An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Upselling & Cross-Selling

If you’ve only ever thought of upselling as a way to increase revenue, think again. First and foremost, upselling and cross-selling are effective ways to enhance the guest experience. Done right, upselling offers more value to your guests, increasing guest satisfaction and loyalty. A rise in revenue will follow naturally.

Technically, there’s a difference between upselling and cross-selling, but the two go hand in hand:

>>Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of a product or service that the customer is buying.

>>Cross-selling is the process of selling a supplementary product or service to complement the product or service the customer is buying.

Both approaches result in providing the customer with greater value and enhancing the guest experience—as long as the offers are relevant and presented at the right time, in the right way.

What Can You Upsell and Cross-Sell?

From basic hotels and motels to luxury boutique inns and resorts, any property has what it takes to upsell or cross-sell.


>> Room upgrades: Customers are often open to upgrading their room choice during their booking, or even after they have made their booking.

>> Packages: Same goes for packages. Make sure your customers are aware of available packages and the added value they offer compared to standalone room bookings.


>> In-room extras: You don’t have to get fancy to enhance the in-room experience with additional in-room amenities. Baby high-chairs and cribs are as much appreciated by young families as champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are by couples celebrating an anniversary. Yoga mats upgraded bath amenities and in-room massage services are other examples.

>> Activities: From bicycle rentals to organized tours and activities (whether provided by your property or by local partners), activities are a popular cross-sell that make organizing such adventures hassle-free for your guests.

>> F&B: On-site food and beverage services can be cross-sold by offering dining discounts and packages, promoting your happy hour, or simply having your serving staff recommend meal accompaniments.

>> On-site spa services: Spa services are hard for weary travelers to resist, especially when you can take the hassle out of booking them, and even more so if they’re discounted for guests.

>> Other hotel services: Think parking, babysitting, transportation…

How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Successfully

The secret to successful upselling and cross-selling is to put the customer’s needs first. Remember, upselling (and cross-selling) is a means for enhancing the guest experience. If executed correctly, upselling results in satisfied, loyal guests and, consequentially, improved profitability.

Be relevant

Upselling and cross-selling are practical ways to personalize service, but it only works when offers are relevant to your guests.

Use data from your property management system and CRM to learn about guest preferences, requests and booking history to target offers more effectively. Sending automated pre-arrival emails asking guests to let you know of any special requests or preferences is an effective way to gather valuable information that can be used to identify relevant upsell/cross-sell opportunities.

Don’t be pushy

Remember that as consumers we hate to be sold to but we love to buy! Employ a soft-sell approach that conveys your effort to improve the guest’s experience (rather than to make more money). That means not bombarding guests with messages promoting upgrades and add-ons, and training staff to suggest relevant offers at the right time (more on that below) and in the right way (more on that below too).

Make the value clear

In order to convert upsell/cross-sell offers, the value represented by the additional spend must be clear. In addition to clearly listing room amenities, photo slideshows are an effective way to sell more desirable rooms on your website and within your online booking engine. Make sure room and package descriptions emphasize added value and use emotive language to convey the actual experience (“…wrap yourself up in one of our plush robes and enjoy your Netflix favorites on a big-screen TV”).

When staff make upsell offers directly, highlighting the added value gained for an incremental cost can be very persuasive. For example, “For just $20 more, you can enjoy more space for the kids in our family suite, with a kitchenette for preparing snacks, and a pretty great view over the lake…”

Position offers at the right time

Timing is everything when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. If an offer isn’t timed right, it will fall flat at best, or at worst, annoy customers.

>>During booking: During booking is a great time to upsell room upgrades and packages. Including photo slideshows in your online booking engine within room search results lets your customers easily compare rooms during the booking process and visually portrays the advantages of more desirable rooms. As well, package rates should be displayed alongside standard rates within search results, clearly outlining added value, and with the ability to book. Emphasize the value of discounted rates by displaying the strike-through price alongside the lower price.

When it comes to cross-selling, be careful not to overwhelm customers with options at the booking stage. Forcing customers to choose or decline added extras at this point can put customers off, resulting in abandoned bookings. If you do choose to offer add-ons during the booking process, keep things simple with limited options and ensure add-ons are presented directly within the booking form (rather than within a separate page or window), without requiring the customer to accept (or decline) offers in order to progress with the booking.

>>Pre-arrival: The time between booking and arrival is perfect for both upselling and cross-selling. During this stage of growing anticipation about their trip, many future guests are open to upgrading and enhancing their stay experience.

With high open rates, email and SMS are the best way to communicate offers prior to arrival. Targeted offers can be automated by creating pre-arrival email templates that are attached to certain room types and/or rates. Read our recent post about how to upgrade the pre-arrival guest experience for some pre-arrival email tips. Emails can point guest requests to the front desk, or direct guests to your hotel app where they can purchase selections directly.

>>At Check-in: During guest check-in is another ideal opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, and can come across very naturally as front desk staff learn a little more about the guest’s needs. Remember to highlight the advantages of the upgrade or add-on, and don’t be pushy. Upgrades and add-ons can be promoted within self-check-in apps too.

>> During stay: Cross-selling opportunities abound during the guest’s stay and can be communicated through mobile messaging, email, your hotel app or in person—as long as they are relevant to your guest’s needs and/or interests. When communicating offers to guests digitally (by SMS or email), be careful not to bombard them with various offers and don’t push the same offer more than once.

Upselling and cross-selling are important strategies for personalizing the guest experience, adding value and increasing customer loyalty. When implemented successfully, offering relevant upgrades and add-ons to your guests at the right time, in the right way, not only results in more satisfied guests, but increased ADR and incidental revenue too.

