There’s a saying that “old ways won’t open new doors.” When you stop thinking of your hotel website solely as a way for guests to book rooms and start thinking of it as a revenue generator, you open up a world of possibilities. Of course, securing bookings should be the primary goal of your hotel website and the user experience should be geared toward that. However, adding shopping cart e-commerce functionality that enables visitors to purchase additional products and services from you (or launching a dedicated website for this) is a great way to generate revenue from other sources. We call this ancillary revenue, which means offering something in addition to hotel rooms that generates revenue for the hotel.
At Leonardo, we believe that every hotel has a unique story to tell and therefore, a unique product or service to sell. This article is meant to give you some inspiration and get you thinking of ways you can start generating ancillary revenue for your hotel.
How hotel chains drive ancillary revenue
Ancillary revenue generation isn’t a new concept for travel suppliers, as many leading hotel chains have had online stores for years now. In many cases, these online stores offer things like pillows and mattresses for purchase so guests can relive the hotel’s comfort every night in their own homes.
For example, Westin sells their mattress and box spring sets, marketed as the “Westin Heavenly Bed,” as well as all of the bedding and accessories that go along with creating a heavenly sleep experience. Marriott does something similar with an online store where guests can purchase Marriott guest favorites, including bedding sets, pillows, robes, hair and skincare and more.
Now, thanks to the availability of cost-effective and user-friendly technology, every hotel owner and marketer has the means to sell ancillary products and services online. And individual properties are getting much more creative with it than selling bedding.
They’re launching standalone websites for their restaurants (see the Bay Club Hotels’ restaurant website) and spas (see the Aria Hotel Budapest’s spa website) to generate ancillary revenue. If you don’t have a restaurant or spa, that’s ok. Here’s a look at three hotels that have found other creative and effective ways to generate ancillary revenue to inspire you.
The Claremont Inn & Winery
As the name suggests, the Claremont Inn in Colorado Country is also a winery. They’ve sold wine in the winery’s physical retail store for years, often to hotel guests. Now, everyone can enjoy Claremont’s wine via the Inn’s website without making a trip to the property.
To do this, they added a page to the website called “Buy Wine Now” with shopping cart functionality that makes buying wine quick and easy.
The Thunderbird Inn, known as “The Tbird” and the “hippest hotel in Savannah™,” brings the 1960’s to life with a retro-style décor and atmosphere that guests love. Since it is a themed hotel, The Tbird has branded swag – everything from coffee mugs to t-shirts to picture frames – that guests can buy on-site and via their online store.
The hotel’s website has a page called “Shop TBird” that features photos of some of their most popular TBird merchandise with a link to the e-commerce site where the items can be purchased.
Malolo Bed and Breakfast
A comfortable, home-like experience is what guests of the Malolo Bed and Breakfast in Washington, DC love most about their stay. It’s an experience they want to share with their friends and families and that’s what inspired the B&B’s owners, David and George, to start selling Malolo B&B Gift Certificates.
Now guests can give the gift of the unique Malolo B&B experience by navigating to the “Buy Gift Certificate” tab on the reservations page of the website. Gift certificates purchased on the website are delivered instantly by email to the recipient.
How to uncover revenue-generating opportunities for your hotel
Start with your hotel’s story. The things and experiences that are at the core of your hotel’s story are a good place to start when thinking of ways to generate additional revenue.
- What makes your hotel unique?
- What do guests rave about most?
- Why do they choose your hotel over others (besides price)?
Once you have a list, go through each item one by one and ask, how could we generate revenue from this? You’ll see opportunities emerge as you go. Then, choose the most viable one and start there.
It could be something as simple as this: Say you’re a DoubleTree property. DoubleTree properties offer guests fresh baked chocolate chip cookies upon arrival. One way to turn this unique experience into a revenue generator is to sell the dry ingredients along with the recipe for these delicious cookies so that people can make them at home. This is something you could sell on-property and online through the website.
Here are some other ideas to get you thinking…
- Tickets for location attractions and events
- Local artwork featured in guestrooms
- Car service and transportation
- Tickets for on-site events and concerts
- Cookbooks or e-books
- Gift shop items by local artisans
- Artisanal coffee served in restaurant and/or guestrooms
- Shampoo and body care
When you have an idea you’re ready to pursue, the next step is to explore your options for promoting and selling it online, either on your hotel’s website, a dedicated website, or both.