3 Ways to Surprise and Delight Guests that Generate Glowing Reviews

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surprise and delight approach to guest experience often has a bigger impact on reputation management than any other tactic. Why? Because it prompts others to speak on your behalf through glowing reviews. And, as we all know, word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising. In this article, I’ll explain what this really means and tell you how you can prompt guests to start talking about your hotel online because of it.

Surprise and Delight defined  

This is a term associated with going above and beyond the guest’s expectations. Its success lies in employing simple, yet heartfelt gestures that show how you, as a brand, truly care about your guests.

It’s the cherished human touch that stands out within an otherwise cold and corporate world. As such, it needs to be genuine and integral. When it is, people notice and they start sharing their experience with their friends, across review sites and beyond.

Here are 3 surprise and delight-filled tactics that you can implement in order to go above and beyond the call of duty at your hotel.

#1: Bake a batch of cookies 

Fact: There’s something delightful about the smell of fresh-baked cookies. When you offer these to guests, they’re surprised.

Maybe it’s the aroma and taste, or it may simply remind them of home. Either way, guests aren’t expecting to be treated to an out-of-the-oven delectable. And that’s where the magic of surprise and delight unfolds.

How this impacts reputation: Savvy hotel chains have cookie-making baked right into their guest-experience strategy, and it’s no surprise why. We’re more connected now than ever in a digital age in which word travels fast. Just think, over 1.7 billion people worldwide use their Facebook account monthly to share information.

When it comes to travel, review sites like Trip Advisor, Fodor’s, and Yelp are chalked full of helpful, user-generated content. Many travellers write candid reviews of their hotel stays, and not just when they have negative experiences. Give guests something to write about when they stay with you: that surprise and delight of fresh-baked cookies!

Here are two examples of how freshly baked cookies directly impacted hotel reviews:

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Albuquerque Airport received a 5-star review titled Fresh-Baked Cookies! that included this line: “In the afternoon, the lobby filled with the aroma of fresh-baked cookies. We felt at home away from home. We recommend this hotel for a great stay.”


Quality Inn & Suites Federal Way enjoyed a 5-star review titled Even milk with your nighttime, hotel-baked cookies that mentioned: “Yes, this hotel offers milk besides coffee and decaf if you partake of their evening cookies in the lobby. The cookies were warm and yummy.”

Tip: Craft a cookie recipe that’s unique to your hotel. Use locally sourced artisanal ingredients, not frozen dough, or rely on a winning recipe that will surprise and delight your guests for a memorable stay.

#2: Upgrade guests when possible

Fact: People love upgrades. It makes them feel special and experience some luxury. Yet, budgets only get tighter and many hotels, big and small, don’t offer these. Dare to be different. Challenge the status-quo and surprise and delight guests with the occasional room upgrade.

How this impacts reputation: People love to talk about their vacations, especially delightful experiences. So, give your guests something to brag about! Your corner suite will do just fine.

Here are a couple of examples of hotel guests who wrote raving reviews about their free room upgrades:

Hotel Brunelleschi made a big impact by upgrading guests according to a recent, 5-star review titled Free suite upgrade. It reads: “We booked a basic room and received a free upgrade to a multi-floor suite with a view of the duomo from the balcony! Both the bathroom and rooftop balcony featured a Jacuzzi. We’re not quite sure what we did to earn the upgrade, but it was much appreciated.”


Hotel Vondel received a lovely, 4-star review titled Great place! The guest had this to say: “Got upgraded to the junior executive suite; it was wonderful. Super clean and spacious room with big windows right at the street level. The room had black- out curtains and was sound proof from what I could tell. Very comfortable bed and great bathroom with separate shower and spa tub. Hotel is in a great location. Would highly recommend!”

 Tip: Upgrade loyal guests or those who book directly. You can do so without sacrificing the revenue that suite upgrades bring. Also consider offering upgrades later in the day when the front desk is about to close for the night.

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#3: Occasionally offer a free mini-bar

Fact: Mini-bar fees are the number one disputed charge during a hotel stay. Surprise and delight guests by telling them that the mini-bar is on the house today. For little-to-no extra cost you’ll wow your customers by doing the opposite of the competition.

How this impacts reputation: Almost everyone opens that mini-bar, even if only out of curiosity. Though for many guests, it appears as somewhat of a forbidden fruit due to the numerous mini-bar horror-stories online. Surprise and delight brand-loyal guests and newcomers by offering it for free. When paired with excellent WiFi connectivity, it may just be the ideal setting for a glowing, in-the-moment hotel review.

Here’s an example:

Hotel Artemide has a review that ranks on the first page of Google when ‘free mini-bar’ is typed in a browser search field. It’s a powerful, 4-star review titled ‘Free mini bar & wifi all day long! Here’s an excerpt: Still staying in this hotel while writing this review. The mini-bar was great and free of charge! I also appreciate the WiFi here—the speed is fast. It enables me to chat with my friends back home and, of course, write this review, which I hope will be useful to all of my fellow travelers.

Tip: You can set up a free mini-bar in any room with a personalised note telling guests to help themselves. Or, you can surprise and delight them with the news upon check-in. Test a few techniques and determine which one works best for your guests. Don’t have a mini-bar in your hotel rooms? Provide a bottle of wine instead.