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Hotel Upselling Tips to Create Better Guest Experiences

The personalisation of hospitality has been seen as contradictory to the automation onslaught that was accelerated by the contactless drive during the pandemic. However, when combined in an upselling context, it can significantly amplify your income per room night.

There are two levels of automation that can be employed for upselling purposes as it cannot simply be ad hoc. Randomly offering add-ons to standard purchases will result in operational chaos and will certainly not offer enhanced experiences to your guests.

The first level of automation is the more traditional manual way of creating email templates of your segmented upsells based on factors such as group type and length of stay. Once the initial booking is received these can then be sent immediately, and/or programmed to be sent at intervals before arrival.

The second is by integrating innovative technology options that allow pre-specified add-ons and/or tailored pop-ups to appear during the browsing and sales process. Many booking engines already offer the ability to upsell to a higher standard room for example during the actual booking process so contact yours today to ask. In addition, tailored pop-ups that appear during the online browsing and sales process are also coming to the fore with new technology such as BenchDirect from The Hotels Network. This software employs intelligent behavioural triggers to ensure you show users personalised messages at critical moments during their browsing and booking process.

Ultimately, what you want to avoid is the airline model that strips the hotel experience down to just a bed, and then adds what are traditionally considered to be included services such as room service, online check in, and use of in-house facilities such as the pool and the gym. This stripping down concept might work for some soulless hotels (and customers), but for most independent properties uniqueness is a competitive advantage and should be accentuated and not diminished.

Accentuating your uniqueness as a marketing tool requires two things:

1) That you understand the difference between running your business on a value-based model rather than a needs-based model.

Standing out from other similar properties should never be about having more competitive prices or boring upsells. Commanding higher room per night prices and generating increased revenue comes from running your business on a value-based model. This is technically known as “cross-selling” because it involves the process of encouraging customers to make additional purchases that are ancillary to the original room purchase. But let’s not get bogged down with technical wording here. Our aim is to offer an enhanced experience as well as getting the customer to spend more money.

And the second key element to accentuating your uniqueness requires…

2) That you really, really, understand your target audiences.

Yes, I know! I am saying it again, and yes, you may have a good idea of the kind of groups that come to your hotel. But are you sure you know what types of activities and add-ons are irresistible to them because they offer the kind of value added that will make them choose your property over another?

Possibly not. But you have all that information to hand, and you just need to know where to look for it. I dig deep on this in my most popular hotel marketing coaching programme, Amplify Hotel Marketing, and I explain why here in this super short 5 Top Consumer Travel Trends video.

What sort of upsells and cross-sells should you be offering?

There are lots of upsells that are standard, and you are probably doing them to some degree already. Among these are:

  • Early Check in

  • Free Breakfast

  • Free Wifi

  • Free Parking

  • Free Room upgrade

They all have their place, but they are pretty uninspiring.

Cross-selling (focusing on selling ancillary products and services that increase your income) means getting innovative about adding and offering in-room and on-property amenities that provide unique experiences.

Think in moments. Cesare Pavese said, “We don’t remember days, we remember moments”.

This is what holidays and travel is all about. When was the last time you talked someone through a whole day of your last trip? If you did, that person has probably been avoiding you ever since. But when was the last time you shared a moment that you still remember, especially when it was unexpected? Much more often, right?

I know, those standard upsells don’t cost you a lot. But what about digging deep and finding experiential upsells that match the deep desires of your target audiences, even those that they may not even know they have and putting something in front of them that will enhance their stays.

So, be inspired with these examples from property owners who have done the work to define experiential cross sells that match the deep (often unknown desires) of your target audiences:

A boutique hotel with gorgeous vistas from all rooms that offers a Watercolour Package that includes an easel, a couple of sheets of paper, and a small box of watercolour paints.

Another property that focused on family travel offers a jigsaw puzzle of their own on-site farm animals as a jigsaw puzzle which had a lower price pre-arrival than at the in-house shop.

A spa resort offering “seed bomb” planting experiences. Essentially a basket filled with compressed seed-stuffed soil bundles along with detail of a guided garden walk, where to plant the seed bombs, the benefits to the eco-system of the wildflowers after they bloom, and also about the mindful state that one slips into when digging into the earth. They offer a discounted “bulk” package made up of two “seed bomb” experiences – one to use in the hotel gardens during the stay at the hotel, and another to take home or to gift to someone else.

Wildflower pressing activity for children that takes place in the property’s gardens.

Guided painting activities for children with a local artist or student who is happy to get teaching experience for free.

1-hour in-house pottery classes.

Bike hire with guided map written by local guide.

SUP hire with free pick up from other side of lake.

Self-directed local wine tasting hamper with links and/or discounts for vineyard tours.

And for business customers, traditional upsells such as one-hour private meeting/working room hire, or a bundle of 3-hour sessions, or ironing, dry cleaning, and shoe polishing service for example. But an enhanced cross-sell could be a corporate meet and greet wine tasting session to impress the customers they have travelled to connect with.

When is the best moment to offer an upsell or a cross-sell?

These statistics from Tnooz are of use to help understand when people are more likely to purchase your value-added offers.

  • 15% of guests will purchase extras at the time of booking.

  • Guests who book 1-7 days in advance of their trip are 3x more likely to purchase extras when they book.

  • Guests who book 7-21 days in advance are actually 5x more likely to purchase extras when they book.

  • Travel parties of 1-2 people are most likely to purchase extras that are available at your hotel, such as a bottle of wine or in-room breakfast.

  • Travel parties of more than 3 people are most likely to purchase outside extras, such as tours, activities, and dining reservations.

This gives some really useful insights and prove that offering these add-ons during the booking process will provide the best returns.

Mirai’s booking engine upselling tool generated these results after a short test period of sending the upsell email to the guest five days before their arrival and inviting them to purchase with just one click:

  • Conversion rate: out of every 100 customers 6.04% accepted and purchased the upselling option

  • Average revenue increase: 14.05%. In other words, if the initial booking amount was €500, the customer ended up paying €570 ¹

Is it worth spending this time to create an enhanced cross-sell strategy?

Yes, despite the pain of standardising new operational procedures. I remember the drawn-out operational process of ensuring that our cross-sell hampers of fresh fruit, champagne, and locally made chocolates actually made it into the right room on the right day at a property I worked at. It took way longer than I expected to standardise the procedure. I get the pain, but these organisational headaches should not be the reason we short sell on opportunities to offer better experiences and increase revenues, right?

Yes, because it can give you an edge for direct bookings because while OTAs might offer car hire as an optional add-on, they are certainly not offering any of the highly experiential value-added offers that you are.

Yes, because humanising hospitality is critical to staying ahead. Post pandemic travellers are looking for extra value. They want to feel appreciated, heard, and understood. Presenting them with a combination of best price available for direct bookings plus the option to buy a tailored extra that will enhance their experience and create a valuable memory is not an opportunity you can let slip.

So yes, it is definitely worth it. Yes, it will take time to get right. Yes, you will need to make sure you truly understand the needs of your target audiences. But leading with innovation is a mindset thing. If you want to stay ahead, you have to do the work. It will pay off.

If you want to be further inspired, take a look at my How to create wow moments blog, that includes a free amenities recipe that you can create in-house.

And if you would like guidance and insights about how best to define your targets audiences and work out what they most need and value, don't forget to take a look at my state of the industry video as detailed here:

Found inspiration here? If you would like to receive more helpful, relatable, and actionable content relevant to your business, click here to sign up to my email list. No spam, no bombarding you. Just really useful stuff. I look forward to having you onboard :)

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