Olivia Nguyen, manager, corporate travel at Cvent gives us her advice to help travel managers have a successful year
1 Make sure you are realistic about your travel programme requirements
No matter how zealous you are to negotiate and secure the best price for your travel programme, getting knock-down rates at an exclusive five-star hotel in the hottest location may prove to be an impossible task. Additionally, taking a hard line on unrealistic pricing could work against you when trying to establish long-term relationships with properties.
There are some exceptions – such as whether you are booking during a low season, agreeing to block bookings for one or two years in advance or for multiple events, or if the property has refurbishments taking place. However, be sure these exceptions will not impinge on the overall experience for your client.
2 Be clear about your objectives (both yours and those of your attendees)
It may seem obvious, but sometimes in the rush of having to make a booking, core programme objectives can be overlooked.
Focus on what you want to achieve and what the non-negotiables are for your programme. For example, whilst wifi may be a given in most hotels nowadays, even in remote mountainous areas, complementary wifi isn’t always part of the package – and the speed of the wifi should also not be overlooked.
If food and beverage on site is a priority, then be sure that pricing factors in breakfast or other meals before you sign on the dotted line.
In negotiating and compiling these objectives, it is also key to keep in mind what the attendees want most and understand what programme offerings were utilised by attendees in years prior. For example, a full breakfast included may not be a priority – and perhaps a monetary daily credit to each room would make more sense. Attendees are then free to use that credit in a way that best suits them and their agendas.
3 Beware of the hidden extras
As the well-known quote states, “one thing in life is certain – death and taxes”. And hotels are certainly not exempt from having to pay property taxes, which can have a huge impact on the site’s profitability, equity value and ability to maintain and upgrade their properties.
As a result, some hotels will charge guests property-service taxes in addition to gratuity taxes and resort fees, which are not always highlighted at the onset of the RFP process.
Most hotels now charge a mandatory additional fee, often labelled as a resort fee. These charges can include a wide range of items and perks – anything from internet access, items from the mini-bar, parking, free towels, airport shuttle service etc. The services and amenities included in these fees can vary drastically from property to property, which is why it’s so important to have complete transparency and clear communication about any potential hidden charges when negotiating your booking.
4 Safety and security – has the hotel covered all bases?
Discussing a hotel’s ability to handle risk and approach emergency situations such as a terrorist attack, earthquake, or a fire could quite literally be a life-saver.
Make sure you establish whether the hotel has an emergency operations plan for its guests to ensure that in the wake of a disaster guests will be protected and accounted for. You may also want to assess other hotel security features, such as whether lifts can only be operated by guests with access keys, what security and safety training the hotel staff have (such as first-aid), whether security guards are in operation and whether the hotel has back-up generators.
5 Cancellations can be costly
Understandably, there will be exceptional circumstances and certainly situations beyond a travel manager’s control when a booking has to be cancelled.
Depending on the hotel, cancellation policies can stipulate full or most of the charges will be enforced if cancellations occur within 72 or 48 hours before guests are due to arrive. It is understandable given hotels will want to cover their costs, particularly in low season when a room(s) may be harder to fill.
A good relationship with the hotel can go a long way to ensure that you don’t lose those funds, or that you can strike an agreement to move the booking to another date.
As always, it’s about managing expectations so travellers understand the financial penalties of a last-minute change.