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Upselling in hotels: use guest personas to sell more

Here's how to customize your offer to sell additional services at your accommodation.

Never before has it been so crucial for accommodations to create a range of extra services and experiences capable of making guests' stays memorable. A well-organized upselling strategy not only encourages positive reviews and loyalty, but can help you stand out from the competition and exponentially increase your revenues.

Many hoteliers think that in order to succeed, it’s necessary to invest big budgets, have a spa, in-house restaurant or dedicated staff. In reality, while all this may facilitate upselling, it’s not strictly necessary.

What you really need is to get to know your guests and their needs better - you may find that all it takes is a few quality but targeted services to make all the difference.

But beware: "getting to know your guests better" doesn’t mean claiming to know each and every one of them in detail. It means using the information at your disposal to build representative profiles of the various types of guests, both current and potential. 

These profiles are called guest personas. In this article, we’ll look at what they are and how to create them.

What are guest personas?

Guest personas are a veritable identity card of your hotel's ideal guests. They do not represent an individual guest, but rather a universal prototype: each one describes in detail a specific type of customer.

Guest personas are the final stage of hotel market segmentation and serve to refine it. While market segmentation divides the audience into broader segments (in our article on market segmentation for hotels you’ll find a detailed explanation of the segments most commonly used in hotels), guest personas are more specific and detailed descriptions.

Within the same market segment, there may be more than one guest persona, because, despite the common characteristics of the segment, guests within it may have different behaviors, preferences, and motivations. 

For example, in the "business traveler" segment, two very different guest personas can coexist: "Anna, the business traveler" who chooses short stays and conference rooms, and "Marco, the digital nomad" who seeks longer stays with coworking spaces and leisure time.

Why are guest personas important?

Guest personas are important because they enable you to provide a truly personalized experience to your guests.

By understanding who they are, what they like and what motivates them, you can tailor your services accordingly, increasing both satisfaction and retention.

But that's not all: according to recent research conducted by Medallia, 61% of consumers are willing to spend more for a personalized experience. By getting to know your guests better, you’ll not only increase their liking, but you’ll also grow your revenue.

As well as enabling you to personalize your offer, guest personas can also help you with other important tasks: based on the profiles obtained, it will be much easier to direct your sales and marketing strategies, to understand how to improve the usability of your website, and to gear your communication so that it reaches exactly your target customers.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll look in detail at how to build guest personas, but if you’d like to delve deeper into the subject of personalization, you can read our article with examples of personalized services to offer in hotels.

Where to find data to create guest personas in hotels?

To create your guest personas, you don't have to invent anything. On the contrary, it’s important to rid yourself of any beliefs about "your" ideal guest. The best way to do this is to use the data you already have on all the customers who have already chosen to stay with you.

Submitting satisfaction surveys to your guests, asking them direct questions, and reasoning with your staff are all good methods for identifying recurring behaviors and preferences, but there are at least four other sources for obtaining the data needed to create guest personas in your hotel.

Here they are!

Property Management Software (PMS)

Your PMS is the first tool to consult to obtain the following information:

  • Guest demographics (age, gender, profession, origin)
  • Reservation history (frequency, preferred room type, average length of stay)
  • Preferences and behaviors (services used, specific requests) 
  • Post-stay feedback

Google Analytics

The Google Analytics platform offers a wide range of data about visitors to your website, which can help you understand:

  • How users interact with your website, which pages or buttons attract the most interest
  • How they found your website and which external links bring you the most visits 
  • Who your website users are, what age group they belong to, where they are located and what device they use

Social media analytics

Even if the demographic data from your social platforms doesn’t allow you to identify exactly who has visited your hotel, it will give you a good overview of your potential guests: age range, geographic location, and the content that most caught their attention.

This data, combined with Google Analytics data, will help you add more detail to your guest personas and understand the types of guests you want to attract.

Guest reviews

Guest reviews are a valuable source of qualitative data that can enrich your understanding of guest personas, giving you interesting insights into what your guests don't like

Negative reviews will enable you to improve your services, by identifying critical points and suggesting ideas for change. Positive reviews, on the other hand, will confirm what you’re doing right and encourage you to maintain high-quality standards.

How to create your guest personas

Once you've collected all available guest data, you need to analyze it to identify common traits, then organize this information into a clear format that you and your staff can use. Typically, a guest persona includes a fictitious name, a photo, a short biography and the demographic and behavioral information collected.

For example, if the data show that many customers are young couples or friends who travel on short weekend vacations, you could create a guest persona in the leisure segment called "Marco, the weekend tourist". Marco will represent customers who seek short adventures, enjoy exploring new cities and appreciate local activities such as sightseeing and typical restaurants.

One thing you need to bear in mind is that guest profiles can't be static: the profiles you create will need to be updated regularly as you obtain new data. This is the only way to ensure that they remain relevant and effective.

8 types of hotel guests and how to meet their needs

There is no “one-size-fits-all” guest persona. Depending on the type of accommodation, location, and services available, each accommodation will have its own guest personas. Before you start creating your own, you can draw inspiration from the eight types of hotel guests listed below to identify the most recurring ones and best meet their needs.

1. Leisure travelers

Who are they: Leisure travelers book their vacations once or twice a year, during the vacation season. They are usually not alone but accompanied by partners, relatives or friends. They have average financial means, although they generally don’t make impulse purchases and prefer the best value for money.

What they expect: They appreciate accommodations that offer advantageous packages accompanied by a good selection of recreational services. They like to visit major tourist attractions, take part in guided tours and spend time relaxing.

