Here at GuestJoy, we love facts and evidence-based studies on what is happening in the hospitality industry. That’s why we try to provide our partners with articles that are backed by numbers.
This time around, we’ve combined our data together with that of The Hotels Network (THN) to see how our tools work for hotels when they are coupled.
THN’s direct channel growth platform helps hotels to attract, engage and convert guests throughout the user journey, while GuestJoy’s welcome emails and concierge platform inform the guests about the services of the hotel. Therefore, even if they do not order online they are familiar with the offers so they can easily enquire about it personally at the hotel.
Our hypothesis was that customers who book directly are more engaged with hotel messages, compared to those who book via OTAs. Essentially, that direct bookers are more likely to spend money at the hotel than OTA bookers.
This case study was performed with the cooperation of the North Star Hotel, Dublin. We examined a years’ data – the activity of direct bookers online – including peak and low seasons.
Why should you pay attention to your direct channel?
In today’s digital world, the majority of hotel bookings are being made online. With so many options out there for guests to choose from, competing for customers online is harder than ever.
Undeniably, a large number of those bookings are driven by the major OTAs, where a hotel is just a listing among many others; often completely watering down the distinct personality and diversity each hotel possesses.
To overcome this obstacle, hotel brands need to build a strong direct channel. This channel is one of the most important platforms for hotels, as it not only helps to lower acquisition costs and increase ROI, but is also the place where you have free rein to personalise the user experience, convey relevant messages, display your brand personality, and establish meaningful relationships with guests.
THN tools in action
Travellers booking online have their own interests, wants, and needs. Exposed to constant noise in the online world, users can easily skip messages they deem irrelevant. With this in mind, North Star Hotel has been partnering with THN since 2018; not only to refine their direct booking experience but also to ensure they deliver the right message to the right people at the right time.
During the past year, North Star Hotel has been proactively working to build a strong direct channel in order to regain the direct relationship with guests. Let’s have a look at some of the most effective initiatives they have implemented:
Price Comparison with Price Match feature on the Booking Engine
The first step to increasing website conversion and guest engagement is to reassure visitors and provide them with a smooth booking experience. By including Price Match on the booking engine, North Star Hotel was not only able to create price transparency by showing they were offering the best available rate compared to OTAs, but also gave users an extra incentive to book by automatically matching rates in the case of price disparities.
Another tool employed is the Save your search feature. With this function, those users interested in the property would be able to easily save their booking search and receive a personalised email with the details and a link to return to the website and continue their booking when they were ready to do so.
Smart Notes – Targeted Messaging
Personalisation is all about showing hyper-relevant content at critical moments to create an engaging user experience. With this in mind, North Star Hotel launched a series of Smart Notes for different types of visitors at various touch-points along the booking journey.
Using geo-targeting rules, domestic travellers were presented with a Smart Note highlighting their complimentary parking. In parallel, those searching from their phones would be shown a mobile exclusive offer, providing an extra incentive to book right there and then.
Another clever message was showcased on the restaurant page. Triggered after spending 60 seconds on the page, visitors were urged to make a table reservation with an enticing message displayed as a Smart Note.
Exit Intent on the Booking Engine
Some visitors may not be convinced that the hotel is the right fit for their stay and opt to abandon their booking, but this may be simply because they didn’t realise everything the hotel has to offer.
Aiming to retain bookers about to leave their site, North Star Hotel displayed an Exit Intent on their booking engine. This Exit Intent showcased the exclusive benefits of booking directly to users who were about to abandon the website, grabbing the attention of visitors and keeping them in the booking funnel.
Welcome Layer – Black Friday Offer
At certain times of the year, such as Black Friday, guests expect to find great hotel deals and are actively searching for them. Aware of this fact, North Star Hotel created an exclusive Black Friday campaign: 30% off room rates.
Drawing attention to the offer right from the moment the visitor landed on the website with a Welcome Layer, the property was able to offer guests what they were looking for. By adding a countdown clock to the message, they successfully created a sense of urgency to help nudge users towards making a booking.
Working with over 5,000 hotel clients worldwide, THN keeps a close eye on how different visitors react to different messages and tools. After running A/B tests over most of their properties, they have seen an average conversion uplift of 32% when comparing engaged vs unengaged online visitors.
Combining THN and GuestJoy findings, we can say that while the North Star had significantly more OTA guests, those who booked directly were more engaged overall. They opened the GuestJoy concierge page more frequently, spent more money, and submitted more feedback.
