Ministry OF ideas
'Rebels with cause' gathered in Miami in June to share best practice hotel sourcing and discover new product at LE Miami's Ministry of Ideas
Travel managers joined together at LE Miami's Ministry of Ideas conference to discuss their hotel sourcing concerns in June. Andy Hoskins reports on the event’s Creative Corporate Lab
Travel managers from major fashion labels, entertainment businesses and media organisations in the UK and US got to grips with two broad topics at this year’s Creative Corporate Lab: the traveller experience and the thorny issue of payments.
Buyers’ bugbears ranged from the basics – poor hotel signposting and a lukewarm welcome – to more complex issues such as billing inconsistencies and negotiating rates.
Pain points with chain brands and independent hotels alike were aired, with data capture one of the key concerns with the use of boutique hotels.
“We have a lot of spend with independent and boutique hotels but achieving total transparency on that spend is difficult,” said one buyer. “Data on our spend through non-gds hotels is hard to capture but the independents like those platforms.”
Of greater concern was the availability and value of the rates that corporates had successfully negotiated with hotel groups, with several travel managers pointing to publicly available rates lower than their own. “Hotels need to monitor their best available rates (BAR) versus negotiated rates but they don’t have the staff or technology to do it. They should be matching your negotiated rate to BAR whenever it drops lower,” suggested one buyer.
“The hotels’ sales department are thinking about long-term relations but the revenue departments that crunch the numbers only think of short-term gains,” they added.
Several buyers insisted high-end hotels should have a member of the sales team dedicated full-time to the entertainment sector and the exacting needs of its guests, but accepted that smaller properties simply do not have the resources to do so. “Smaller hotels won’t have an entertainment sales
person but someone needs to be engaged and on the ball with this sector. We need people who really understand our business,” declared one travel manager.
“Sales teams should know exactly who’s arriving each day and how they pay, and that needs to be communicated with the front desk,” said one buyer, as part of a longer debate around payment issues.
“If a room has been paid upfront then there should be an obvious message to staff on the bill: 'do not ask for credit card', but the default at the front desk seems to be to ask for a card,” they continued.
“There are always going to be service issues and when there are people just want a timely solution. Hotels need to solve it, get their guest on the way and investigate it afterwards. It’s all about recovery – make it not happen again. When things go wrong it makes the travel manager look bad.”
Another buyer called for hotels to ensure their merchant numbers are set up correctly, explaining that staff have had payments rejected because transactions on the card were limited to certain spend categories: a hotel rather than a hotel restaurant, for example. “It’s surprising the number of calls I get about blocked payments,” they said.
Another bone of contention was corporates’ groups spend being disregarded at the negotiating table, with buyers unable to leverage their total outlay to agree preferred rates with a hotel.
“Hotels think they can charge something higher for group room bookings when we are feeding them all year long with corporate business,” noted one buyer.
But as a hotelier explained, hotels don’t like the risk of a group booking on low rates being cancelled. At higher rates, they are prepared to take the risk.
Nevertheless, there can still be complications as a travel manager from a large media company explained: “If you book 20 different rooms with the same hotel on the GDS at your negotiated rate they’ll be straight on to you, even though it could be three different photoshoots taking place in the same city. It makes no sense!”
There are always going to be service issues but when they occur people just want a timely solution. It’s all about recovery – make it not happen again for someone else”