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Pre-stay upselling: what it is and how to use it to generate more revenue before guests arrive

Often overlooked, pre-stay upselling is critical to increasing satisfaction and revenue. But how do you do it?

Pre-stay upselling hotel: how to generate more revenue in the pre-arrival phase | Smartpricing

Increasing hotel revenue is every hotelier's goal, certainly yours as well. You know that to achieve this you need to have more online visibility, an effective pricing strategy, and you need to attract more bookings, preferably direct bookings. You also know that if you really want to maximize revenue, you can't stop there-you have to capitalize on every single reservation. And you know that the best way to do that is by upselling.

For many hoteliers, "upselling" rhymes with "check-in": after all, what better time to have a chat, connect with the customer, and show off all your offerings? True, check-in is historically one of the best times to sell a room upgrade or your spa package. But it is also the riskiest.

Imagine you've done everything right: your strategy has been a success and numerous bookings have come in. Your staff is skilled, knows what to sell and how to sell it. But then guests start arriving, the front desk fills up fast, everyone is in a hurry, and your team is torn between the need to speed up check-in and the need to upsell.

But in retrospect, was there a time before this chaos when you might have acted differently? Yes, there is a precious and too often overlooked interval of time: it is the pre-stay, and in this article you will discover why and how you should include it in your upselling strategy right away!

What is pre-stay upselling in hotels and what benefits does it provide

Pre-stay upselling is a proactive strategy that allows you to sell additional products or services before guests begin their stay, i.e., during the time between booking confirmation and check-in.

If you think about it, this is a time with enormous potential: after they have chosen the accommodation and booked it, what do most of your guests do? They will probably be looking for experiences to have at your location, what the best restaurants are, how to buy tickets to museums and attractions, or where to shop.

In other words, this is the time when your guests are most willing, open and interested in receiving suggestions that can enrich and make their stay easier. If you are the one to offer them, you will achieve two important results:

  • you will spare your customers lengthy online searches, and you will be able to direct them to offers that you already know are of quality. In this way, you not only make their lives easier, but you ensure that their overall experience (at your hotel and location) is truly memorable,
  • you'll avoid finding yourself with a front desk full of guests who are in a hurry and, more importantly, have already purchased the additional products and services that interest them. Guess when? From home, before you arrive.

Why pre-stay upselling is important for hotel revenue management

We've said that pre-stay upselling helps you anticipate your guests' needs, improve their experience, and facilitate sales by taking the pressure off check-in. But there is still something more pre-stay upselling can do for you: contribute to the success of your revenue management strategy, with a number of benefits not to be neglected.

Increased revenue per available room (RevPAR)

Pre-stay upselling allows you to sell higher category rooms or special packages before the guest arrives. This not only directly increases revenue from room sales but also helps improve RevPAR, one of the key performance indicators in revenue management. By increasing the value of each reservation, you can optimize your overall revenue.

Improved inventory management

Through pre-stay upselling, you can manage your room inventory more effectively. By selling rooms and additional services in advance, you will have a clearer view of occupancy and the needs of each individual guest.

Optimized dynamic pricing strategy

Having already secured a certain level of revenue through pre-stay sales, you will have more freedom to take more flexible or more aggressive approaches to managing the remaining rooms.

Diversification of revenue sources

In addition to room sales, pre-stay upselling opens the door to upfront sales of additional services such as catering, spas, exclusive experiences, and more. This not only increases total revenue but also reduces dependence on revenue derived solely from room sales, protecting you from unforeseen demand trends.

Reducing the risk of no-shows and cancellations

By offering upsells during pre-stay, you can reduce the risk associated with no-shows and cancellations. Guests who have already booked upgrades or additional services may be less likely to cancel their reservations at the last minute.

How to stimulate pre-stay spending and maximize revenue: customized packages and dynamic pricing

In pre-stay sales, dynamic pricing becomes an even more powerful tool if you can combine it with targeted offer segmentation. Creating tailor-made packages that fit not only the type of room, but also the specific needs and anticipated desires of guests, can radically transform the way they perceive the value of your offer. Here's what you can do:

  • Pre-stay upselling of experiential packages: develop offers that go beyond just a stay, including services and experiences that enrich the guest's vacation. For example, you might offer a package that, in addition to room and breakfast, includes a guided tour of the city's historic sites, exclusive access to an art exhibition, or a special dinner at a renowned restaurant. The price of these packages can vary dynamically depending on seasonality, availability and exclusivity of experiences.
  • Advantageous rates for early bookings: you can incentivize guests to book experiences and services in advance by offering discounted rates or additional benefits for those who choose them before arriving at the hotel.
  • Personalization based on guest profile: use the data collected through your CRM (customer relationship management) system to further refine your offerings, tailoring them to specific guest interests. If, for example, the data revealed a preference for wellness, you could offer a pre-stay package that includes private morning yoga sessions or exclusive spa treatments.

How to communicate your pre-stay upsell offer

While for upselling at the front desk you need to be a skilled salesperson "with words" (and if you want to explore this topic further, find an article with the 5 best techniques for upselling at the front desk here), for pre-stay upselling it is essential to master technology and set up clear and targeted communication.

Once you have created your offer aimed at pre-stay, you can communicate it to your customers through email marketing strategies, that is, by sending personalized emails to guests who have already booked, to offer them only the packages or services that you think might be of interest to them.

Alternatively, you can share a link to a dedicated page on your website (again via email, but also WhatsApp), where you list and promote your offer, allowing your guests to explore and book them.

Finally, to increase the effectiveness of your pre-stay upsell, you can encourage guests who have already taken advantage of this offer to share their experience, then use their reviews and testimonials to further increase the perceived value of your products and services.

As is often the case when it comes to upselling, moving from "theory" to "practice" can be challenging and, for that matter, demotivating.

That's why we've prepared a practical guide, where you'll find timelines and templates for organizing email communication, and discover which technological tools are best and which performance indicators (KPIs) to keep an eye on.