Cutting Through the Marketing Noise: How to Leverage Bulk SMS to Enhance Engagement in the Hospitality Industry

SMS Provider in Kenya

SMS Provider in Kenya

Marketing today, in the hospitality sector, like many others across various industries, is a crisis. Email inboxes are flooded, social newsfeeds are saturated with ads, and customers have become numb to marketing overload across channels. Ideally, the average person is exposed to 6,000 to 10,000 ads daily.

What does this mean? A monumental challenge. So, how can you effectively capture your customers’ attention and connect with them to drive business growth? Traditional marketing tactics simply aren’t cutting through the incessant noise and clutter.

The answer lies in an oft-overlooked channel that combines the power of mobile with the unbeatable engagement rates of peer-to-peer communication—a channel that commands instantaneous attention and response: bulk SMS or text messaging.

With a massive 98% open rate and 90% of texts read within 3 minutes, bulk SMS offers brands a direct line to guests’ literal pockets and palms. It’s personal, digestible, and perfectly suited for our mobile-first world.

For hotels, restaurants, resorts, and other hospitality businesses, SMS opens the door to incredible opportunities. It empowers teams to engage guests directly on their mobile devices throughout the customer journey – from awareness and booking to check-in and post-visit follow-up.

Short of picking up the phone, there’s no faster or more effective way to promote an offer, send a reservation reminder, solicit guest feedback, or share essential property updates than via text.

In this guide, we will explore how hospitality marketers can harness bulk SMS to elevate their marketing, boost revenue, and craft unforgettable guest experiences.

Building a Rock-Solid SMS Marketing List (The Right Way)

Before firing off text blasts, hospitality brands must develop a plan for compliantly building a quality SMS subscriber list. That means no shady “buys” of consumer mobile numbers or random cold outreach – only explicit opt-ins.

Most countries have strict regulations around bulk SMS marketing, including the need for prior express written consent from recipients. Simply put: No opt-in permission, no SMS send.

But this rule isn’t just about legal compliance – it’s also good marketing sense. Guests who proactively opt-in to receive your SMS communications are far more engaged, welcoming, and receptive to your messages.

So how exactly can you grow an SMS subscriber list full of your most loyal fans and customers?

Here are some strategies hotel and restaurant brands can implement:

  1. Capture mobile opt-ins on websites: This can be done through SMS keywords, click-to-text mechanics, or embedded web forms. These methods provide a seamless way for visitors to your website to opt into your SMS marketing list.
  2. Enable SMS sign-up during WiFi log-in flows on the property: When guests log into your WiFi network, you can give them an option to sign up for your SMS marketing list. This is a great way to capture opt-ins from guests already engaged with your brand.
  3. Have front desk staff and servers collect SMS opt-ins: During check-in, dining occasions, and other face-to-face guest interactions, your staff can ask guests if they would like to opt into your SMS marketing list. This provides a personal touch and can lead to higher opt-in rates.
  4. Cross-pollinate SMS subscribers from other lists: If you have other marketing lists, such as email clubs or loyalty programs, you can invite those subscribers to join your SMS marketing list. This can help you quickly grow your SMS subscriber list with engaged customers.
  5. Run social media campaigns and ads: Promote exclusive offers for your SMS list through social media campaigns and ads. This can attract new subscribers who are interested in these exclusive offers.
  6. Set up on-premises tablet stations, printed cards, QR codes, or signage: These can cue SMS opt-in CTAs. By making it easy and convenient for guests to opt in, you can increase your SMS subscriber list.

No matter which tactics you use, be sure to offer real value and incentives up front for signing up via SMS. Free nights, dining credits, member perks, or gimmes like an appetizer can give guests a compelling reason to join your SMS program.

Also, make it clear how often subscribers can expect messages so they’re aware of frequency expectations.

Finding the Right SMS Platform for Hospitality Brands

After building a healthy bulk SMS subscriber list, the next step is selecting the right marketing tool to power your campaigns and audience engagement.

From basic text campaign blasters to advanced full-funnel messaging suites, there’s a wide range of SMS marketing technology platforms available in 2024. The key is finding a vendor who matches your business goals, requirements, and budget.

Here are some of the core features and capabilities to look for in a bulk SMS marketing platform:

  • Easy campaign builders: Look for platforms that offer drag-and-drop or WYSIWYG editors for SMS campaigns. This can make it easier to create and manage your campaigns.
  • One-off messaging capabilities and triggered automation sequences: These features allow you to send individual messages or set up automated sequences based on specific triggers.
  • Dynamic data personalization: This feature allows you to personalize your SMS messages based on data from your guest databases or CRMs.
  • Robust audience segmentation and targeting: This allows you to send targeted messages to specific segments of your audience.
  • Ability to send MMS content: Look for platforms that allow you to send multimedia content, such as images, GIFs, videos, PDFs.
  • Embeddable opt-in tools: These tools can be embedded on your websites, WiFi, and other guest touchpoints to capture SMS opt-ins.
  • Native integration with hotel PMSs, restaurant POS, and other critical hospitality systems: This ensures that your SMS marketing platform can seamlessly integrate with your existing systems.
  • Detailed engagement analytics, conversion tracking, and optimization reporting: These features allow you to track the performance of your SMS marketing campaigns and optimize them for better results.

