We share how to check whether your hotel programme is fit for purpose. If it isn’t achieving the value that your business and your travellers need, it’s time for an overhaul.
We’re experts in corporate hotel programme negotiation and management. As such, we’re sometimes tasked with managing new customers’ historical programmes. This can highlight some of the common mistakes made by agencies that don’t specialise in the UK hotel market.
1. Check programme coverage
Are your preferred hotels or apartments in the right locations? That might be next to your offices, your customers, or just near the transport hub of your employees most frequently visited cities. If the locations are right, are there enough hotels based on the number of rooms you need for travellers in key locations?
A well-managed hotel programme should cover up to 80% of the total number of rooms booked. On the flip side, having every hotel in a location on your programme might give travellers choice, but too many properties lead to poor rates at lots of hotels, rather than good rates at a smaller number.
Are you aware of any new locations or projects due to start, and do you need new hotels, rates and availability to support these?
2. Rate availability
Having a great rate is only half the battle – the other half is being able to book rooms at those rates. Allocation and last room availability (LRA) come into their own here.
We negotiate an allocation of rooms with hotels, at pre-agreed rates to support your requirements in the area. We hold over one million rooms on this type of allocation every year. It helps travellers achieve guaranteed availability at the prices agreed; as long as a hotel has a standard room available to book, then customers with LRA negotiated book it at that rate.
If you get availability right you should see compliance levels above 70%, and even 85%+ in mature hotel programmes. On the day hotel cancellation policies will support the changing nature of business travel and reduce the number of potential cancellation charges or no-show charges you incur.
3. Speak to your people
Don’t make assumptions – stakeholder feedback can help to resolve issues of non-compliance. However, don’t forget that travel is very subjective and each person will have their own preferences and opinions.
Have you got a process in place to identify new projects that result in accommodation requirements? Engaging with the right department or travel bookers could capture this information early, meaning you can adjust your programme accordingly and negotiate the rooms and rates needed.
How is the hotel programme communicated to the travellers? Do you tell them of changes or preferred booking behaviour? Should they always accept the cheapest rate offered? What is considered reasonable travel distances between office and hotel? What are the minimum standards they should expect? The more you manage employee expectations, the more likely they’ll be to reward you with high programme compliance.
4. Examine your travel policy
You should already be working with HR to ensure your company travel policy supports business objectives. A good policy outlines how, where, and who to book with, and what can or can’t be claimed on expenses. If you regularly review your travellers’ compliance to the policy, you can examine and address any non-compliance issues.
In specific relation to hotels, does the policy define your company’s minimum hotel standards and do your hotels actually meet them? It’s all about the right hotel, in the right location, at the right price. Therefor creating a set of minimum standards that every hotel on your programme has to meet, allows you to qualify each hotel against your own criteria, regardless of star rating.
Does your policy address acceptable behaviour in relation to hotel loyalty points? Non-compliance can be driven by a traveller’s preference to collect loyalty points rather than supporting your preferred suppliers.
5. Re-look at rates
Are your agreed rates within your budget and policy rate caps? You’d be surprised about the number of programmes we take over that includes rates that are over a city rate cap. This can seriously undermine your policy and affect compliance to other policy points, as well as skewing your rate and programme compliance.
Are the negotiated rates on your programme commissionable? Is breakfast included? What value-adds do your travellers really want? Added value items such as WiFi, car parking, food and drink discounts and tray charges, could potentially be charged back on expenses. Having these negotiated and included in room rates, if they’re used and valued by travellers, can deliver real cost reductions.
6. The best place to start?
If you’re working with proven hotel experts, then you shouldn’t have concerns about your programme being fit for purpose. That’s because experts, such as NYS Corporate, will work with you to check that your organisation is ready for RFP in the first place.
We’ll advise you to clearly share your objectives with your suppliers at the launch of your RFP – are you driving cost reductions or introducing new policy steps? Explaining how you are planning to achieve this to your suppliers takes them on the journey with you and improves relationships and results.
After running the RFP, we help customers to communicate and manage the programme. And we carry out regular reviews of programme compliance to ensure it continues to support your business objectives.