BBT’s mystery buyer, who works with a global media marketing brand, talks through the challenges around building a successful UK hotel programme.

“We are seeing a faster turnover of hotels’ sales directors and corporate account managers, which means we – and they – have to start from scratch each time to build the bricks into a working relationship where the people we are dealing with understand our individual culture and tastes.

One of the challenges is encouraging and training our travellers, and even our own clients, to give us feedback when they have experienced shortcomings during their stay. We can then regulate those that fall below our specifications on the supplier list.

I’m not at all in favour of shifting to per diem allowances – that’s diametrically opposite to the strategy around our preferred supplier list. In London, we drive business to a limited group of preferred suppliers – it’s not mandated to use these hotels but it’s made clear that our bookers would need a good reason to place visitors elsewhere.

In the UK and beyond, we have a ‘cap’ rate per global city for maximum allowable room rate per night. If they need to pay more, they have to give an explanation – the client is paying, the client is staying there, or the preferred suppliers are full. This way we build substantial volume and maintain our negotiated rates. In our business, per diem is passé.

Within our own group we are recognising a new trend with our younger senior directors, particularly from the digital creative areas, to break away from staying ‘on top of the office’. They are still staying in London – no more than an hour from our office – but going for more quirky, emerging areas.

During our last RFP [request for proposal] in September 2014, almost all providers proposed increases of between 2 and 4 per cent in room rates. We negotiated some of them down, and dropped others from the programme. I see no evidence of the euro value impacting on our accommodation cost savings.

A hotel is only as good as its investors are willing to make it. They must consistently maintain and upgrade their offering in order to retain and grow their volumes. It’s also only as good as the liaison between their sales people, their revenue managers and the general manager, working together and showing their client that they are not just being dictated to by some nameless, faceless bunch of conglomerates.”

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