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Mastering the Art of Upselling: Setting Up a Successful Program

05 October 2023
The world of hospitality is complex, and every guest's experience comprises a multitude of interactions, services, and amenities. Among all of these, there is a strategy that can make a significant impact: upselling. Essentially, upselling offers guests opportunities to upgrade their stay through a better room, a unique dining experience, or a spa package.
Upselling is often misunderstood as a revenue tool. However, it's more than just a way for hotels to earn more money. When done well, upselling can be a way to provide additional value to guests, enhancing their overall satisfaction. In this post, I will explore this strategy, looking at how it can benefit hotels and guests.

Understanding the Value of Upselling

For the Hotel

  • Revenue Augmentation: At the forefront, upselling directly translates to an uptick in the average spend per guest. With each successful upsell, a room that might have stayed vacant or a spa slot that might have gone unused now contributes to the hotel's financial health.
  • Optimized Resource Utilization: Every hotel has its array of premium offerings that might not be utilized to their fullest potential. Upselling serves as a mechanism to ensure these services – from suites with the best views to exclusive dining experiences – aren't left on the proverbial shelf gathering dust.
  • Improved Guest Services: When the hotel actively understands guest preferences for upsells, it often leads to better overall service. The team becomes more adept at reading guest needs and anticipating desires, ensuring every guest feels valued and understood.

For the Guest

  • Elevated Experiences: With upselling, a vacation or business trip is no longer just a stay; it's an elevated experience. Whether enjoying a suite with an unparalleled vista, a spa package that rejuvenates, or a private dining experience under the stars, upselling can transform ordinary stays into memorable adventures.
  • Tailored Services: Personalization is the mantra of modern hospitality. When a hotel curates upsell offers based on a guest's preferences or past interactions, it sends a message: "We know what you love, and we're here to deliver."
  • Perceived Value: A well-executed upsell often feels too good to pass up. The perception isn't just about the price but the value. A guest might be more than willing to pay a premium for an upgrade if they perceive the added benefits, like exclusive amenities or services, to significantly enhance their stay.
In essence, upselling is not a one-dimensional revenue strategy; it's a multifaceted approach that adds layers of value to the guest-hotel relationship, enriching both in the process.

When is the Right Time to Upsell?

Every interaction with a guest presents an opportunity. Yet, understanding the rhythm and flow of their journey is crucial in determining the ideal time to present an upsell.
Booking Phase: As guests book their stay, offering room upgrades or package deals is a prime moment. They're already in the decision-making mindset, and a slight nudge towards a better room view or an all-inclusive package can often sway choices.
Pre-Arrival Communications: As the anticipation for the trip builds, guests are receptive to offers that promise to enhance their upcoming stay. Think of sending tailored offers via email or text, introducing them to spa packages or exclusive dining experiences they might enjoy during their visit.
Check-In: The face-to-face interaction at the reception is a golden opportunity. The guest is excited, and offering them an upgrade or an exclusive amenity can start their stay on an even higher note. But it's crucial to gauge their mood. A guest in a hurry or showing signs of fatigue might not be the best approach with an upsell.
During the Stay: With the help of technology, like a hotel's app, guests can receive personalized offers in real-time. Maybe they've just returned from a tiring day of sightseeing? A proposal for a relaxing massage might be hard to resist.
Check-Out: While it might seem counterintuitive, check-out is an opportunity for future upsells. Offering deals for their next stay or introducing them to loyalty programs can seed future upgrades and add-ons.
Yet, amidst all these opportunities, there's a delicate dance to master. It balances between seizing the moment and respecting the guest's space. While the right offer at the right time can elevate a guest's experience, pushing too hard or too often can have the opposite effect. The key is always prioritizing the guest's comfort and needs, ensuring that every upsell feels like a genuine attempt to enhance their experience rather than a pushy sales tactic. In the world of upselling, timing isn't just everything; it's the only thing.

Avoiding Pitfalls: What Annoys Guests?

