Insights on How Major Hotel Chains Advertised Before the Holidays

traveling woman with mask on

By Noam Harel, CMO, BrandTotal

As the holidays approach, many Americans are making or have already made plans to travel, and that includes booking hotels. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 4 out 10 respondents will travel for the holidays, and 1 in 3 will take a flight or stay at paid lodging.

In the first holiday season since the COVID vaccine has been widely available, spending levels are expected to return to what they were around 2019. This was before the new Covid-19 variant known as Omicron was widely known.

To understand how leading hospitality/hotel brands are taking advantage of potential demand during this period, BrandTotal analyzed paid social media ad campaigns for five top chains — Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham, IHG, and Hyatt — across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In total, 517 paid social ads were analyzed over a 60-day period, September 19, 2021 to November 17, 2021. Here are the key findings:

Marriott Leads the Way

hotel brands

When it comes to who has been spending the most and who has the most sponsored impressions, one brand clearly comes out above all others: Marriott. They have 93% of the paid share of voice (SOV), meaning people looking to book a hotel are much more likely to see a Marriott ad than any other chain.

Interestingly though, they did not have the most engagements — Hilton did. Hilton’s ads generated 49,200 engagements compared to Marriott’s 44,900, meaning that, even though Marriott had far more ads running, consumers were more likely to interact with ones from Hilton.

Gen Z was Targeted the Most

According to eMarketer, Gen Z (ages 18-24) is the most likely age group to travel this holiday season, as 59% said they plan on doing so, compared to 41% of baby boomers (57-75) and 35% of seniors (75 and older). So it makes sense that most hotel ads targeted that demographic.

Half of all ad impressions targeted Gen Z, compared to 28% of impressions that targeted millennials (25-34). The only other age group that was targeted more than 10% was Gen X (35-44), who saw 12% of impressions.

generations bar graph

The reason most hotel chains advertised to the younger demographic seems to be the fact that the pandemic is less of a concern for younger generations, thus they are more willing to travel.

YouTube was the Most Popular Platform

Since hotel chains targeted younger generations the most, it makes sense that they placed the most emphasis on the platforms most frequented by Gen Z and Millennials. And far and away, the most popular platform for that demographic is YouTube. The video-sharing site reaches more people aged 18-34 than any TV network, and that age range trusts YouTube content creators more than anyone else.

Thus, 40% of all ad impressions were on YouTube, followed by 24% on Facebook, 19% on LinkedIn, 16% on Twitter, and just 1% on Instagram.


Overall, the data supports how younger people are more willing to travel during this time, and as such hotel chains are making sure they reach them in the places they visit the most. In future holiday seasons, when COVID is less of a threat, it will be interesting to see how the data changes when older generations are more open to traveling. What platforms will be used the most to advertise? Will different chains have a bigger share of the market? That remains to be seen in 2022 and beyond.