Many leading hotel management companies, restaurants, casino resorts, and cruise operators are looking to leverage bulk SMS tools with dedicated SMS marketing & messaging services. While this is highly important, it is crucial that you ask detailed questions about the provider’s anti-spam compliance capabilities, CTIA/wireless carrier regulations, data privacy standards, and SMS delivery across top visitor markets and locales. Or you could skip the hassle and get started with Celcom Africa today. It will save you time and money.

7 Powerful Bulk SMS Campaigns to Elevate the Guest Experience

Okay, now to the fun part – creative ways hospitality companies can leverage SMS campaigns to “wow” guests across every step of their journey.

  1. Promotions, Packages & Offers

It’s an oldie but a goodie – SMS is the perfect channel for promoting limited-time discounts, packages, flash sales, and other irresistible offers to guests. The text stands out from inbox clutter and social noise.

  1. New Announcements & Property Updates

New chef debut? Renovated lobby unveiling? Build excitement and FOMO by using SMS to broadcast major upcoming property news to opted-in subscribers.

  1. Mobile Check-In & Keyless Entry

Surprise guests with next-level convenience. Allow mobile check-in via SMS and share digital key access passes that enable touch-free room entry right from their phones.

  1. Reservation Confirmations & Reminders

Ensure guests don’t forget their upcoming reservations with automatic text reminders. Include prompts to add packages, upgrades, or order any extras.

  1. Feedback & Review Requests

Email surveys often get ignored, but SMS is the perfect channel for swiftly capturing guest experience feedback, and satisfaction scores, and soliciting online reviews.

  1. Personalized Event Recommendations

Segment guests based on preferences to provide tailored, real-time event & activity recommendations via SMS during their stay – increase on-property spending!

  1. Post-Stay Nurture & Re-Marketing

Don’t let your relationship fizzle after checkout! Set up automated SMS drip campaigns triggered post-stay to nurture guests until their next booking.

When crafting these SMS campaigns, keep the copy concise, scannable, and punchy to grab guest attention. And leverage embedded CTAs like click-to-call buttons, calendar links, or geo-location prompts to drive immediate action.

Targeting, Frequency, Optimization

Like any marketing channel, SMS effectiveness hinges on segmentation, cadence, and constant optimization.

Go beyond generic bulk blasts by segmenting guests based on demographics, location, booking data, stay history, and other behavioral intel. By tailoring communications and offers based on their unique preferences, guests feel more “seen.”

Timing and frequency also significantly influence engagement and opt-out rates. During active stays or high seasons, guests may welcome a slightly higher cadence of two texts per week – but more than that risks fatigue. Throughout the rest of the year, shoot for 2-4 texts per month max.

And always optimize! Run campaign A/B tests, monitor KPI performance analytics, and iteratively tweak copy, visuals, and delivery times for maximum impact. SMS isn’t a one-and-done tactic, but an always-on channel requiring constant care.

Connecting SMS to Your Hospitality Marketing Stack

SMS shines brightest when woven into your full-funnel marketing, engagement, and experience technology suite.

Here are some adjacent tools and tactics that can supercharge your overall hotel & restaurant SMS programs:

  • CRM & Customer Data Platforms

Ensure your guest profiles and associated mobile opt-in data is centrally stored and unified. This fuels 1:1 personalized communications across SMS and all other channels.

  • Web & App Personalization

Speaking of personalization – tailor every digital destination with relevant, real-time content based on each guest’s SMS and behavioral data signals.

  • AI Chat & Conversational Commerce

Beyond simple campaign blasts, enable automated 2-way conversations between guests and virtual chat assistants over SMS for inquiries, reservations & support.

  • OTT Advertising & Media

Build awareness and drive guest opt-ins by promoting your SMS offerings across OTT streaming TV ads, YouTube pre-roll video, and beyond.

  • Review Response Management

Bring your brand full circle by automatically routing inbound guest review solicitations received via SMS into your customer experience management system for rapid response.

Forward-thinking hoteliers and restaurateurs are already implementing advanced SMS use cases like:

  • Mobile Wallet Integration: Power keyless room entry and self-service payment flow directly within Apple Wallet, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
  • Rich Messaging: Step up from simple SMS to visually immersive RCS, WhatsApp, and OTT experiences featuring suggested replies, receipt tracking, and more.
  • Headless Messaging Architecture: Deploy messaging & communication functionality via APIs within any hotel or restaurant application.

The possibilities are truly endless for how SMS – and the greater “conversational” landscape – can transform hospitality marketing and operations.

There’s a clear competitive advantage awaiting those hotels, restaurants, and hospitality companies investing strategically in SMS. Better data, more bookings, superior guest experience – the results speak for themselves.

But more importantly, SMS bridges the gap between hospitality’s warm analog roots and our increasingly mobile-digital future. It offers brands an opportunity to revive the personal human connections and guest relationships that lie at the heart of true service.


Now is the time to tap into the power of SMS to elevate your hospitality marketing, operations, and overall guest experience. Contact Celcom Africa today and start building your lists, mapping your campaigns, and activating this communication gem.

Happy texting!