Upsell email engagement
Almost twice as many direct bookers opened the GuestJoy mobile concierge page than OTA bookers, and additionally, they spent more time browsing the offers. About 28% of all OTA bookers opened the concierge while the percentage for direct bookers was nearly 67%. We know that both types of guests usually open the page more than once, but direct tend to be more active.
Direct bookers were 1.5x more likely to spend more on their stay by ordering something from the GuestJoy concierge. As they spent more time online browsing the hotel’s platform, they were more familiar with what the hotel had to offer, therefore were more inclined to buy those extras.
“1.5x more likely to order”
While we didn’t see a significant difference in the scores given between direct and OTA guests, we did see a large difference in the number of online ratings submitted.
Direct bookers were more than twice as likely to rate the hotel online via GuestJoy. However, it is important to keep in mind that OTA bookers might not rate the hotel via GuestJoy because they may have already submitted their rating via an OTA survey.
But interestingly enough rating averages were consistent between two groups:
All in all, we see that guests who book directly do a lot more for a hotel than OTA guests, and of course, direct bookings also means no commission fees to third parties. With the help of GuestJoy, the North Star managed to gather more than a thousand reviews over the course of the year, including detailed written feedback from customers.
Upselling is a must if you would like to provide your guests with that little bit extra that will make them prefer your hotel to Airbnb and other short-stay apartments. It also generates extra revenue, so when you do it well, it’s a win-win.
There are countless articles on the art of upselling, but what does actual data show us? GuestJoy reviewed a year’s worth of upsell data from 25 countries across the globe from nearly 1000 hotels, to see where the most demand was from guests.
The results show us what guests buy; when they buy it; and in what quantities, to present you with an accurate picture of what actually sells in hotels throughout the year.
2019 All hotels, all regions
Wellness offers, such as spa treatments, massages, and so on were generally the most popular with guests, accounting to 20.4% of all services sold.
However, not all hotels have wellness options to offer, so we can safely say the best selling item is room upgrades, making up 20.2% of all items sold. Taxi services made up 18% and restaurant 16% of all purchases.
What makes the most money? Wellness made up almost a third of all revenue earned in 2019. Room upgrades came in second, generating 23.8%, and Restaurants were a close third with 17.5%. Taxi would make a bit less than a fifth of all ancillary revenue, however, it is a tricky statistic to measure, given that the bulk of that revenue often goes to a third party, and a small amount goes to the hotel.
The easiest way to upsell is to provide room upgrades. The rooms are present, no need additional arrangements, while they also have the highest margin.
In terms of seasonality, there is a clear difference in the purchasing pattern of guests for each season of the year. During summer, room upgrades sell 4% more, and restaurant offers do 6% better than throughout the rest of the year. Taxi and room service is also a bit more popular, while wellness offers are not as frequently ordered.
What doesn’t sell?
Flowers, children’s activities, and car & bike rental coupled together accounted only for 1.2% of all things sold. In fact, the data for flowers and rentals was omitted from the above graph because the share was so low that it would show as 0 at that scale.
Why do flowers not work anymore? Well, it is a grand gesture, but just as minibars, flowers are thing of the past. The guest can’t always take them with them when they leave, and in the end its just a bunch of plants dying right in front of them (and it’s bad for the planet!).
Guests want experiences, not just products. Experiences are what can make their journey that much better.
Small Hotels, Apartments and Boutique Hotels (max 59 Rooms)
There are some differences regarding the guests of small hotels. We can see that the guests of small hotels are looking for more comfort (not having to walk/use public transport when on holidays), and getting a bigger and better room. Beyond that, they order anything consumable – food and beverage offers.
Guests of smaller hotels like to purchase taxi services the most, with that category making up almost half of all purchases (45%). The second-most purchased offer were room upgrades, however, it’s only 14% of all things sold. Third prize went to restaurant offers, but beverage followed it very closely.
While we can see that taxi offers sell the most, generally speaking, they are a very low-profit offer. So, as a GM from a small hotel, apartment or boutique hotel, we suggest you focus on room upgrades and food & beverage offers – on these you will easily earn more.
Regarding seasonality, taxi offers peak during spring, and drop off somewhat later in summer to early autumn. Other than that, there were no significant changes in seasonal purchase behaviour.
Medium-sized hotels (60-100 rooms)
There are not many noteworthy differences in the purchasing behaviour of middle-sized hotel’s guests compared to the average consumption of all hotel-goers. However, it is important to point out that taxi services are not as significant as for smaller hotels. It is only the fourth-most popular item after room upgrades, restaurant, and wellness offers, which make up the majority of orders in these hotels.
