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Upselling in hotels: Proven techniques and how-tos

Upselling in hotels

Mastering the art of upselling in hotels has become an integral strategy for elevating the guest experience and maximising revenue. While the concept of upselling is not new, still many hotels are struggling to implement it in an effective and profitable way.

Discover why optimising your upselling strategy is paramount for scaling your hotel business and how you can start getting positive returns by establishing a robust upsell process.

What is upselling in hotels?

Upselling in hotels refers to the practice of persuading guests to purchase additional (ancillary) products, services, or upgrades beyond their initial reservation.

When done right, upselling is beneficial to both guests and the hotel. It allows travellers to customise their stay, which boosts guest satisfaction and increases the average guest spend and overall ancillary revenue at the same time.

What is the difference between upselling and cross-selling?

Upselling focuses on persuading guests to opt for a more expensive option within the same category, often involving upgrades to higher room categories or premium hotel amenities to enhance their overall guest experience.

On the other hand, cross-selling aims to diversify the guest's purchase by offering additional hotel amenities or services from different categories, such as spa services, dining options, or local attractions. For the sake of simplicity, the term “hotel upselling” is often used as an umbrella term to include “cross-selling”.

Hotel upselling techniques to boost your upsell results

1. Start upselling hotel room upgrades

According to Pere Estela, Global Ancillary Director at Iberostar, starting with upselling room upgrades is a must in the hotel industry. As soon as you start to upsell room upgrades, your incremental revenue from upgrades can quickly become a major contributor to your total upsell revenue, fueling your TRevPAR.

If you have different room types and continuously give away high-tier rooms for free due to overbooking, it means you miss out on potential revenue.

To kick off upselling your upgrades, integrate them into your pre-arrival guest communication. Presenting potential upgrades 7-10 days before arrival in your pre-arrival emails can work wonders for your upgrade conversion rate. To maximise upgrade conversion further, make sure to suggest them to arriving guests at the front desk too.

With automation, you can skyrocket your results. For example, with Oaky’s Front Desk Upsell automation module, hotels can reach a TRevPAR impact of between two and five.

2. Segment and personalise your deals

A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work if you cater to different guest segments. Like most hotels, you probably target a few guest personas. Think about who they are and what they need to enjoy their stay at your hotel. This is crucial because it helps you come up with offers they’ll be excited to book.

If you skip this step, you’ll have a much harder time creating deals that match your target audience.

Below are a few guest categories and ideas for what they may value:

  • Families with kids

Families with young children appreciate extra flexibility. Offers like connecting rooms, meal packages for the little ones and family-friendly activities work well for them.`

upselling in hotels family-friendly 1
upselling in hotels family-friendly 2
  • Couples

Even if it’s not their honeymoon, they may still be interested in romantic packages like a couple’s massage or a candlelight dinner. City tours and outings may appeal to them as well.

  • Business travellers

Business travellers value quick service and convenience above all else. Flexible arrival and departure times, as well as the options to book late check-ins and check-outs, room service, express laundry or an airport shuttle could make their trip smoother.

  • Digital nomads

As more jobs become location-independent, you’ll have more guests who want to blend work and leisure. Offer these digital nomads well-equipped, in-room workstations, a spot at your coworking space or a chance to upgrade to high-speed Wi-Fi.

3. Feature your offerings on the hotel website

Does your direct booking website attract traffic from your potential guests? If yes, highlighting your special deals and packages is a must.

Not only does this upselling technique help you to drive ancillary revenue, but it also promotes a sense of exclusivity for guests booking directly. This can be an effective strategy to incentivise customers to choose your website over third-party platforms, letting you save on OTA commissions.

4. Spotlight your F&B deals

Can you guess which deals top the list of the best-selling ones for every hotel, regardless of the location? Breakfast, breakfast buffet, dinner and 3 to 4-course menu deals are all-time guest favourites.

If you struggle to attract guests to your hotel restaurant, cross-selling is the perfect way to bring your restaurant back to its former glory. Use guest data to tailor offers that align with their tastes, creating appealing F&B packages that go beyond the standard menu. Make sure to provide vegetarian and vegan options too.

Suggesting these deals pre-arrival or at check-in is also a proven way to drive more F&B deal conversions.

Another advantage of selling these deals in advance is that you don’t have to worry about understaffing or overstaffing your restaurant. By knowing the number of purchased deals beforehand, you can ensure a specific number of staff members on site, so your guests can truly enjoy their breakfast or dining experience.

5. See check-in as an opportunity to upsell (front desk upselling)

While pre-arrival upselling can help you get your guests excited about their upcoming stay, a check-in moment presents a great opportunity for upselling as well.

Why is front desk upselling effective? The secret lies in personalised, face-to-face interaction.

