The Worst Hotel

The idea of the Worst Hotel ever struck us when we were brainstorming about how to better show our customers how they get the most out of their upselling and guest communication. So we invented The Worst Hotel, to illustrate how can these be done the worst, with all the possible mistakes, so you can learn from other hotel’s mistakes.

The Worst is a three-star hotel, but they surely don’t deserve any of that. When you booked, you did not receive any information. On the website there is something about a restaurant and in-room massages, which you’d love to buy, but no information about how to purchase it.

There are cockroaches in the room, hair in the sink and the glass in your bathroom has lipstick stains.

If you’d like to have breakfast, it costs extra, but there are no vegan options (OMG) and the coffee tastes like at a gas station. But when you go down to the reception to complain about all this, you find it empty. After ringing the bell, a rude and grumpy staff member will show up, claiming nothing that you have experienced is The Worst’s fault.

So what could this hotel do better? Besides the obvious things, like hiring a cleaning lady, and a competent receptionist they could also start upselling and communicating with the guest properly. Let’s start with the first form of guest communication, the pre-stay email. The Worst hotel decided to do the following:

what NOT to do when communicating with hotel guests

The first thing you probably notice is that it’s a big block of text in tiny letters. It’s 2020, people do not read anymore. Especially not these emails. The Worst Hotel should only include the most important information in the email trying to keep it as short as possible.

What else is bad?

1.) Too much contact information, the guests can anyways reach you because they probably received a booking confirmation, or by answering to this email, or you could have a cool footer where you include your reception phone number and an email address.

2.) Your guests are most definitely already knowledgeable about this because when they decided to book your hotel these weighed in their options.

3.) This is a perfect example upselling done wrong. Instead of having a separate ”site’ where you explain your services in detail with the exact price and some pictures, The Worst just decided to drop this bit of info. Probably nobody will be enticed to buy the massages if they are marketed like this.

Keep it short, your guests only want to recieve a warm welcome with the necessary information and not War & Peace

4.) All the information here could easily be put on the website, only certain guests need to know this and they will ask. Secondly, maybe don’t patronize your guests and assume they don’t know how to behave.

5.) This is information the guest does not need to know pre-arrival and even if they are interested in, they can search for it very easily on their smartphone. This takes up a lot of space and makes the letter longer than necessary.

6.) Upselling! this all could be on the Worst’s upselling page as an offer. The information would look better in the booking confirmation mail.

7.) It’s obvious, everyone always has an ID on them, because we all legally obliged to.

Now, how about the Worst’s upselling?

You receive a letter that shows some offers like this:

Do these seem appealing to you?

Not too shabby, you think. There is a restaurant and a beverage room service. However, there is no link to the restaurant’s website, nor any explanation on what they serve. You just see a plain photo of the actual place, not the food that you will be getting. How disappointing…

Because you are travelling with your partner the champagne delivered to your room seems interesting, it would be such a nice surprise for them, but it’s so plain… could the hotel also add some bonbons? Or maybe a small cake?

Umm… they look the same for me, and probably for your guests too

It would be so nice to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel! How much will it be? Nobody knows and just to see an estimate would make you feel a lot better about ordering it.

Also, there are two taxi offers, which one to take? Oh, yeah, they are for different number of people. Why have two offers though when you can just have one, and set the price to increase by the number of people? Or select different type of cars?

Hotel guests are people, and people dont read anymore

A Sauna offer, wonderful! It’s a great option to relax, as the advertisers at the Worst have said it about 3-4 times in the above text. It also tells you a lot of extra information that you already know – therefore, it’s useless and takes up a lot of space. If you had the energy and time to actually read this offer you would learn such obvious pieces of information as there are chairs to relax at the sauna area, and that it is open during normal hours (who goes to the sauna at 4 a.m? maybe some crazy Estonians). But it’s 2020, and nobody really reads these long texts anymore.

Include information that makes the offer seem valuable and is needed for booking.

While the last offer does not actually require the guests to pay The Worst did not lose much due to the sloppy advertisement, however, with a spa option for payment, it could have been a dealbreaker for some.

What should The Worst do?

Some key takeaways for them would be to think about when is the information needed and when is it unnecessary. Overloading guests with text will just encourage them to skip reading it, and even missing the crucial bits.

