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

The Business Travel Magazine - - Hotels -

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”

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