Marketing a small motel in Australia

Fundamentally the success of a motel will come down to having people who want to stay in the your town who are happy to pay the price you ask for accommodation but it’s as simple as just build it and they will come. 

To help our many website motel clients and you reading this now we’ve researched authoritative sources on motel marketing and gathered ideas from experts in the Australian motel industry as well as sharing ideas from our own experience both as motel guests and from behind the scenes working in and with motel owners.

The following is a detailed summary of not only our approach to marketing a small motel online in Australia but ideas that you may find it beneficial to apply to your own motel operations and marketing. This article is divided into the following sections:

1. What guests want in a motel

Eight attributes of a successful motel that guests want to stay at and how to keep it that way.

2. First impressions of your motel

What will new arrivals perceive about your motel when they reach their destination and checkin?

3. Motel website design

Turning website visitors into paying guests with a neatly designed and thoughtfully presented website.

4. Promoting your motel website

Improving the chances of people finding you online and making a booking.

5. Motel blogging

Regularly updated offers, news, events and insights that will draw in curious searchers and potential guests.

6. Email marketing

Communicating with past and future guests to inform and remind them you are available.

7. Attract return visits with events

Promoting local events to your past guests to inspire their return.

8. Audio interviews on motel marketing

Listen to conversations with Australian experts on motel marketing.

9. Motel website designs created by Jezweb

Have a look at some of the motel websites created by the team at Jezweb.

10. Do you have a website for your motel

If you don’t have a website yet then get started today, even if you do then maybe its time for a refresh?

What guests want in a motel

Visitors to country towns and regional areas are discerning in their preferences for accommodation and desire for clean, tidy, quiet, well furnished motels and hotels. Whilst the business travellers may primarily be motivated by proximity to clients, ease of access and well lit seating spaces to work the tourist or casual holiday maker is looking for a satisfying experience and will have a degree of price scrutiny.

Facilities guests expect from 3 and 4 star motels

Denis Winchester, CEO of the Hotel and Motel Accommodation Association (HMAA) describes it thus in the Motel Makeover Guide:

The demands of consumers, within the last decade, have developed and increased significantly, resulting in a far more discerning customer for accommodation operators to satisfy. The changes have largely been driven by the higher standard of living and considerable increase in investment by consumers within their homes by the provision of luxury amenities and the inclusion of high tech appliances. In essence, when away from home the average consumer will not settle for less than the quality of amenities enjoyed on the home front.

8 attributes guests look for in a motel

The key requirements that people staying in motel style accommodation in terms of the physical appearance and facilities as determined by the HMAA were:

  1. spacious layout (or appearance of spaciousness),
  2. plastered walls,
  3. light colours,
  4. good lighting,
  5. comfortable seating,
  6. facilities for the latest electronic equipment,
  7. bright bathrooms, and
  8. modern kitchenette facilities.

Outdoor gardens or at least planter boxes with colourful, real plants also rated highly.

Get the basics right & visitors enjoy their stay

We can see from this list that in some ways the wishes of the travelling public are fairly obvious in that they want comfortable, clean, functional living spaces in the motel for their stay. The better these desires are met the higher the price an accommodation provider can command. How the motel provides these in their style comes down to design and budget but the fundamentals must be met for any reasonable quality accommodation facility to succeed in attracting well paying customers.

The Motel Makeover Guide

There is a great deal more detail to this and other evidence based approaches to the renovation and facilities that a modern 3 to 4 star motel or accommodation provider should aim to have in order to attract clients and have them return for future visits in the Motel Makeover Guide; highly recommended reading.

We’ve got a great motel, what about marketing?

Your motel is a place people will enjoy staying but how do we get them to make a booking. This is where marketing and re-marketing to potential guests becomes crucial in convincing them to stay at your motel.

First impressions of your motel

Friendly, helpful staff

This should go without saying but the first impression once someone steps in the reception of your motel the person behind the counter who hopefully has a warm welcoming smile on their face and an optimistic outlook can make a big difference to the delight of your guests. Consider that the travellers staying at your motel could have been driving for hours and if there are kids in the car it may be the end of a tiring day. Anything you can do to put them at ease and help them into their room without a fuss will be welcomed.

Smiling on the phone

If a potential guest calls reception they will expected to be greeted with a warm, professional, friendly voice who is welcoming them to stay and inviting their questions to be answered. No matter what time of day or how stressful it has been a polite and happy phone manner is essential.


Regardless of the age of a motel or how basic it might be there is nothing that will disgust a potential guest faster than a grubby room that hasn’t been hygienically prepared for them, especially the bathroom.

Linen should be fresh for each guest and regularly replaced to ensure it has a strong, durable feel, crisp white, wrinkle free linen makes a positive impression on your guests and gives the comfort of home.

Proper and thorough cleaning of a motel could make the difference between a guest being happy about their stay or heading home and telling everyone who will listen how gross they found the motel, never to return.