How to satisfy them: To attract leisure travelers, the hotel needs to offer them themed services and packages. Even if they don’t actively ask for information, they’ll most likely appreciate it if you do. You could, for example, provide a travel guide to your region and suggestions on activities of particular interest. When promoting your establishment, remember to highlight the features that will attract medium- and short-term travelers.

2. Business travelers

Who are they: The main objective of business travelers is to work.  They don’t usually have much time for tourist attractions but they may be interested in cafés or restaurants to relax in after work. More generally, after a busy day, they return to the hotel to relax, dine and rest.

What they expect: Business travelers are very busy, so they appreciate services that make their stay easier and save them time, such as transfer shuttles, available parking, personalized room service, and a good in-house restaurant. As they aren’t on vacation, they often try to maintain their diet and/or exercise routine. Travel is often covered by the employer, but the budget for personal expenses may be limited.

How to satisfy them: You can offer special packages that allow them to stay in rooms best suited to use as an "office" (bright, with multiple charging points for devices, with ergonomic desks and seating) and that include services such as laundry, spa treatments or restaurant tastings. When you check-in, you can provide a list of nearby coworking spaces and, if you don’t have these services in-house, you can recommend affiliated restaurants or spas.

3. Wellness travelers

Who are they: Wellness travelers may focus on physical, emotional, or mental well-being, but all have health and self-care as their main objective. These guests often travel alone to give themselves exclusive attention.

What they expect: Wellness travelers desire a relaxing trip that encourages healthy habits. Depending on their preferences, they may be interested in fitness activities, balanced meals, spas, swimming pools, and spaces where they can meditate, either on their own or under the guidance of a teacher.

How to satisfy them: Create a comfortable environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle, starting with impeccable cleanliness. Create all-inclusive packages that include, as available, discounted spa treatments, healthy dining options, guided meditations, spa and gym with personal trainers, and yoga classes.

Focus on environmental sustainability and show your commitment to the wellbeing not only of your guests but also the local community.

4. Luxury travelers

Who are they: Luxury travelers expect a lot from their stay and are willing to pay for an exclusive experience. They often plan their vacations with the help of a tour operator and travel in pairs.

What they expect: They look for accommodations with a reputation for impeccable service and top-of-the-range amenities, as well as for meticulous presentation and a reserved, refined ambiance.

How to satisfy them: Highlight the high level of comfort offered and everything that makes your hotel exclusive. Suggest private tours and exclusive experiences such as private chef tastings or personal shopper services. Suggest the best attractions available in your area and offer suggestions on how to enjoy them privately or at less crowded times.

5. Traveling families

Who are they: Many family travelers belong to the millennial generation (born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s), but multigenerational trips with siblings, parents, grandparents or other family members are becoming increasingly common.

What they expect: Particularly if they are traveling with children, these customers have many needs and expectations and prefer to book well in advance to ensure facilities and locations offering family-friendly services, convenient travel and the best value for money. Very often, pets are also included in trips, and guests expect to be able to enjoy their vacation without having to exclude anyone.

How to satisfy them: It's important to offer services that appeal to different generations, such as dedicated menus, specific activities for children of different age groups, and group-friendly activities such as easy excursions or evening entertainment. Provide a list of playgrounds or swimming pools available in your locality, family-friendly restaurants and consider offering an in-house babysitting service.

Don't forget to furnish hotel rooms with board games or coloring books to keep the little ones entertained.

6. Sustainability-conscious travelers

Who are they: “Green travelers” pay particular attention to the environmental impact of their trip, and strive to maintain the same good habits they adopt at home during their stay. They are highly observant tourists who know how to distinguish genuine sustainable development initiatives from smoke and mirrors (greenwashing).

What they expect: Green travelers want to promote sustainable development in all aspects of their trip, to be part of the local community with a positive impact, and they prefer activities with a low impact on the environment.

How to satisfy them: Offer special packages that include offsetting the carbon footprint of your stay, provide information on how to use local public transport, rent bicycles and offer experiences such as nature walks, birdwatching sessions or volunteering with local groups.

Make sure, too, that your establishment adopts sustainable practices such as water and energy conservation, separate waste collection, even in rooms, and the use of natural materials for finishes and furnishings.

7. Digital nomads

Who are they: Digital nomads are remote workers, which means they can work from anywhere, as long as they have a suitable workstation and a fast connection. Some are employed by companies, while others are self-employed, the trait that unites them all being dynamism. In most cases, they travel alone.

What they expect: Digital nomads need a fast, reliable Wi-Fi connection (preferably free) and a flexible environment that's fun to work in, but also attractive in terms of leisure and non-work activities.

How to satisfy them: Create multi-purpose common spaces that can become a kind of coworking space, fostering a sense of belonging and facilitating socialization. You can also offer a map of public places where you can work and an up-to-date list of the main events planned in your locality, including workshops or group activities.

8. Baby-boomer travelers

Who are they: Baby-boom generation travelers were born between 1946 and 1964, meaning they are retired or about to be. They often have above-average spending capacity, which they spread over several trips during the year. They generally travel in pairs or in organized groups.

What they expect: Although they have a larger budget, they don't take advantage of the savings offered by package deals or, better still, loyalty programs. They are looking for maximum comfort and prefer the most easily accessible tourist activities, such as cultural visits or guided walks. 

How to satisfy them: The watchword for all services offered should be accessibility and comfort. They may prefer printed material to digital media, and therefore give the green light to personalized, handwritten welcome messages, local guides and detailed maps showing attractions and restaurants.

If you think the guest persona method could contribute to your upselling strategy, but don't know where to start, fear not! 

We've created a comprehensive checklist in which you'll find step-by-step instructions on how to create your guest personas and start using them straight away.

Download it now!