We spoke with hospitality experts to find out all you need to know about offering third party experiences and services to your guests.
How often do you stop and think about ways to boost your business? What makes your business stand out?
Nowadays, just offering rooms to rent isn’t enough. An increasingly popular option to add value for money is to offer additional experiences and services for your guests.
Sarah Orchard from The Hudnalls Hideout treehouse offers a variety of additional services and experiences for her guests, such as a private chef, hampers and yoga sessions.
“We like to make sure that our guests get the widest possible experience. It’s not just about coming to stay in the treehouse. We want to make their stay as unique as possible,” said Sarah.
The Hudnalls Hideout opened in February last year and Sarah has managed to provide a number of experiences for the guests who managed to stay between the various lockdowns. Sarah said one of their more popular experiences is hiring a private chef for an evening.
“The private chef will come and cook for you in the treehouse and they’ll use the DeliVita, which is a wood fired oven, or they’ll use the outdoor fire pit,” she said.
“We promote outdoor cooking quite a bit, because it’s something a bit different than a BBQ; You can do that at home! We’ve tried to think about the whole experience for our guests from start to finish to make it an immersive experience.”
She added: “Guests can also book to have massages, but I’m currently talking to a lady about providing outdoor yoga sessions. We have a massive private deck area and it would be wonderful in the summer to do some yoga or pilates out on the deck amongst the trees with the birds singing.
“You have to keep adding to the guest experience and keep evolving so people want to come back.”
CEO of the guest management and monetisation platform ‘YourWelcome’, Henry Bennett, said: “Relying on occupancy revenue is becoming a challenging business model. One of the main drivers for offering third party experiences is that OTA’s dominate bookings and can take up to 18% of gross revenue. Competition from ‘airbnb manager’ charging property owners 15% has also increased competition for acquiring properties and reduced profit margins.
“Selling additional services and experiences can help to maintain or increase profit margins from each booking.”
Why should you offer additional experiences?
“Aside from bringing in additional revenue, experiences add value for your guests. They can get better deals and avoid the queues,” said Henry, which reflects positively upon your business.
Sarah Orchard at The Hudnalls Hideout said that guests “notice the extra touches”.
Bed and breakfast coach, Yvonne Halling, said: “Offering additional experiences allows you to differentiate yourself from any competition and takes you out of the ‘commodity’ market.”
Sarah said: “We always get comments about the additional things guests can purchase, like the hampers, even if they don’t take full advantage of them during their stay.
“The option to purchase an additional experience is there and even if they didn’t book something, it reflects positively on the overall guest experience.”
Sarah added: “The guests who, for example, booked the private chef or private massage, always leave amazing feedback saying they felt quite spoiled!”
Yvonne said: “Occupancy rates will only take you so far. Adding additional experiences will enhance your guests’ enjoyment whilst also boosting your bank account!”
Offering experiences in partnership with other businesses and brands can also benefit your marketing.
Sarah said: “We work with DeliVita who supply luxury wood-fired ovens which benefits both brands. Working with other businesses to provide experiences means we can support each other in our marketing and reach wider audiences.”
Yvonne added that offering experiences allows you to share your passions with your guests. She said: “You can create experiences that you are passionate about and help your guests create memories that will increase the chances of them coming back. It can also deepen their experience of your property and the area, giving them an emotional connection which again, helps to drive repeat bookings.”
Things to consider
Despite all the positive aspects of offering additional experiences for your guests, there are some factors that need to be considered.
Sarah at The Hudnalls Hideout said that offering experiences requires quite a bit of time and effort.
“It would be a lot simpler if we just provided accommodation. There’s a lot to remember when you’re running around organising everything and picking up hampers. You do need to do quite a bit of diary checking to make sure everything is ready for the right guest at the right time.”
Sarah added that running some of the experiences requires her to be on site helping the guests herself.
She said: “For example, guests aren’t always familiar with the wood fired oven or the fire pit, so we go down and help them. I think it depends how involved the business owner wants to be and how much time you want to spend sorting out all these extras.”
Henry Bennett, CEO of YourWelcome, said: “You either need to source third party providers and contact them directly, which can be very time consuming but more personal, or you can use a Point of Sale company who already has hundreds of partners and you can start earning quicker.”
Sarah said: “I think you also have to take the view that it’s going to take up quite a bit of time to find the right people to work with. Do you like and trust these people? Are they going to do a good job for your guests?
“You need to spend time explaining your expectations and making sure they can deliver the quality experience or service you’re looking for.
“And if they turn around and say they don’t think it’s going to work, you just have to accept that, move on and find something else. But if you’re in the luxury market, the investment is definitely worth it.”
Depending on the third party experiences you offer, Henry said it’s important to “make it clear that the guest is transacting with the experience provider”.
For example, if your guests spend the day at an external tourist attraction, “you don’t want a bad experience at a third party venue to reflect badly upon your business and affect the review they leave on an OTA,” said Henry.