Property maintenance

SmartCompany, in their article on Movements in the Motel Industry, identified the upkeep and appearance of a motel as a key factor in the success of the business:

Carrying out all necessary maintenance to keep facilities in good condition: It is important that the motel’s facilities are always maintained to a high standard.

If a motel has a run-down appearance, weeds growing in the parking lot, overgrown gardens, peeling paint or some other unkempt aspects then it reflects poorly on the business and may leave people passing by with the impression that the facilities are not well cared for or are poorly maintained.

SmartCompany went further and linked this to the reputation of the motel and brand:

Having a good reputation: Motels should aim obtaining good word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat custom through providing good quality facilities and hospitality.

It does take work to keep a motel looking shiny and well maintained but it is most certainly worth it.

Motel website design

Like any website for a business you must cover the basics with a motel website such as contact information and explanation of the features and benefits so that people will enquire. Beyond the basics though the other elements of a successful motel website design to ensure that your potential guests can easily contact you, locate your motel and check the features and photos of your rooms as explained below.

Mobile optimised website

Most of the visitors to your website will be on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. The screen size for such devices is typically 4 – 10 inches but the pixel resolution and proportions varies greatly between devices. On screens over 6 inches the photos will look glorious and vivid with fairly large, easy to read text but on smaller phones the website will need to adapt to the narrow column format, i.e. it must be responsive to the screen size. The three most critical parts of a mobile friendly motel website design are:

  1. Name of the motel
  2. Easily found and clickable phone number call link
  3. Prominently displayed street address

Each of these three elements will ideally be visible on first glance at the mobile responsive website for a motel.

Make it really easy for someone to call you by having the phone number in the website as a tel: link which can be pressed to initiate a phone call and display your correct street address for their GPS.

What to include on a motel website

The top six features of a motel website that will make it easy for your guests to decide if they would like to stay are:

  1. Name, phone, email, address, opening hours
  2. Reservations link to a live booking calendar with prices
  3. Succinct descriptions of the rooms and features
  4. Restaurant, breakfast or food service options
  5. Professional quality photos of the motel and rooms
  6. Mention of a few local facilities and restaurants nearby
  7. Guest reviews with a link to a travel experience website

It isn’t necessary to have all of these on the homepage but there should be easily visible links to them if the details are on other pages of the motel website. If you incorporate all of these elements in your motel website then you will have make it easy for potential guests to make an informed decision about staying at your motel before they make a booking or give you a call.

Promote your motel website

Ideas to get your motel full of guests with more bookings than you can handle all year long.

Motel website marketing

  1. Use a booking engine and channel manager for online bookings
  2. Build a new WordPress website that you can easily update
  3. Get listed in Australian business directories
  4. Add your motel to accommodation directories
  5. Have a professional photographer take photos for your website
  6. Update your Google+ Local Places profile
  7. Email your Google+ Local review link to past guests
  8. Improve the search engine ranking of your website
  9. Ask for feedback and get believable testimonials

Get your message out there so they go to your website

  • SMS marketing messages to past clients, VIP club etc
  • Email newsletter to motel database
  • Brochure in local tourism office
  • Business cards at local petrol stations and convenience stores
  • Fishbowl in reception to giveaway a weekend the following year

Invite tour operators to stay as guests

If you are based in a tourist destination or there is an event or festival nearby you could invite tour bus operators to stay in the hotel as guests. They may decide that a tour group will stay with you so showing them what you offer and giving them preferable rates may increase the likelihood of a future group booking.

When the tour operators stay as guests ask them for a testimonial, if you can get a testimonial from your website or a credible review by a well known travel brand it will hold sway with people who recognise that brand.

Motel blogging

Writing a blog for your motel is a good way to get extra pages made for your website that can act as a ‘fishing net’ when someone searches for a local region activity or topic and they find your motel blog and then they might want to visit your area and stay.

Here are some topic ideas for a motel blog:

  • Restaurants and Bars in the Area
  • Hip and Happening Places (night scene, etc.)
  • Cultural Encounters (tours, events, festivals, etc.)
  • Personal Recommendations (or Employee Perspectives on the Place, Meet the Staff)
  • Hidden and Secret Destinations for Your Adventure
  • Travel Scams You Should Watch Out For
  • Don’t be fooled by the biggest travel ripoffs (travel insurance, excess baggage charges, unreliable taxi drivers, tourist traps – eat like a local, money changers, etc.)
  • Which is better Air or Land Travel?
  • Checklist: Make Your Online Brochure
  • Security Tips When on Vacation
  • Things you need to consider for booking your accommodations
  • Transportation services for a convenient stay
  • A Better Stay always includes Breakfast
  • Does location matter when it comes to your accommodation?
  • Pack Light on Your Travels
  • Tips on your next budget vacation
  • Food and Drinks are a Thumbs Up to keep your stay more relaxing (features per season and what’s new)
  • What facilities make a trip worth while? (Pool, restaurant, massage services, etc.)