What doesn’t sell? Car & bike rental and children’s services did not perform well throughout the year with, with only 50 orders for either flowers and children’s services, and a solitary car or bike rental.
As for seasonality, during the summer room upgrades sold a lot better, and restaurant sales were slightly up on the yearly average. Wellness sold significantly less than during winter.
Autumn made guests hungry; restaurant offers were the most popular, making up more than a quarter of all offers sold. Wellness offers sold best during winter, accounting to a third of all services purchased.
In spring, people go for wellness and beverage. Conversely, restaurant dropped sharply, and room upgrade saw a slight decrease.
Large hotels (100+ rooms)
For the customers of large hotels, room upgrades and wellness offers were the most appealing, accounting for almost half of all purchases in 2019. Taxi services were a lot less popular than in smaller properties. Restaurant offers accounted for less than a fifth of all sales, making them a bit less popular than in small and medium-sized hotels.
Seasonality in large hotels also affected what guests bought and ordered. During winter (December – February), guests preferred wellness offers, which made up more than a third of all services sold. Taxi offers accounted for 20%, and room upgrades followed with just a bit less.
During spring, wellness was still very popular, while restaurant and room upgrade offers were purchased more than average. In June, July and August guests were keen on room upgrades, which made a third of all purchases. Wellness offers were still popular, while taxi offers didn’t fare so well during summer.
Autumn is the time for eating! Restaurant offers were the most popular, followed by room upgrades and wellness. Taxi and beverage performed well also, it seemed people liked to stay comfortable during autumn, pampering themselves with various indulgences.
In other words, the taxi services were very popular among the guests of large hotels from September to February, whereas it hardly sold during summer. We can take from this that guests heavily favoured avoiding the elements during the colder months! Wellness sells best during winter, while room upgrades sold best throughout summer. Restaurant offers performed best during autumn, and least during winter.
In winter, wellness offers made up more than a third of all services sold, while during summer it was room upgrades, with a share of 28%.
Beverage offers consistently made up 9% of all sales throughout the year. Room service is at a low with 5% of all sales, however, during summer it is slightly more popular with 7%.
While large hotels did sell slightly more of children’s offers, car & bike rentals, and flowers, these offers are still the lowest-performing ones, thus they are omitted from the graph above. The reason behind why they sold a bit better is because larger hotels have the capacity to host fun children’s events, or even dedicated activities or daycare.
Looking at different regions
Central Europe – Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary
Throughout the year taxi was the most sold item generally, and for each month too. They made up half of all sales each month, and during spring that rose to 60% of all sales. The second-most sold item was beverages, which is not surprising, given the wide popularity of Czech beers, Hungarian wines and beers and Polish spirits!
Beverage, as a category, is also used as room service. Hotels often categorise an offer in our platform as a beverage service when it includes, for example, a small cake or chocolate-covered strawberries. Central Europe is a place for romantic travellers and couples, which goes some way in explaining the popularity of those offers. The third-most purchased item was room upgrade; maintaining the status quo across the 25 countries in which GuestJoy is active.
Regarding seasonality, the hotels in this region sold taxi offers the most in spring and autumn, and the least in the winter. Restaurant and beverage offers sold the best during winter. Beverage sold the least during summer (perhaps people are drinking outside and not in their hotel room) and restaurant sold the least in the spring.
In the region of Central Europe, beverage, room upgrade, and wellness offers will earn you the most revenue
Room upgrades sold the most in summer and the least in spring, with a difference of 8% more being sold during the summer season. Wellness services made up about 10% of the revenue for each season except spring.
Ireland & UK
Restaurant offers performed the best in the region during 2019, making up more than a third of all sales. Room upgrades were a close second, accounting for exactly a third of all services sold. Beverage came in as the third best-seller. But having said that, at a share of only 8%, you can see just how significant restaurant offers and room upgrades were in this market!
Just like in any other region, room upgrades sold best during summer, accounting for 40% of all sales, while restaurant made up 33%. Generally, throughout the year both restaurant and room upgrades fluctuate between 27-40% of all things sold, and together made up about 60% of purchases. The remainder accounted for less than 10% on average.
During autumn, people headed to the restaurants, with 38% of sales registered there. Room upgrades were a decent 33%, while wellness became somewhat significant with 10%, and room service being the last significant category with 7.7%.
Room upgrades made up 40% of all services purchased during the summer season, while restaurant offers made up almost 40% during both spring and autumn.
While room upgrades and restaurant offers account for a total of 59% of sales, the most interesting point was that winter warmer drinks were popular during the coldest 3 months, accounting for 17% of all things sold!
