When hotel chains and corporate traveler buyers see eye-to-eye, the results can be very, very good. But when they don’t, the results can be very, very bad. A case in point came from Marriott, which promised free Wi-Fi to its reward members – provided the members booked direct with the hotel through the hotel’s website, thereby going around corporate policy.
Marriott’s move erupted in a veritable firestorm in the UK, where the deal was offered. The Institute of Travel and Meetings actually wrote to Marriott, asking it to “rethink” the offer, which was ripe for enticing travelers to breach corporate policy. Marriott responded the intent was not to encourage policy breaches but rather to reward loyalty perks for members who had the freedom to book room directly through the hotel website.
HOTELS VS. CORPORATE TRAVELER BUYERS
Marriott is not alone in its offering of extra perks for travelers that book direct, although the reason is not necessarily to undermine corporate policies. The reason is typically to increase business, and every general manager at each specific location has the say-so on how.
Local control of specific hotel locations can make it tough for corporations to negotiate global deals that stand firm in every location. And that’s not the only barrier standing in the way of a win-win relationship between hotels and corporate buyers.
WHAT BUYERS WANT
While it may seem hotels would be hot to jump on corporate group deals that ensure a steady stream of regular customers fill its business suites, travel managers demand can be fairly hefty. They often include:
- Free Wi-Fi in hotel rooms, which is not typically the norm in the higher-end hotels
- Breakfast, food and beverage discounts, parking and access to an executive lounge for evening work sessions
- Last-room availability (LRA), ensuring a company’s negotiated rates stay in place regardless of vacancy levels
WHAT HOTELS DEMAND
Hotels are not perfect either, often including fine-print clauses in corporate agreements that include:
- Blackout dates
- Cancellation charges
- Travelers and corporate managers joining the rewards program to enjoy special perks
When buyers and hotels are willing to work together to overcome barriers, a symbiotic relationship can result. This often involves hotels making agreements tailored to the structure and needs of individual corporations, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution afforded to all corporations. And the biggest perk remains the same: guest recognition. Being recognized and treated as a frequent traveler and regular guest may even be on par with free, in-room Wi-Fi.
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We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.