The Lowdown on Upselling: Good for Your Hotel, Good for Your Guests

From airlines to fast food restaurants, all kinds of businesses use upselling and cross-selling to enhance the customer experience and maximize revenue on existing sales. We’re talking about airlines offering seat upgrades and wine to enhance a flight, or the McDonald’s® server asking, “Do you want fries with that?” While not all upselling efforts are well-received by customers — particularly efforts driven by the sole desire to make more money — upselling or cross-selling done right is a great way for hotels to increase guest satisfaction and loyalty as well as profit and ADR (Average Daily Rate). Is your property taking advantage of this effective marketing and revenue-generating strategy?

Technically, the terms “upselling” and “cross-selling” refer to two slightly different methods: Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of the service or product your customer is buying, like a room upgrade or package deal, while cross-selling is the process of selling an additional, supplementary product or service to complement the product or service your customer is buying — activities or in-room treats, for example.

Ultimately, both methods result in your customer getting more value from your property, and, in return, your property earning more loyalty and revenue from your customer; it’s a win-win situation:

>> Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty through service personalization and added value.

>> Higher profitability and ADR through increased customer spending.

>> Richer guest data for future personalization.

>> Greater utilization of property amenities.

“Upselling” is often used to refer to both techniques, defined as the process of selling a more expensive or additional service or product to an existing customer, and so, for simplicity’s sake, we will do the same in this post.

What Can You Upsell? 

You don’t have to run a luxury boutique property to offer guests added value — all types of properties can upsell. The trick is proposing products or services that offer perceived value to guests in relation to their stay at your property. Here are some examples of products and services that can be upsold (or cross-sold):

>> Room upgrades – this is a no-brainer. Hospitality training expert, Doug Kennedy, offers some great tips on upselling rooms.

>> Packages – value-added packages offer high perceived value to your guests.

>> Food and beverages – think a dinner-for-two add-on, breakfast, cocktail hour, or simply having wait staff suggest meal accompaniments to guests dining onsite.

>> In-room extras – a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, DVD rentals or in-room massages, for example.

>> Activities – run by your property or by third parties.

>> Souvenirs – they sell themselves really!

Upselling Done Right…

Focus on Enhancing Your Guest’s Stay
In the list of the benefits of upselling, above, notice how we put “increased customer satisfaction and loyalty” at the top, above “higher profitability”? That’s because strengthening your relationship with the customer is the primary goal; if you achieve that, increased revenue will follow, naturally.

How do you use upselling to strengthen a customer’s loyalty? First and foremost, you need to understand your guests.

Use guest profile data to get to know your customer — and simply listen to them — so that you can be intuitive to your guests’ needs and make educated suggestions. For example, if a couple checking in is celebrating their anniversary, front desk staff could ask if they would like to upgrade their room or if they’d like a bottle of Champagne sent to their room. If you take the time to get to know your guests and keep detailed guest profiles, you can be much more effective at personalizing and enhancing the guest experience by meeting customers’ specific needs at the right time.

Don’t Be Pushy
As customers we all like to buy (especially while on vacation), but we generally don’t like being sold to. Coach your staff to approach upselling as a way to enhance the guest experience and they will naturally veer away from the hard sell and demonstrate a genuine desire to satisfy the guest, which usually goes over well.

Position Relevant Offers Throughout the Guest Cycle
Since the purpose of upselling is to augment the guest’s experience then it has a place throughout the guest cycle, as long as the value is apparent.

  1. During Booking: Front desk staff should gauge the needs of callers and walk-ins and offer relevant room suggestions, services and special offers. And ensure your rooms are portrayed well on your website, highlighting the advantages of each one; clear descriptions of room amenities and quality images can help rooms upsell themselves. A booking engine that allows hotel staff and online bookers to select added extras during the booking process makes upselling easy, seamless and successful.
  2. Pre-arrival: Confirmation emails and other pre-stay emails can politely inform customers of relevant services, special offers or room upgrades to enhance their upcoming stay.
  3. During Check-in: Check-in is perhaps the most opportune time to upsell. Weary travelers often welcome the option to upgrade their room or book a massage.
  4. During the Stay: When guests are immersed in their stay experience, they are typically more open to opportunities to enhance it. During a guest’s stay, you can promote relevant services to them through interactions with hotel staff, email (your emails are mobile-friendly, right?), in-room guest information books, and mobile apps.
  5. During Check-out and Post-stay: Yup, you can even upsell to guests when they are checking out and after they have left the premises! Upon check-out, invite the guest to join your loyalty program, or offer them a discount or free breakfast for their next stay. After they have checked out, post-stay emails thanking them for visiting can also promote return offers. Enticing customers to return with special offers helps strengthen the guest relationship, and the opportunity to upsell to them in the future.

Use the Right Technology
Through access to rich guest data and the ability to automate the upsell process, your Property Management System (PMS) and booking engine can make effective upselling a breeze.

For example, online booking engines that display slideshows of each room provide great potential for upselling directly within the booking process. WebRezPro PMS also offers a Booking Options feature, which allows properties to set up additional options, from in-room extras to activities, that are included in the booking form and allows users —online bookers and reservation clerks — to  easily and quickly select add-ons as they complete the room booking.

Auxiliary services purchased by your customers are tracked by your PMS or CRM (customer relationship management) software and recorded, along with other data like demographic information and stay history, to build rich guest profiles that are key to powering an effective, ongoing upselling program. With access to detailed guest data, hoteliers can target upsell offers to the right guest at the right time for higher conversion.

Done right — i.e. as a genuine attempt to enhance the guest experience — upselling is good for your guests and good for your property! To learn more about WebRezPro’s Booking Options feature for streamlined upselling, drop us a line.