Jennifer Nicholas, Managing Consultant, Hotel Spend Management, Hotel Solutions
You have just spent a considerable amount of time, energy, and personnel/financial resources on curating a global hotel program that you are sure your travelers will appreciate, and your company will find value in. So, what’s next?
Having an industry-leading program isn’t just about what hotels are in your program or what rates you were able to achieve. What separates an industry-leading program from the rest is having a strategy in place to actively manage the program. This includes engaging with your travelers on what’s most important to them and their experience, while also maintaining value against the market. Using a “set it and forget it” approach is not going to keep your program competitive throughout the year. In this post, we will break down the five key areas to focus on as you manage your program throughout 2023.
1. Regularly monitor rates for competitiveness and availability to keep travelers in channel
Building off the challenging environment that is the post-COVID world we live in, hopefully, you’ve secured some really great rates. But if not, you’ll want to renegotiate them post-RFP to maintain value in your program. Or, if the value isn’t there and can’t be negotiated, you may want to remove them from your program altogether. Remember, when you have non-competitive rates in your program, your travelers lose trust in the program and start booking through other channels where you don’t have visibility.
From there, a competitive negotiated rate is only good if it’s available and bookable to your travelers. Ensuring consistent availability of the negotiated rate helps to bring value to your program and creates a positive experience for your travelers. We recommend looking at your rates and availability every month and continue making changes as needed. We know that business travelers are also digitally savvy consumers, and if they are finding better deals outside of your program, they will lose confidence and book in other channels.
2. Boost your traveler experience
When was the last time you checked your OBT to see what your traveler sees? It’s likely been a while, and with reduced travel in the last few years, that’s understandable. As travel resumes and ramps up quickly, now is the perfect time to login and clean up. Check your sort order, review any booking limitations, ensure your negotiated rate is providing value against other rates your travelers see, verify the preferencing of your preferred program, etc.
If your OBT is not providing a good experience, your travelers will book elsewhere and all of the hard work you put into developing the program will go to waste. Schedule a focus group with some of your travelers – their feedback is invaluable! This is also the ideal time to revisit your travel policies and remind travelers that duty of care cannot be provided if they’re not booking through your designated TMC.
3. Influence buyer behavior
Once you’ve ensured the user experience is up to par, you can take things a step further by influencing your travelers to make decisions that align with your company goals. Think about your typical online shopping experience. You come across pop-up ads, recommendations tailored to your interests, and other messaging that impacts your purchase decisions. In your OBT, you can use banner messaging and rate targets to influence your travelers purchasing behavior. Implementing and displaying rate targets will help guide your travelers toward choosing competitive rates, while empowering them to make smart buying decisions. One of BCD’s SolutionSource partners, TripKicks, has developed a budget algorithm that does an excellent job of providing travelers real-time dynamic rate targets within the OBT search results.
4. Focus on sustainability
As you continue to monitor your program, sustainability should also be top of mind. Did you consider sustainability during the sourcing process? If you haven’t, now is the time to take a look at your program and see where you can improve. If you did prioritize sustainability during your negotiations, are your travelers booking those hotels within your program?
One of our key recommendations for clients looking to drive the adoption of sustainable choices is to develop a communications strategy focused around sustainability that educates travelers on how to select sustainable properties and the importance of making sustainable choices to align with the company’s larger goals. No matter what initiatives you choose to adopt, don’t forget to keep your travelers up to date on the changes you’re making. Building a sustainable program only works if your travelers use it!
5. Diversity, equity & inclusion
While many companies are focused on environmental sustainability alone, it is important not to forget the rest of the environment, social and government (ESG) framework. Looking forward, travel managers are beginning to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) metrics as a valuable component of their hotel program. Start initiating conversations with your hotel partners on what they are actively doing to promote DE&I within their hotels and their communities.
Stay tuned for the final blog in our series where we will dive into how using the right data can help you evaluate rate availability, program compliance, and much more to ensure you have a competitive business travel hotel program.