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Trends A data-driven guide to marketing before, during, and after the holidays.

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photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

Whenever the holidays approach, marketers always find themselves asking the same questions:

“Should we send something about the holidays, or not?”

“When should we send it?”

“Are there days, times, words, etc. we should avoid?”

“Should we expect open rates and conversions to go down, or up?”

Well, here at Inntopia, our Marketing Cloud CRM has been used by hundreds of hotels and resorts to send billions of emails over the years, so we don’t have to wonder any more.

We dug into all that data to find the answers to the most common holiday email marketing questions.

What wording or holiday jargon should I use?

To find the answer, we looked at over 1,200 hotel and resort email campaigns sent by nearly 100 properties to 28,000,000 recipients during the week leading up to Christmas over the last few years. We teased out some of the more common phrases used in email subject lines, kept the ones used enough to give a decent average, and ranked them below by their open rates.

  Phrase Open Rate
  “merry christmas” 16.40%
  “happy holidays” 15.76%
  “$” (included dollar amount) 15.50%
  “celebrate with us” 14.73%
  “last minute”, “final”, “only days away”, etc. 14.63%
  “give the gift of” 12.87%
  “%” (included percentage discount) 12.67%
  “deal”, “savings”, “discount”, etc 12.64%
  “ring in the new year” 11.54%

As you might expect, simply including the obvious and relevant “merry Christmas” or “happy holidays” in a subject line correlated to the highest open rates in our sample. Variations on the invitation to “celebrate with us” came in next with “give the gift of” coming in well below average, and the perhaps a bit too early “ring in the new year” came in dead last.

So don’t beat around the bush: If you’re going to send around the holidays, use words that match.

How do people interact with emails during holidays in general?

To find our answer we looked at email campaigns sent by U.S. resorts during the 3 days before, the day of, and 3 days after 11 nationally-celebrated holidays. Combined, these campaigns were delivered to just under 2,000,000 recipients. Average open and click rates are plotted below.

Somewhat surprisingly, the resorts in our sample showed their highest open and click rates on the holidays themselves. Holidays averaged a 21.8% open rate vs 19.4% in the days before and 18.3% after. Holiday click rates were 9.4% for this sample vs 8.0% in the days before and 8.6% after.

So if you’ve got a relevant holiday message, don’t be afraid to send it on the holiday itself. Your customers are willing to open it.

What about right on Christmas?

This is confirmed when you look at Christmas specifically.

Open rates are higher on average for emails sent in December with “Christmas” in the subject line, and emails sent on Christmas or Christmas Eve. And all three were higher than the December average. Interestingly, however, subject lines that mention the word “Santa” saw lower-than-average open rates.

Even on Christmas, your customers are opening and clicking on relevant holiday marketing emails.

But won’t more people opt-out if we send on Christmas day?

Using the same data set, the answer is no.

Opt-out rates are much higher for December emails in general or subject lines mentioning “Santa”. Once again, emails sent on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or with subject lines mentioning “Christmas” saw the lowest opt-out rates of the bunch.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that it’s okay to send during the holidays if you have something to say.

Maybe people are in a better mood.  Maybe your email helps them escape an awkward conversation with Uncle Jimmy. Maybe they’re just bored. But whatever the case, you shouldn’t be afraid to send emails on and around Christmas, with Christmas-specific subject lines and messaging. So go on: give your customers the gift of a holiday email. But make sure there’s something of value inside, and leave Santa out of it.

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Have a question? Just ask.

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Tyler Maynard
SVP of Business Development
Ski / Golf / Destination Research
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Doug Kellogg
Director of Business Development
Hospitality / Attractions
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