As the hotel industry moves to a post-pandemic environment, a changing landscape for business travel is emerging and, along with it, important questions about the future of how the world will work together. One thing is clear: The ability to meet face-to-face is important for personal and professional well-being and it’s also one of the best ways to collaborate and build better work relationships between staff. As companies and organizations attempt to redefine what it means to work together, they’re also grappling with questions about how to structure corporate business travel policies that balance their employees’ comfort level with their business recovery and growth needs.
Today, corporate business travel is recovering at a slower rate than leisure travel. It’s hardly surprising that companies are more cautious about assuming unnecessary risk, especially when considering their duty of care obligations towards their employees along with the potential damage that a widespread COVID outbreak could create for their operations and productivity. Nonetheless, there is and will continue to be a growing urgency for companies to bring together teams for both internal and external meetings to drive innovation and achieve better business outcomes.
Meetings are generally becoming smaller and are more numerous than pre-pandemic; for example, global conferences are becoming national conferences, national sales meetings are being replaced by multiple regional sales meetings, and more. This trend towards more frequent and smaller meetings can drive operational change for both buyers and sellers of hotel accommodations.
The traditional hotel sales structure had already been undergoing transformation for the past decade with the advent of new technologies, hotel consolidation, online distribution channels, and advances in revenue management—and all of that was before COVID affected the travel industry. COVID has made old-school hotel sales techniques (relying on slower, more methodical relationship building) extinct. The pandemic-related staffing crisis brought a new generation of professionals into the industry, on both the buyer and seller sides. So, the speed and scope at which the hotel industry is changing makes relationship-building only one part of an overall hotel sales strategy.
Today’s accommodations buyers—whether full-time business travel managers or an administrator planning an occasional meeting—are tech-savvy, data-driven, and want fast answers. Hotels should react with faster turnaround times on RFP responses, streamlined processes, and data-driven pricing. Professional planners and large business travel buyers are already known among hotel brands, and competition for their limited attention is high; however, today, it can be impossible to know and be able to influence most buyers of contracted hotel rooms or plan meetings and events on an occasional or one-off basis. That can make reliance on online sourcing platforms for incoming RFP leads a popular sales channel, but one that can make it difficult to effectively compete for desirable business without offering the lowest rates.
This problem is compounded by rising costs. Whereas technology-enabled sourcing was once a mostly cost-effective channel for contracted hotel sales, it can be quite different today. Too many of the popular online sourcing and procurement platforms available enable and promote a quasi-adversarial approach to buying and selling hotel rooms that is frustrating and time-consuming.
There’s a better way to address the needs of all parties, which includes sourcing technology platforms that are impartial and enable transparent, open communication and faster, more satisfactory results for all parties.
For the buyer, an intuitive interface makes it easy to create, search, and send an RFP that outlines their needs. A comprehensive database, smart filters, and relevant rating tools can help buyers identify the venues that best fit their needs, and data analytics can help compare hotel bids on a total cost basis to help buyers uncover hidden costs.
On the supplier side, a hotel sales team should be able to quickly assess and respond to every RFP, based on how well it fits their availability and revenue needs. Even more importantly, hotels should have the ability to actively participate during the sourcing process to ensure that they win the business that is desirable. Hotels can use a platform that shows them how their proposal is ranked, weighted by rate, and concessions in comparison to their competition. That’s what makes a transparent sourcing platform a gamechanger for both buyers and sellers.
About the Author
Ken Shanley is the founder of Vindow Inc.