Hotels and guests can benefit from upselling, but it can quickly become annoying if not done correctly. Here are some potential pitfalls to avoid.

Potential Pitfalls

  • Overzealousness: Being too aggressive is one of the quickest ways to turn a guest off. It's vital to understand that every guest is different; while some may appreciate multiple offers, others could see it as an intrusion.
  • Irrelevant Offers: Offering a honeymoon package to a business traveler? Or a kids’ special to a solo adventurer? Irrelevant upsells don’t just miss the mark; they can be downright annoying.
  • Hidden Costs: Nothing can sour a guest's experience faster than discovering hidden costs attached to an upsell they've accepted. Always ensure full transparency.
  • Repetitiveness: If a guest has already declined an offer, repeatedly pushing the same deal can come off as pushy and inattentive.

Tips to Tread Carefully

  • Train Staff: Equip your staff with the skills to read guest cues. They should be able to gauge when a guest might be receptive and when it's best to step back.
  • Use Technology Wisely: Modern CRMs can track guest preferences and past interactions. Use this data to tailor offers, ensuring they're relevant and timely.
  • Be Transparent: Provide precise details about the upsell, benefits, and associated costs.
  • Personalize with Purpose: Remember, the ultimate aim is to enhance the guest's experience. Always ask, "How does this offer benefit the guest specifically?" rather than just considering the potential revenue.
  • Seek Feedback: Encourage guests to share their thoughts about the upselling process. Their insights can help refine the approach, making it more guest-centric.
When upselling, it's essential to prioritize the guest's needs and experience. Rather than simply trying to sell more, upselling should be approached as a personalized service that enhances the guest's overall experience. Done correctly, upselling can create a sense of loyalty and trust between the guest and the hotel.

Information is Key: What Do You Need to Know About Your Guest?

In the hospitality industry, guests have unique desires, needs, and expectations. Successful upselling requires understanding their individuality.

Why Guest Information Matters

  • Tailored Offers: The deeper the understanding of a guest's preferences, the better the upsell offers can be curated. Knowing a guest's dietary preferences can lead to a personalized dining experience; understanding their relaxation choices can lead to a customized spa package.
  • Anticipation of Needs: Previous stays can provide invaluable data. Did they use the business center frequently? Next time, they may appreciate an upsell to an executive suite with a workstation.
  • Building Trust: When a guest sees that you've remembered their preferences, it fosters a sense of loyalty and trust. It signals that they're not just another reservation but a valued individual.

Walking the Tightrope: Personalization vs. Privacy

While understanding guest preferences is critical, there's a fine line between thoughtful personalization and invasive prying.
  • Seek Permission: If you're using a system that tracks guest preferences, always ensure they're informed and have the option to opt out.
  • Limit Data Collection: Only gather data to enhance the guest's experience. Knowing their wine preference? Useful. Tracking their movements throughout the hotel? Not so much.
  • Store Data Securely: In an age of data breaches, ensure that any information collected is stored securely, with stringent measures to protect guest privacy.
  • Use Discretion: Just because you have certain information doesn't mean it should always be used. The aim should always be to enhance the guest experience, not overwhelm or creep them out.
Providing personalized experiences is essential, but it's crucial to remember that guest comfort and trust should always come first. Personalization should feel like a subtle suggestion for a better experience rather than an intrusive act of familiarity. By balancing personalization and privacy, hotels can ensure that upselling becomes a seamless part of the guest experience.

Incentivizing Your Team

A successful upselling program requires team members who understand hospitality and guest needs. Incentivizing their efforts can elevate the program, but balance is critical.

Pros of Rewarding Team Members

  • Motivation: Monetary rewards or other incentives can serve as powerful motivators, encouraging staff to put in extra effort in identifying and offering upselling opportunities.
  • Acknowledgment: Rewards serve as acknowledgment, letting team members know their efforts and contributions to the hotel's revenue and guest experience are valued.
  • Healthy Competition: A reward system can foster a healthy competitive spirit among the team, driving them to improve and excel.