Friendly and caring communication at the front desk helps build rapport faster. What’s more, front desk staff can identify specific needs or concerns expressed by guests during check-in. By offering relevant upselling options, they address these needs and enhance the overall guest’s stay.

When done right, guests do not perceive upselling at the front desk as a mere sales tactic but as an additional service, genuinely contributing to a better experience.

If you use front desk upsell automation, your front desk agent can quickly identify opportunities for upselling. Seizing these opportunities can maximise revenue for your hotel.

6. Provide upselling options during the guest’s stay

The beauty of upselling is that it can span throughout the entire guest journey. From the booking stage to being in-house, there are numerous opportunities to introduce guests to the array of services and deals your hotel offers.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, guests have become increasingly accustomed to contactless technologies, particularly the use of QR codes. Many now express a preference for contactless services whenever available.

However, it remains crucial to guide guests through the check-in process, explaining how they use QR codes and detailing the diverse packages accessible through them. To promote awareness of your upselling features effectively, strategically position QR codes in highly visible locations so your guests can spot them easily. Optimal placement involves not only prominence but also positioning them where guests are most likely to engage with specific offers.

For example, consider showcasing a breakfast deal alongside a QR code on the nightstand or choose other strategic spots like elevators and the entrance to on-site amenities such as spa treatments.

7. Use hotel upsell software to streamline the upselling process

As you can see, a lot of work goes into upselling if you want to do it right and get amazing results. The good news is that dedicated hotel upsell software can automate most of these tasks. That streamlines the process for everyone, including your staff and guests.

Oaky supports you every step of the way — from the moment a guest books your property till they check out. The extensive deal library comes with over 80 creative and high-performing deal suggestions you can use at your hotel. Once you’re ready to send offers, Oaky pulls data from your property management system to personalise the deal selection for each guest.

It also supports your front desk agents. They get access to Front Desk Upsell automation, a recommendation engine that enables them to offer guests relevant upgrades/services upon check-in thanks to real-time access to the information they need for more fruitful sales.

Try Oaky in action

8. Partner with local businesses

Partnering with local businesses can be a great strategic move, enabling you to enhance your upselling efforts.

By partnering with local businesses and vendors, you can diversify the selection of your services and offered experiences. For instance, partnerships with nearby restaurants, spas, or attractions can enable you to create enticing upselling packages that include exclusive discounts or special access.

These collaborations not only add value to the guest experience but also open up additional revenue streams for the hotel. By showcasing the best of what the local community has to offer, you can differentiate yourself, attracting guests who seek authentic and immersive experiences.

Moreover, such partnerships can foster a sense of community engagement, benefiting both the hotel and the local vendors.

9. Create bundles and packages

Are you bundling your offers and deals? Crafting thoughtfully curated bundles for guests can simplify decision-making for guests and benefit your bottom line.

By strategically bundling your room upgrades with services such as spa treatments, dining experiences, or local tours, hotels can cater to a variety of guest preferences.

The appeal lies in the convenience and cost-effectiveness of these packages. Bundles make an attractive proposition for guests seeking a comprehensive and hassle-free experience. From a business perspective, creating bundles enables you to drive more revenue by upselling multiple services in a single transaction.

This approach not only boosts the average spend per guest but also fosters a positive perception of the hotel as a provider of holistic experiences. Ultimately, the creation of well-crafted bundles emerges as a win-win strategy, elevating the guest experience while contributing to the financial success of the hotel.

For example, one of Oaky’s customers, PMG Hotels and Resorts, is an expert in bundling and crafting enticing packages. In addition to a hotel room, their packages include airport pickup, a massage deal, a welcome drink upon arrival and more.

Why is hotel upselling important?

Aside from the apparent benefit of generating ancillary revenue, hotel upselling appears to be beneficial for various other reasons:

1. Increase average guest spending

Smart and personalised upselling can encourage guests to spend more. As data shows, nurturing your existing guests is five times more cost-effective than winning over new ones, positively impacting your revenue.

For example, hotels using Oaky have increased their average guest spend by between €75-250. Depending on a property's upsell potential, it's possible to grow its ancillary revenue tenfold or even 100-fold.

2. Let your guests explore additional services and property amenities

One of the issues that hoteliers have to deal with is communicating the versatility of add-ons, services and available amenities and facilities a hotel has to offer. This constrains a hotel’s ability to deliver more than just a room. An upselling strategy empowers you to go beyond merely selling a room, incentivising your staff to present a range of additional offers while making your guests aware of what else they can enjoy.

3. Increase guest satisfaction

Today, people are used to customised experiences from online shopping, social media and data-driven advertising. They expect the same level of personalisation from hotels. It means you must sell upgrades or add-ons that match their needs and desires.