What to do when information is needed?
Consider when is it appropriate to present it to your guests and in what format. Do they need to know it months/weeks before their arrival? Or is it enough to tell them a couple of days before? Then think about the format: should it be in an email (booking confirmation or pre-stay)? Or is it better if its simply on your website and those who are interested in it can look for it?

We live in a world where we are overloaded with information at such a fast pace that it is getting harder to process it all. Sticking to just the essentials is key here.

If you need tips on how to communicate with your guests better, read some of our articles:
Common mistakes with upselling
Ultimate and Revolutionary upselling tricks
How to communicate with Booking.com emails

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.

Share of total orders in hotels 2019
Note that Taxi often represents sales which actually have a low margin. These figures consider gross revenue as opposed to the net for your property.

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.

Sales rates in hotels for summer and winter season

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.

You can read more about selling experiences here, here, and here.

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.

Share of total orders in small hotels

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. 

Share of total orders in medium 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. 

Summer and winter sales in hotels

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. 

Total orders in large hotels. What did guests like the most?

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.

What sold in spring, summer, fall and winter season in hotels


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.

Central European hotel sales


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!

What sells in a hotel in the UK or Ireland

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

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.

Iceland sales

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.

Estonia

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.

Estonia

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.  

Key takeaways:

  • 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

Today’s post was written by Andrew Martin – GuestJoy’s Customer Experience Manager

  I have a confession to make. It isn’t easy to admit it in this sector but… I’m an Airbnb traveler.

Airbnb

The forbidden logo

  There. I said it. Please don’t judge me too quickly! I use Airbnb when I travel for leisure. For me, it’s about simplicity and convenience. I want to stay somewhere central, cheap, and basic. When I travel for leisure, all I want is a place to sleep at night, and I am out and about discovering during the day. I don’t want your upsell! During the holiday I had in Spain in April, I visited Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid. In all 3 cities, my wife and I sought somewhere to stay in the best location possible so that we wouldn’t lose any time making our way to the sites we wanted to visit. But this was not the only way that I travel. In my previous role, I had to do a lot of travel. The length of stays ranged from a night to a week, and when I was on those trips, my guest persona changed. Suddenly, I was happy to spend some of my own money on upsell offers, because I wasn’t paying a cent for the trip! The same goes when I was on my honeymoon, which was a 3 week trip around Japan. Was I trying to put a smile on my wife’s face with surprises and experiences on that trip? You bet I was! And the majority of what I spent was with the hotels we were staying at.

Know the personas at your hotel

There is probably a wide range of types of guests who stay at your property. Naturally, some types will stay with you more than others. When it comes to upselling, these are the guests you are most likely to target. Let’s choose a few common guest personas before we go any further: Couples on holiday: They feel as though they’ve earned themselves a break, and part of that includes staying at your hotel. It might even be their first trip away without the kids! Celebrators: These guests love the idea of staying in a hotel as part of birthdays, anniversaries, etc. They’re always looking for ways to make their stay more memorable. Wealthy retirees: They’ve worked hard, the nest is empty, and now enjoying themselves is their prerogative. The subconscious motto of “We’ve earned it!” drives them to spend more on a special experience while at your hotel. Knowing the guest personas at your hotel allows you to formulate offers that really appeal to their needs or desires. This should be any hotel’s priority when it comes to creating an upsell strategy. But determining what you intend to sell is only the first step. Today, hotels need to do more than just present guests with a product or service that they might be interested in.

Think about why many guests choose a hotel over an Airbnb

Remember before, when I was sheepishly confessing to you my preference for Airbnb when I travel? That’s all well and good for me. But for a hotelier, the advent of Airbnb and its competitors has taken a chunk out of hotel revenue. Your revenue. And they did it because they saw a segment of travelers who weren’t really interested in extra products or services. Here’s a quick hypothetical: How many Airbnb travelers have ever ordered a bottle of Prosecco? How many of them upgraded their room? Did any of them ever book a dinner in the Airbnb’s restaurant? We know, of course, that none of this has ever happened – because that isn’t why they stay at an Airbnb property. The same logic can be applied to a large proportion of your guests: Many of them choose to stay in a hotel because they want the hotel experience. They want to feel cared for; they want the chance to enhance their stay; they want to be able to rely on your services. This is where hotels need to cement the biggest advantage they have over Airbnb.

Don’t sell a product or service; sell an experience.

