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Selling Ancillaries Rule 2. - Time it well!

Impressed by Joy's articles on, and with UP2's kind permission, we are re-posting here the 2nd rule of efficient and sensible upselling for hotels.

For those of you interested in reading the 1st rule, simply click here. The original article can be found here.


By Joy Killmar, Senior product manager at Upgrade Two Limited (UP2).

In this series of UP2 publications, we will cover a few rules around upselling ‘productively’ – and by that we mean:

  • converting upsells at exceptional ratios,

  • making your guests happy (because you offered them something they actually wanted)

  • helping your operations staff (because they now have time to prepare for the guest’s needs), and

  • ensuring your revenue is experiencing an appropriate uplift through ancillary sales.

There are few golden rules we always follow. As there is a lot to say on the subject, we will break this set of rules into several communications, giving you time to consume the ideas and ask questions as needed. We know that you will find them as useful as we have!


By saying upselling is a number’s game we definitely don’t just mean “send it to as many people as you can”. Not at all! What we mean is, look at the numbers around what the majority of guests do when it comes to making amendments and additions to their reservations. If you look at the right dimensions, you will be able to discern what is likely to appeal to whom, and why.

The easiest way to explain what we mean is to run a quick thought experiment. Let’s take two different types of properties:

Property 1 is a three star resort, in a country where

  • most of the guests are international visitors

  • guests don’t speak the local language, and

  • they mostly come for their family holidays.

Property 2 is a three star city centre hotel in London, where

  • most guests are from the UK and the USA,

  • everyone speaks English, and

  • they come for business during the week/city breaks for the weekends.

It is easy to see that for Property 1, if you offer a taxi/min-bus between the hotel and the resort, you are solving a real problem. You are taking away the hassle of finding a reputable, safe service, and reliably booking it, whilst navigating a linguistic barrier!

In Property 2 booking a taxi is (statistically speaking) unlikely to be a problem. Black cabs are of legendary quality, and most international visitors love using them. In this scenario everyone (again, speaking to what is statistically significant) is also speaking English. Maybe for this hotel a better problem to try and solve would be finding a cheaper and faster than taxi way to travel from and to the airport? Or maybe using the limited real-estate of an offer for something entirely different?

So, our suggestion here is to look at the numbers. Seeing what your past reservations were all about, what communications you had, what you did for your guests to help them, will allow you to discern which guests are likely to appreciate which offer. Personally, I love doing this for our hotels!

We have a property in South America who are producing their own wine. One of the add-ons on offer is wine tasting with a tour of the vineyard. Having looked at the numbers, we understood there are a few metrics which hugely influence the likelihood of a guest booking this add-on.

  1. Load balancing (occupancy pattern). Couples are more likely to book this, than any other occupancy level (e.g. singles, families etc.)

  2. Source country. Americans tend to book this more than all other nationalities.

  3. Stay pattern. Guests staying over a weekend, and for more than two nights, were much more likely to buy.

  4. Roomtype and rate plan. Guest buying romantic packages (with other add-ons already in the booking), or upgraded room types, were more likely to book the wine tasting

It was easy for us to target the correct guests for the correct message in this scenario. All that was needed was for me to set rules around room-types, rate-plans, load balancing, and days/dates of stay. The results were outstanding.


I think there is a lot to say about the reasons that all this works. The relevance of the messages, the timing, the targeting, the use of advertising real-estate, the respect of the channels and the customisation of message content to appropriate channels, pricing considerations … the list is long.

I strongly recommend to all my customers to simply look at these numbers and think of logical correlations. In most cases, the causality and logic of what you are trying to do will be obvious. Not ignoring these patterns, and using what the numbers tell you, is a fantastic way to achieve some exceptional conversions – whilst making your guests happy!

With warm wishes for happy ancillary selling,


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