Email marketing ideas for motels

Sending emails is cheap and if the recipients are interested in what you have to say highly effective, here are 10 ideas for emails you could send to guests at your motel.

  1. Email to guests who stayed in the past 2 weeks, thanking them for their stay.
  2. Thank you email requesting the guest leave a review on tripadvisor, Google+ or to connect on Facebook.
  3. Pre-arrival email saying that you are looking forward to the guest staying with links to local restaurants.
  4. Email after a booking is made listing popular attractions or tours in the local area.
  5. An email two days before arrival offering to collect some groceries or supplies.
  6. Email to people who have stayed in the past two years.
  7. Monthly email to past guests letting them know of upcoming events and specials.
  8. Drive and stay offer for guests from over 150km away offering a weekend retreat.
  9. Special offer around christmas for people within 20km who have family staying.
  10. Gift voucher or coupon for a local restaurant to guests before arrival.

There are lots of different reasons you could contact your guests and a lot of these messages could be conveyed by sms as well or be complimented by an sms prior to arrival.

Use a mailing list system to schedule email delivery

Some motel booking systems will have built in mailing software or you might like to use a free or cheap email marketing system like mailchimp or activecampaign. ActiveCampaign is especially good for planned and time sequenced emails.

Segment your guests according to their reason for staying

If possible, when guests are staying find out the reason for their stay so that you can segment your mailing list. For example, if you know that a guest stayed for business then you might invite them back around the same time the following year or if you have a family staying that is going to a festival then an advance reminder about the festival and a booking offer might be just what they need to decide to go.

Attract return visits with events

Whether you send email, addressed mail, sms or make outbound calls these are offers, news and events that you can communicate with your past guests about to encourage them to stay.

Local events

Send reminders of interesting coming events to past guests. Update them occasionally throughout the year with news of local cultural and sporting events, music festivals, concerts and exhibitions. Your local council website, community noticeboard website or tourism office will usually have event listings.

Family activities

Families will be on the lookout for day trip and weekend travel ideas that are affordable and interesting for the kids. Perhaps there has been a new skate park installed or a water park built or the local playground has been modernised, tell your past guests with families about it. Remind them that your town is a family holiday destination and put a list of other child friendly attractions and activities in the local area.

Annual occasions

There are lots of occasions that happen on a calendar basis such as Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Easter, Christmas, New Years Eve, the start of Spring, Winter, Summer and Autumn, St Patricks Day, public holidays, long weekends, the list goes on. You could work out an offer with a local beauty salon to offer a Mothers Day delight or a New Years Eve fireworks package with wine, hamper, party poppers and directions to great viewing locations. Keep the public holiday dates and special occasions listed and handy, you might need to change your rates for such dates to keep your rooms full and profitable.

Sport and recreation

Your town or region might be hosting a mountain bike event or a paddling regatta or maybe there are some great golf courses and walking paths through the local state forest. Find out what is happening in your area, you may be able to make a group booking offer to sporting event organisers or do something to make your motel more attractive to golfers by providing golfing magazines and TV channels. Make the most of the recreational pastimes that people come to your area for by positioning your motel as an ideal location with close proximity to the activities.

Romantic weekends away

Couples will often look to take a weekend away around Valentines Day so put together a package for the weekend with wine, chocolates, gift vouchers and special features in the room like flowers, plush pillows and fluffy towels. This sort of value adding can be quite profitable because the perceived value when done well will be much greater than the actual cost.

More packaged deals

Whether it is for a relaxing weekend of pampering and fine dining or a tourist attraction bundled with accommodation then packing an offer for guests can give you a very good opportunity to escape the price sensitive nature of competing with other local motels. When you package multiple services and products the value perception changes and by virtue of you thinking about how to create a great experience for someone then you are adding value to their stay and so they are likely to pay a higher price than for each element individually.

Audio interviews on motel marketing

Motel market research

Motel marketing, 3 episode podcast

Australia’s hotel industry in terms of international versus domestic travellers, the psychology behind how people book and the importance of marketing and branding in today’s competitive environment.

Caravan park marketing in Australia

The importance of online presence, brand identity, social media, apps, growing an international audience, what to put on your website and a whole lot more.

Motel finance and purchase guide

If the motel you are looking to purchase is already part of a franchise it may prove worthwhile remaining attached until you have had enough time to find your feet and properly assess the benefits of going independent.

Do you have a website for your motel?

The team at Jezweb would love to help you update your website, setup a booking system and channel manager and ensure that you are easily found when people search in Google for accommodation in your town.

Call Jezweb for help with a motel website design

Call our office on 02 4951 5257
or Jeremy on 0411 056 876
or John on 0408 326 646

We can create a good looking website for your motel at a very reasonable price, customised with your logo, colours, photos and information, plus we will optimise the text and pages.

Contact the team at Jezweb for a new motel website design for your motel.

Do you have a great motel marketing resource you would like to share? Let us know in the comments or email it to the team at Jezweb.