Cons of Rewarding Team Members

  • Over-Pushiness: The lure of rewards might push some team members to become overly aggressive in their upselling approach, potentially compromising guest comfort.
  • Inter-Team Conflict: If not managed correctly, the competitive spirit might turn toxic, leading to team members or department conflicts.
  • Quality Compromise: In the race to upsell, the core value of enhancing guest experience might take a backseat to the more immediate lure of the reward.

Best Practices

  • Balanced Metrics: Rather than focusing solely on the number of upsells, include metrics that gauge guest satisfaction. This ensures upselling doesn't come at the expense of guest experience.
  • Regular Training: Continuously train staff on the nuances of upselling, emphasizing the importance of guest comfort and the art of reading cues.
  • Clear Guidelines: Establish guidelines on how upselling should be approached, ensuring that every team member understands the do's and don'ts.
  • Diverse Incentives: Monetary rewards are just one way to incentivize. Consider other rewards like an extra day off, a special mention in the team newsletter, or further training and development opportunities.
Incentives can be a powerful motivator for upselling. Still, it is crucial to ensure they are consistent with the hotel's core values and the ultimate goal of improving guest experience. When staff motivation and guest comfort come together seamlessly, upselling becomes an effective tool for achieving success.

Crafting the Perfect Upsell Offer

Crafting the perfect upsell is an art. It's about marrying the hotel's strengths with the guest's desires, creating a proposition that feels less like a sales pitch and more like an irresistible invitation. Here are some pivotal strategies to sculpt that perfect offer:
Understand the Guest's Journey: Before crafting an offer, consider where the guest is in their journey. Is it pre-arrival, during their stay, or post-departure? Aligning the offer with the right timing can make all the difference.
Bundling is Key: Bundling multiple services or amenities together can create a perception of higher value. For instance, bundling, a room upgrade, spa session, or complimentary breakfast can be more enticing than each element.
Seasonal Offers: Align upsells with the season or local events. A poolside cabana deal or a beachfront room upgrade can be enticing during summer. If there's a local festival or event, offer packages that enhance the experience.
Leverage Technology: Use guest management systems and AI-powered tools to analyze guest preferences and behavior. Such insights can be invaluable in crafting personalized upsell offers. For instance, if a guest often orders a particular cuisine, a discount at the hotel's specialty restaurant could be a hit.
Transparency is Paramount: Every upsell offer should be crystal clear in terms of benefits and any associated costs. Hidden charges or vague terms can erode trust and sour the guest experience.
Limited-Time Offers: Introducing a sense of urgency, like limited-time offers, can prompt guests to make quicker decisions. However, it's essential to ensure that these offers genuinely provide value and aren't just perceived as pressure tactics.
Feedback Loop: After presenting an offer, whether accepted or declined, seek feedback. Understanding why a guest takes up or passes on an offer provides critical insights for refining future upselling strategies.
Highlight Exclusivity: Everyone likes to feel special. Craft offers that highlight exclusivity, such as a 'members-only' evening at the bar, a 'limited-seats' wine-tasting event, or early access to a newly launched service.
In the realm of upselling, the offer presented to guests is just as important as the timing and method of its presentation. Hotels can create irresistible propositions by crafting upsells focusing on guests' needs and values while utilizing technology to enhance the experience. This will result in mutual satisfaction and increased revenue for the hotel.