During spring, the performance of restaurant offers was at its highest, accounting for almost 40% of all services ordered. Room upgrades were at 29%, and surprisingly, front desk services (that is late checkout, early check-in, etc) climbed up to 10% of all things sold.
Iceland is a very special travel destination. People don’t go there for the same reasons they would visit a Tuscan village or a spa hotel in Vilnius. Iceland is a place for the adventurers.
However, interestingly enough people do purchase food options and beverages in Iceland quite often, with restaurant offers making up 56% of all upsell revenue. As one of our good Icelandic friends Birkir explained, Icelandic food is very special and interesting; and it’s one of the best things to do if it’s a bit too cold! Moreover, with the current craft beer hype, local craft beers are a must-sell for a hotel.
Front desk services sell particularly well in Iceland compared to other regions. One of the reasons for this is that it seems flights to and from Reykjavik seem to have odd arrival and departure times. Consequently, guests order things like early check-in and late check-out in higher numbers.
Room upgrades are the second-most favoured option to purchase; after all, at the end of a long day of adventures, guests like coming back to a big and comfy room.
Seasonality in Iceland is definitely different than in the rest of Europe. What we can see from our data is that taxi offers to perform the best during early summer, and throughout winter. Restaurant offers perform best in summer and autumn. Beverages are popular during summer.
Children’s offers are pretty much absent in the case of Iceland, given the fact that people don’t tend to take younger kids there; and while some hotels still try to sell them, flowers were hardly relevant to guests, with only 2 sales thought the course of the year.
We couldn’t write this report without an acknowledgement of our home base!
Estonia is actually the first country where we would not necessarily advise hotels to have a taxi service at all. This can be attributed to a few different factors; for example, Tallinn Airport is so close to the city, being easily accessible by both bus and tram. Also, Tallinn Harbour, where a lot of Scandinavian tourists arrive in the capital is located near the city centre.
Wellness performs best both throughout the year and individually for each month. That’s due to many of our Estonian customers being spa hotels, in line with Estonian sauna culture.
The second-most popular offer is room upgrade, making up about 19% of all orders. There are, however, some fluctuations in the sales of room upgrades; during summer rising to 24%, while autumn that figure falls to 16% of all orders.
Beverage was the third-most sold offer in Estonia, making up more than 20% of all during autumn. Restaurant options made up 8% of all things sold during summer and winter, while accounting for 10% of all things sold during autumn and spring.
Our advice and key takeaways
While taxi services are very popular in many markets, they do not earn a lot of revenue for a hotel. Despite this, they are still a worthwhile thing to offer to provide your guests with convenience and a smooth, stress-free start to their stay with you.
But if you want to maximize your hotel’s earnings, then it’s best is to have wellness (where possible), room upgrades, and restaurant offers (where applicable); these three categories tend to make the most money.
Selling experiences is always a great choice; package multiple services and/or products together, such as a room upgrade with food/drinks, or a late check out.
Some ideas for that are found via these links: here, here, and here
During 2019, offers for late check-out and early check-in became far more popular; to the point that we recommend that every hotel should have at least one of them; they are margin-heavy, yet simple things to sell.
- Generally speaking, the most purchased offers types were room upgrade, restaurant, taxi, and wellness. Think about whether you could include these in your upselling, and how would it fit your hotel’s marketing.
- Taxi options work best for small hotels (though the margins are small, they do make for a positive guest experience).
- There are services/products that generally do not sell anymore; these include flowers, car & bike rental, and children’s offers. Unless your hotel is specialised in families, you could possibly omit all these from your upselling.
- Seasonality is key; try to align your offers/services and marketing with that.
- Guests eat the most during autumn (just like hibernating animals?!).
- All this data is of course based on our averages from 25 countries of nearly 1000 hotels. What could be generally concluded might not work for your particular accommodation.
Seasonality is key; different services sell at different times of the year. Try to align your marketing and sales with that.
Obviously, this data can be unrepresentative of your sales, or irrelevant to your particular hotel and guests. These are principles we see in the data we have from nearly 1000 customers in 25 countries.
While we see that flowers do not usually sell, there is a hotel in the Czech Republic, for example, that sold 6 bouquets of roses on their first month – making some guests very happy!
As a hotelier, you know your guests best, so of course, take what you need from this report and put your personal experiences and creativity into making offers that you could surprise them with.
Here are some of our upselling ideas, in case you need a bit more inspiration:
For small hotels
Upselling mistakes not to make
About upsell in general
7 Upselling tips