Sarah Orchard added that you need to decide what sort of experiences you want to offer and make sure it’s a good fit for your brand. She said: “You don’t want to be associated with businesses that could potentially damage your brand by providing a poor experience, so it requires quite a bit of planning.
“We wouldn’t recommend anything that we haven’t done ourselves, so we have to try it all out ourselves and create a sort of ‘shortlist’. It’s then a case of approaching the business to talk about the potential partnership and experience you want to offer your guests. Normally it’s done face-to-face but now it’s all organised remotely.”
She added: “You need to understand your brand and audience and create experiences that reflect your brand.”
Henry Bennett added that it’s important to consider extra services such as food delivery and car hire.
“Food delivery has increased hugely since COVID. It’s simple to set up and provides a good service for guests who are not looking to eat out but also don’t want to cook. Car hire is another emerging service. Guests don’t always want to use public transport and there are car hire firms that offer good affiliate programmes with good returns for property managers in urban areas.”
Yvonne Halling said: “In a normal world, local tours, wine tastings and involving local businesses works well.”
Yvonne also stressed the importance of your customer’s journey.
“A new booking is just the start,” said Yvonne, “Make sure you pick up the relationship with them as soon as they’ve made the booking.
It’s your responsibility to delight and inform them about your local knowledge, extra experiences available, and more ways to spend money with you!”
It can be hard enough as it is, keeping track of numerous guests and their different checking in and out times, and offering additional experiences can only add to the workload.
Sarah Orchard uses a system called ‘GlampManager’ to help her stay on top of it all.
“It allows me to add all of the extras and experiences, like the hampers, as part of the checkout booking process,” said Sarah.
“When guests book their stay, they can add the extras when they checkout so that it’s all on one bill and recorded in the booking system.
“Then when I check the booking system, it shows me which experience(s) and extras they have booked.
“Having a system that records everything is a must. If you tried to do it manually it would be very difficult keeping track of it all and you might miss things. If a guest books something and you miss it off the list and don’t deliver what you promised, that’s worse than not offering it in the first place.”
Sarah added that revenue regarding the experiences is recorded separately so she can see what has booked and whether it works for them.
There are many different organisational booking systems to choose from and it can be tempting to pay for new software without testing third party bookings on your current system.
Yvonne Halling said: “Many of the online booking systems, such as Beds24, have the capability to take group bookings and add additional experiences. Check with your provider and test the market with your new experiences before investing in new software.
“When the time comes for guests to purchase additional experiences, Henry Bennett said it’s important to “make the transaction process simple”.
If guests don’t book experiences alongside their booking online, Henry said to consider “offering experiences via text or email with a link to purchase, or use a Point of Sale (like YourWelcome) to automate the process”.
For people booking their stay well in advance, booking systems such as GlampManager can send out automated emails asking guests if they would like to purchase additional experiences closer to the date of their stay.
“We get quite a bit of upsell on the experiences and other extras when we send out the email reminder a week or so before the guest comes to stay,” said Sarah.
“It also depends on the weather. If it’s likely to be wet, they might decide not to book things like charcoal for the outdoor fire pit or the pizza starter kit.”
When organising third party experiences and services, Sarah said it’s also important to consider local businesses.
“We actually partnered with a number of different local businesses as well as food and drink producers to put together hampers for our guests,” said Sarah.
“It’s not just about promoting the additional experiences that guests can purchase, but also everything happening locally, like the best places for afternoon tea or a Sunday roast, the best attractions, the best walks and anything like that.
“It’s about making sure your guests are aware of all the amazing businesses and experiences that are local to you.”
5 Reasons to offer additional experiences
1. Differentiate yourself from the competition
2. Positive feedback
3. Boost your revenue and profits
4. Partnerships will benefit your marketing
5. Show off the local area and share your passions
Charging guests for extra services can help you to increase profit margins.
For example, the option to purchase late check out and early check ins are a huge selling point.
Henry Bennett said: “This can be very high value (average £35) and the property manager can keep the payment as profit.
“Most property managers can move check out times to 9am so there’s time for ‘covid deep cleaning’, so there is plenty of scope to sell an extra hour or two to guests wanting an early check in time.”
Offering additional experiences for your guests can help to boost revenue, however Sarah at The Hudnalls Hideout says it’s not all about the profit.
“Not all of it is about the financial rewards. It’s about doing it to benefit the local community and promoting local businesses who will promote us in return.”
Sarah added: “Offering third party experiences definitely helps bring in a bit of extra money, but we don’t make a fortune.
“We actually don’t take a cut on experiences like the private chef and massages.
“It’s all about being sort of altruistic and helping other local businesses thrive.”
5 Things to consider
1. Time management: How much time are you willing to spend on organising additional experiences?
2. Online booking systems: Does your current system have the capability to add additional experiences and extras easily?
3. Local community: Are you willing to promote the local area and community throughout the guest experience, possibly for free at times?
4. Local businesses: Are you willing to partner with local businesses and promote them in your own marketing?
5. Trust: Do you trust the experience providers to provide quality a service?
This article was first published in Issue 46 February 2021 of Luxury BnB Magazine…