How Best Western Created the Creator Program to Recruit Travel Influencers

  • Best Western is looking to build long-term business relationships with travel influencers.
  • Its builder program currently has over 200 active clients.
  • Marisa Daniela, one of the two employees who runs it, explains how she experiments with influencers and finds the right fit for them.

Travel influencers have become a primary means by which some hotels can market themselves globally in a cost-effective manner.

And some chains like Best Western have started creating official creator programs to help nurture these relationships.

Marisa Daniela is Best Western’s Brand Manager and was one of two employees hired in 2021 specifically to help formalize the process for how the company works with influencers. Daniela told Insider that hotels like Best Western are no longer interested in making deals with her anyone With leverage, but think more strategically about the types of travel creators that align well with their brand.

“Before, he was the influencer, we’ll give you free hotels for content,” Daniela said. “Now, it’s more thoughtful: what do we want from influencers, who can highlight the top 18 western brands. We need influencers who can tell stories.”

Daniela said she sees Marriott and IHG as her company’s biggest competitor for influencers. But while many chains do some deals with influencers through their own marketing teams, or through third-party agencies, the drive to build a custom in-house website


influencer marketing

Team – as Best Western does – is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Daniela is specifically appointed to create a more direct relationship between the hotel and the individual.

“When I was called, I wanted the brand to be more content-engaged, and to get creative ourselves to engage with potential customers,” she said.

Daniela explained to Insider how the Best Western creator program works, and how the team chooses who they want to work with.

Instagram screenshot from @part.time.tourists


@part.time.tourists / Instagram


How Best Western Finds and Hires Travel Influencers

While the company still gets a large number of promotions from travel influencers, Daniela uses about half the time Daniela uses a third-party CRM system to help research and reach different personalities.

Specifically, Best Western is looking for family-oriented travel creators, those who travel often for business, and those with a cohesive online identity.

“Everyone seems to be influential now – everyone can talk about what they want, everyone has followers, that’s not the problem,” Daniela said. “A lot of what I look for is how to align their audience. They need to know why they are following their audience. This is how you frame your story to align with Best Western.”

For example, she referred to Instagrammer @part.time.tourists, who has over 30k followers.

“Her specialty is traveling with a one-year-old; she does a great job of weaving tips and tricks and integrating the seemingly natural Best Western brand,” Daniela said.

Daniela will sometimes help the influencer craft the copy for Instagram or any other social media post, but she really looks forward to working with someone who has that combo ready on day one.

On the technical front, Daniela added that knowing how to cut a video or make a reel is a bonus, as it seems that the Instagram algorithm strongly favors short videos. She also makes sure that the influencer’s followers can appeal to both men and women.

Initial trial period, cultivating repeated brand deals

Daniela described the “trial” period when she ordered her first paid ride with an influencer client.

“The first flight I had on them is kind of a test for me to see if they’re following the instructions, because a lot of people don’t do that well,” she said. “It’s all about the second trip. There’s less chance that they’ll take a second trip with us, and continue that relationship.”

According to Daniela, most of her influencers simply ask for a free stay as compensation. But some, based on their reach and return on investment, will ask for additional compensation. About 30% of the time, she said, she will negotiate and work with the talent to create a unique payment plan.

It could be a competitive software, so she often had to send out tricky rejection emails. But if the influencer seems relevant and reliable, there are 4,000 hotels around the world that she can easily send her to.

Currently, the program has around 200 active influencers with whom Daniela is building a more sustainable relationship.

Expand the program and what is the future

The Best Western Creators Program was founded in 2018, but Daniela said it has seen a major overhaul in the past year.

“2020 and 2021 were a challenge for us,” she said. “In 2021, we’ve revamped the way we view influencers, and revamped our style of storytelling. I’ve been brought in to be a social strategist.”

In 2020, influence tourism has reached its lowest level recently with the global lockdown abruptly halting airline travel, accommodation and content publishing. In early 2020, the volume of content sponsored by travel and tourism fell by 66%, according to research by influencer marketing firm Izea. But travel content rebounded in 2021 and into 2022, although some travel influencers recently had to contend with rising airfares and Instagram changed its algorithm to prioritize video formats.

With the return of travel, Daniela and her colleagues are looking to evolve their program and budget in 2022 so they can work with more influencers, as well as those with larger followings.

“We have a big budget but we can’t give everyone the prices we want,” she said. “We’re trying to expand that.”

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