With automated upselling, you can improve the level of personalisation by presenting only the relevant offers to your target guests. By creating hyper-personalised deal selections with the help of segmentation, you can improve their experience drastically.

4. Learn more about your ideal guest

Upselling helps build a connection with your guests. If you use upselling software like Oaky, in addition to your PMS or RMS, you can access rich guest data to analyse the most appealing offers. This helps you to explore your guests’ interests and learn more about the experiences they seek and are willing to pay extra for.

You'll also discover what's less popular among travellers. This allows you to revamp offers and make them more attractive or shelve them.

5. Strengthen your brand reputation to stand out from the crowd

Using upselling to delight guests can result in more excellent reviews. This strengthens your brand image and shows that you live up to your promise of providing an amazing stay.

You can even communicate your brand values with upsell offers. For example, Grand Hotel De Draak communicates its sustainability stance by upselling the Hotels for Trees deal. This eco-friendly deal, created by Oaky and Hotels for Trees, encourages guests to skip housekeeping in exchange for planting a tree. In total, Grand Hotel De Draak has planted 2,653 trees in two years’ time (of which 2,098 were planted in 2023 alone).

6. Improve departmental cross-collaboration

Since setting up and realising a successful upselling process involves many departments, it’s fair to say that upselling brings teams together. From front desk, F&B and spa departments to revenue managers and general hotel managers, teams have to work together to make sure the upselling strategy reaches its targets of increasing ROI and improving guest satisfaction

upselling in hotels
Digital Upselling Examples

8 Simple hotel upselling examples and ideas

Now, it's time for inspiration. Let’s look at some tried-and-tested examples of hotel upselling.

1. Room upgrades

The classic upsell, paid room upgrades mean offering guests a higher room category for the corresponding supplement charge. You can either charge the full room type supplement or offer a discount to make the deal more attractive. To boost revenue from paid upgrades, use a dynamic pricing strategy to adjust rates based on demand and availability. The benefit of selling upgrades at the pre-stay stage is not just the added revenue but also the chance to resell base category rooms.

2. Early check-in and late check-out

Early check-in and late check-out deals are the basic upsell offers that can yield impressive contributions to your revenue. These always attract guests, as they offer flexibility and extra convenience. If you cater to business travellers specifically, adding these deals to your arsenal can be a game changer.

If you use an RMS (revenue management software), you can also price these deals dynamically depending on the occupancy and room availability. According to our data, dynamically priced early check-in and late check-out deals can bring 35% more revenue compared to static pricing.

3. Food and beverage deals

Upselling can increase your F&B venues’ capture rate. Start with basics like promoting standard breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Make things more interesting with exclusive menus at your signature restaurant or create packages at advantageous rates. You could even put together an F&B experience where guests dine in a special location, interact with the chef or participate in the preparation.

4. Spa and wellness services

Spa services are ideal for upselling because they add value to a guest’s stay. Begin with straightforward offers, such as one long signature treatment and a few shorter options.

Then, think of which spa treatments you could combine into packages for guests who want to splurge and pamper themselves. Finally, look at options to combine a spa session with offers from another department, e.g. F&B.

5. In-room extras

Little extras in the room can make a big difference. What would your guests like to find on arrival? Perhaps a fruit platter, a premium minibar set-up, a romantic amenity or a birthday cake? Options here are almost endless, so segment your guests and pitch only relevant extras.

6. Activities

While offering activities can mean extra effort, it’s an excellent way to engage guests and make their stay more memorable. Health and wellness deals, like workout sessions and yoga lessons, often do well. Locally themed activities, such as cooking classes, surfing lessons or guided tours, can also work, depending on your target market. Consider working with a local partner, e.g. a guide or fitness instructor, if you don’t have all the needed talent in-house.

7. Stay extension deals

Encourage your guests to extend their stay with discounts. This is an effective way to sell additional rooms for low-occupancy shoulder dates. Target people travelling by car as they’re not restricted by train or plane tickets.

8. Housekeeping

With many hotels struggling to keep up due to staffing shortages, opt-in and opt-out housekeeping models are becoming more common. Apart from saving you labour and equipment costs, these deals also allow your property to run more sustainably. Frame your offer this way, and you’ll see more eco-conscious guests taking advantage of this offer.

How to upsell at the front desk [Hotel upselling script]

There are a few moments in the guest journey when you can upsell. You can set up a strategy that will generate results before your guests even arrive at your hotel (pre-arrival upselling) or suggest extra services during their stay (in-stay upselling). However, the most effective way to increase your revenue with upselling is to do it at the front desk.

To set up your hotel upsells for success, you need to have a script in place so your entire team can follow an established hotel front desk upselling procedure. A few best practices include:

1. Prepare for your guests’ arrival in the morning. Look through the reservation data of your hotel guests to tailor your upselling suggestions.