Upsell gets harder the moment you forget to target the experience. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to connect with your guests’ emotions in order to engage them and foster the urge to buy. As the old adage goes; “Don’t sell a stay – sell a memory!”. With that in mind, we’re going to look at how to package your offers in a way that appeals to guest’s heart.

Prosecco: The current queen of in-room drink orders

At the moment it’s hard to beat the popularity of these Italian bubbles (Bonus tip: The new king will be Cava – be ready!). But even this humble beverage can be helped by selling the experience rather than the bottle itself. Selling the product: The good: The guest knows exactly what they’ll get, I suppose? The bad: It’s about as interesting as reading up on income tax laws. The image is purely utilitarian. Selling the experience: The good: The description empathizes with the guest’s arduous journey and invites them to relax and enjoy their favorite sparkling white. The offer name is charming and the image used humanizes the experience; the guest is relieved to have that glass in her hand. The bad: …Your staff will be busier fulfilling all those orders for Prosecco? If that’s at all a bad thing?

Packaging offers to sell more

The concept of the “Extra Value Meal”, a set combination of menu items, was created by one McDonald’s restaurant manager in 1991. Sales at that McDonald’s increased dramatically, as customers didn’t need to stare at dozens of items on a menu board to figure out what they wanted. This same concept works for experiences in your hotel. It’s one thing to sell a room upgrade with extras; another thing entirely to sell a package as an experience. Let’s have a look now:

Upgrade the experience – not just the room

Let’s now look at our Celebrators. The fact they are already at our hotel to mark a special occasion is already enough to know that they will be interested in enhancing their stay. And, what better way to do that by upgrading not only their room, but their whole experience? Selling the products/services: The good: Not much, honestly. The bad: Guests won’t be excited or emotionally involved after reading such a description. Selling the experience: The good: The emotional connection will be made, because the description focuses on the experience and the benefits of the package, rather than just describing each part of it. The bad: We didn’t have a better image to display, but I’m sure you can picture the scene with the cake and Champagne being displayed in the higher category room.

The Wealthy Retirees

These couples are more than willing to spend more when they stay in hotels, but only if you sell the right experience. They want high-quality experiences, and your offer should be written accordingly. Let’s see what the difference is: Selling the products: The good: Honestly, there is basically nothing good about this offer. We’ll explain: The bad: Starting with the image. Guests don’t need to see a picture of your restaurant; they’ve probably seen one somewhere already. Instead, show your guests the food they will be served! Whet their appetite with a simple image. Next, the offer title. It’s alright, I suppose; but it could definitely be improved. Then, reading the description – what’s the big mistake here? No information about the actual dishes! And zero effort to sell it as an experience. Let’s see how it can be improved. Selling the experience: The good: We’ve got a lot to list here!

  • The image is bright and attractive, and actually shows one of the dishes
  • The offer title is in French. It seems so simple, but ask almost anybody which language they associate with fine dining, and French comes to mind more often than not.
  • The language used in the description appeals directly to the guests: curates a new dining experience; focuses on high-quality local produce; 3 sumptuous courses; your dining experience; excellent local wines. These are the key phrases that our target demographic will react to most when deciding if they want to book their table.
  • The dishes are actually listed! The guest knows what they will get!

The bad: What do you think?

How to convert some of your offers into experiences

Now, not every offer can be described as an experience. Just how sexy can we make an airport transfer look?! However, it’s always worth having as many offers as practically possible which sell the experience the guest wants to have. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a marketing genius to do it. Just follow these simple guidelines:

Simplify the language

  • Try not to go into too much detail about the offer or the components of each offer. Remember – enough is as good as a feast!
  • Focus on the benefits of the experience, rather than the offer, or components of the offer.

“Humanise” the offer

  • Use conversational language – don’t just write a dry list of things the guest will get.
  • Use the appropriate tone for your hotel and target guests. Be mindful of the tone of your words, whether you involve humor, or keep things high class, and so on. Decide how you’d like guests to perceive your hotel, and write using a tone that instills that perception in the mind of your guests.

Don’t be afraid to be creative

Remember, your guests are at your hotel because they want the hotel experience. How creative can you get with what you offer them? Test out new ideas and see what clicks with them, and what doesn’t.

We are the experts in selling experiences.

If you’ve had a mini-epiphany after reading this, but are not sure where to start – talk to us! We’re more than just a software company. We’re experts in helping hotels master upsell strategies like this and increase revenue. But more importantly, we’re great at helping you connect with your guests. So… What are you selling?