Guest Engagement Marketing

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Woman in hotel lobby

Program Description

Hoteliers are serving an increasing number of digitally-savvy travel consumers who can be engaged, acquired and retained only via digital marketing and technology strategies and tactics. Today’s hotel guests have become even more digitally-savvy compared to just a year ago - the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation by as much as 7 years (McKinsey & Company). 

Course Participants will learn how to connect and engage online travelers in the Dreaming and Planning Phases of the Digital Customer Journey and how to steer them “in the right direction” in the next phase – the Booking Phase via B2C and B2B content marketing, brand marketing, social media, PR, influencer marketing, content marketing, etc. These marketing initiatives will help participants engage and connect with much desired customer segments: leisure travelers, SMERF group planners, social event planners, wedding coordinators, unmanaged and managed business travelers, corporate group planners, convention travelers, etc. 

According to Google, in the Dreaming Phase, 82% of leisure travelers are undecided on the accommodation they will book, which provides independent hoteliers with ample opportunities to “grab the attention” of the traveler and “ignite interest” in the hotel location, product and value proposition. Only by engaging and intriguing travelers in the Dreaming and Planning phases, hoteliers can ensure a “fresh supply” of potential bookers to the next stage in the customer journey: The Booking Phase.

Program Outcomes

  • Develop understanding of the hotel guest Digital Customer Journey and its five phases: Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing.

  • Conceptualize successful digital marketing strategies to successfully engage online travelers in the Dreaming and Planning Phases and steer them toward booking the property in the Booking Phase.

  • Learn how to develop hotel, company-specific, digital marketing budget for an effective and efficient Guest Engagement Marketing.

  • Learn how to achieve better results with less marketing spend.

  • Evaluate the digital marketing technology needs of the hospitality organization required to support its Guest Engagement Marketing efforts.

  • Develop Google-specific Guest Engagement Marketing Strategy.

  • Design digital marketing campaigns to engage customers in the Dreaming and Planning Phases of the Digital Customer Journey, including B2C and B2B Content Marketing, Social Media, Expert Knowledge Marketing, Digital PR, Blogging, Brand Ambassador Marketing, Influencer Marketing,  etc.

Program Faculty

Max Starkov is a hospitality digital strategy, technology and marketing executive, consultant and expert with 30 plus years of industry experience. Max has spent his entire professional career in hospitality and online travel, focusing on hotel digital strategy, technology and marketing. Max has consulted hundreds of major hotel chains, boutique and luxury hotel brands, independent hotels, resorts and casinos on their digital technology and marketing strategies. Until recently, Max was the Founder and Board Director, President & CEO at NextGuest (, a 150-employee hotel digital strategy, technology and marketing consulting and services firm, headquartered in New York City with global offices in Europe and Asia Pacific. Before NextGuest, Max founded and served as CEO of two Internet travel startups: 1995-1999 (direct supplier-to-consumer online travel marketplace), 1999-2001(Winner of Microsoft's Global RAD Award for hotel online booking systems). 

As an online travel expert consultant with the major expert knowledge networks, Max has consulted hundreds of Wall Street analysts and investment bankers on the online travel marketplace, hospitality industry technology and marketing, online distribution strategies, etc. Max is a published author of hundreds of articles, opinion articles, white papers and best practices guides and is recognized "thought leader" in digital technology and marketing strategies in hospitality and travel. Max is the recipient of the hospitality industry’s most prestigious award, the HSMAI “Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing” and served on the HSMAI Digital Marketing Council, the highest hotel digital marketing authority in the country, commissioned to monitor and educate HSMAI members about the emerging trends and innovations happening in hotel digital marketing universe.

Since 2001 Max has been an adjunct professor, graduate and undergraduate courses, on hospitality technology, online distribution, digital marketing and CRM at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality Studies. Some of the courses include: 

  • Hospitality Technology
  • CRM in hospitality 

  • Online Distribution in Hospitality and Tourism 

  • Digital Marketing in Hospitality and Tourism 

  • Digital Marketing for DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations), etc.

Max has an MS in Economics of International Tourism & Hospitality, Sofia University and an MBA in E-Commerce degree, Beta Gamma Sigma Honors, from Fordham University in New York.

Max Starkov Headshot