2. Greet your guest with a smile and always be polite:

  • Maintain good eye contact

  • Have a firm handshake

  • Be confident, but don’t act as if you know everything.

3. When a guest arrives, try to read the situation by figuring out:

  • The mood of your guest (Do they look tired? Do they look upset? Are they smiling or keeping their arms crossed?)

  • The segment that the guest falls under (Is the guest travelling alone or with family, friends, or kids? Is the guest on a business trip?)

4. Get the reservation data in front of you to pinpoint the guest’s needs and:

  • Reconfirm your guest’s choice of room (never point out the drawbacks of their choice as your goal is to build rapport with the guest)

  • Ask open questions with the goal of discovering their needs and expectations. You can ask how their trip was (if they don’t look disappointed or unapproachable). Alternatively, you can use a direct question like “Do you have any special requests?”.

  • Move on to suggesting extras and special deals using your upsell strategy and techniques discussed in this article.

To get your front office team up to speed faster, download this brief checklist on front desk upselling.

For example, if someone has booked for adults and kids, they’re a candidate for your family deals.

If you see a guest is staying on their birthday, send your corresponding offers. The same goes for reservations with comments about special occasions, such as a honeymoon or anniversary.

Look at the rate codes as well. For example, if it doesn’t include breakfast, offer a breakfast add-on. This also goes the other way. If a rate code already includes a late check-out, there’s no need to propose it again.

How to start upselling at your hotel

1. Work with your entire team

Upselling is a team effort. Get your team on board and hear their thoughts on what would make the best deals for your guests. Next, discuss how practical implementation could look, evaluate costs and determine a fair price point. Follow this upsell meeting agenda to make sure you cover all the relevant points.

If you still want to work with on-arrival upselling, train your front office staff on the best practices and upselling techniques. Finally, think of a way to share your success with your team. This could be a commission from the upselling revenue or another benefit they value.

2. Choose the right time for upselling

Timing is everything in upselling. Get the right offer in front of the right guest at the optimal time, and your conversion rates will skyrocket. Contrary to popular opinion, on-arrival upselling is not the best option.

During check-in, guests are often tired from their trip and don’t want to hear about all your offers. On top of that, receptionists don’t have the time or opportunity to upsell during every check-in.

Instead, send travellers a selection of deals well before they check in. Oaky’s data shows that one email sent twelve days before arrival followed by a second one a few days later yields the best results. In that case, average click-through rates reach 48%, and conversion rates average 12%.

This also primes guests for more upselling at the reception because they already know your offers. A gentle nudge from the front desk agent can get them to book the spa treatment they already had their eye on.

3. Suggest multiple upselling deals (but not too many)

A small yet targeted selection of deals works best. If there are too few deals, guests might not find one they want. If there are too many, travellers may feel overwhelmed and lose interest.

Start with a handful of the classics such as a breakfast add-on, early check-in and late check-out. Then add a few deals that are relevant specifically to the recipient. In the end, that should bring you to around 10-15 offers. That’s still manageable for guests and increases the chances that they find something they like.

4. Use hotel upsell software for the best results

As you can see, a lot of work goes into upselling if you want to do it right and get amazing results. The good news is that dedicated hotel upsell software can automate most of these tasks. That streamlines the process for everyone, including your staff and guests.

Oaky supports you every step of the way. The extensive deal library comes with over 80 creative and high-performing deal suggestions you can use at your hotel. Once you’re ready to send offers, Oaky pulls data from your property management system to personalise the deal selection for each guest.

Next, the platform sends pre-arrival upselling messages at the optimal time. This way, travellers can browse your offers at their leisure and book whenever they feel like it. Finally, the system automatically adds the guest’s deals to their profile and invoice. All that’s left for you is to get things ready and create the perfect stay experience your guests dreamed of.

Now you know pretty much everything about the importance of upselling in hotels: how it can delight your guests, drive revenue, and even boost your reputation.

And with the right tool, you can see all these benefits without having to add even more tasks to your to-do list.

Final thoughts

Perfecting the skills of upselling goes beyond increasing revenue.

It's a strategic approach to elevate guest experiences and build a standout brand. Whether you're encouraging guests to upgrade to a more spacious room, book an airport transfer, or participate in exciting walking tours, the essence of providing versatile upsell opportunities should aim to make guests' stays more comfortable and memorable.

With hotel upselling software up your sleeve, you can ensure the personalisation of your upsell offers, delighting guests and boosting your ROI at the same time.

Any questions about Oaky? Feel free to reach out!

MKT Olga Vasylieva email
Olga Vasylieva

Senior Marketing Manager 

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