Best Practices for Upselling in Hotels

As we explore hotel upselling, specific themes, and practices consistently emerge as essential for success. Let's summarize and re-emphasize these:
Consistent Training: Upselling isn't about hard selling; it's about enhancing the guest's experience. Regular training sessions can help the staff understand this subtle difference. Equip them with the skills to read guest cues, approach tactfully, and ensure every upsell feels like a natural extension of the guest's needs.
Feedback is Gold: The hospitality industry thrives on feedback. Establish a robust feedback loop where guests can share their thoughts on the upselling offers, their presentation, and the overall experience. This not only helps in refining strategies but also signals to guests that their opinion is valued.
Harness the Power of Technology: Utilizing a hotel PMS effectively and modern CRM and AI tools can make a significant difference in the hospitality industry. These technologies offer valuable insights into guest behavior, preferences, and past interactions, which can be used to personalize and target services. Please remember that the more customized an offer feels, the more likely it will be accepted.
Foster Loyalty: Building a solid relationship with your guests is essential for upselling. Consider it an ongoing process instead of treating it as a one-time interaction. Loyal guests are more likely to be interested in your upsell offers and tend to be more forgiving if a particular offer misses the mark. You can cement this bond with your guests by offering loyalty programs, exclusive deals for returning guests, or by showing simple gestures like acknowledging anniversaries.
Strive for Genuine Enhancements: Every upsell should enhance the guest's experience. It's not about pushing inventory but about elevating the stay. This mindset shift can be the difference between a guest feeling "sold to" versus feeling "cared for."
Balance Personalization with Privacy: Always respect the guest's privacy while leveraging technology and data for personalization. Being transparent about data usage and giving guests a choice to opt-out creates trust.
Stay Relevant and Dynamic: The world and guest preferences are ever-evolving. Ensure your upselling strategies and offers evolve. Seasonal packages, recommendations aligned with local events, or global trends can keep your upselling game fresh and relevant.
In conclusion, when hotels approach upselling with care, strategy, and genuine intent, it can be a win-win for both the hotel and the guest. By prioritizing guest experience above all else, focusing on training, embracing feedback, and leveraging technology, hotels can transform upselling from a revenue tool to an integral part of the guest experience.

Steps to Set Up Your Upselling Program

Establishing a robust upselling program requires a structured approach. The following steps can serve as a roadmap to ensure a seamless and effective process.
  • Inventory Evaluation: Begin by taking stock of your current offerings. This includes rooms, amenities, services, and any special hotel experiences.
  • Identify Opportunities: Determine where the gaps and potential upsell opportunities lie. This could range from room upgrades to spa packages or exclusive dining experiences.


  • Upselling Workshops: Organize workshops to familiarize your team with the concept of upselling. It's essential to emphasize enhancing the guest experience, not just increasing revenue.
  • Role Play & Scenarios: Role-playing exercises simulate guest interactions, allowing staff to practice their upselling techniques and receive constructive feedback.


  • CRM & PMS Integration: Utilize CRM and PMS systems to segment guests, understand preferences, and automate upselling.
  • Personalized Offers: Harness technology to craft offers tailored to individual guests based on their history, preferences, and current booking details.

Trial and Feedback

  • Pilot Program: Before a full-scale launch, initiate a pilot program targeting a small segment of your guests. This allows you to test the waters, understand the response rate, and identify unforeseen challenges.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Create a straightforward process for guests to share their feedback on the upsell offers, their presentation, and any other relevant aspect.


  • Team Alignment: Before the official launch, ensure that every team member, from the front desk to housekeeping, is aligned with the upselling program's goals and procedures.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Once the program is live, monitor its performance—track metrics like acceptance rate, revenue increase, and guest satisfaction scores.
  • Iterative Refinement: Based on real-time data and feedback, refine the offers, presentation techniques, and any other relevant component. Upselling is dynamic, and your program should be too.
Hotels can boost revenue and solidify their hospitality reputation by methodically upselling while prioritizing guest experience.


Upselling is an opportunity to make a guest's stay more memorable. It connects a hotel's potential with a guest's desires when done correctly. Hoteliers should approach it with genuine intent, creativity, and a deep understanding of guests' needs. By mastering the art of upselling, hoteliers can enhance the guest experience and improve their bottom line.
Upselling enables hotels to offer more, better understand their guests, and create deeper connections with them. Consider it as a means to enhance your guests' journey with memorable moments rather than just as a way to increase revenue. The benefits, in terms of both revenue and reputation, will undoubtedly follow.