more compelling format, but the reality is that click-through rates are frequently stronger with simple banner ads. That said, videos can be a compelling way to showcase some of your key attractions and activities on your website.

The right messenger
No matter how good the quality of a facility, no matter how diverse and appealing the range of outdoor-friendly services and amenities at a hotel, and no matter how powerful and impactful the digital messaging campaign may be, if that messaging does not connect with the audience, it is all for naught. Work with experts who know how and where to find communities of outdoor enthusiasts, and understand how best to deliver your message. In terms of a favorable ROI, a good bet is to coordinate with a vertical ad network or a company that specializes in the kind of specialty and niche digital marketing that can generate big returns for a comparatively modest investment. If possible, hotel owners and operators should try and tap into an established, multi-channel digital ecosystem, where the delivery of demographically targeted content directly to a receptive audience of outdoor enthusiasts is most effective and efficient.


Luke Capizzo