How to Get the Lowest Hotel Rates for Business Travel

If this is the year that your business is taking a fresh look at reducing lodging costs, join the crowd.

A new survey of travel managers, conducted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s Travel Management Institute, puts optimizing hotel spend among the top priorities this year for the travel managers surveyed.

With industry experts forecasting hotel rate hikes this year, many companies are looking for better workforce travel savings and solutions. For many, the solution is putting a lodging savings card in the hands of their employees who travel.

It gives small business travelers access to the low hotel rates that are negotiated privately by lodging management providers for larger corporate clients.

The savings card is particularly aimed at businesses with workforce travelers, those employees who hit the road in boots – not suits – to get the job done. Typically, these travelers stay in economy and midscale hotels like Best Western, Hampton Inn, Ramada, Holiday Inn, Super 8 and Comfort Inn.

No More Bargain Rates
Having an advantage like a lodging savings card is more important than ever this year since hotel deals and bargains are going to be tougher to find.

The January 2011 forecast from PricewaterhouseCoopers said hotel prices will be 5.1 percent higher than last year, citing Smith Travel Research data. Colliers PKF Hospitality Research estimates a 4.6 percent rise.

These rising prices likely will make it tougher difficult for businesses – particularly small businesses –
to negotiate their own low rates.

Finding Privately Negotiated Rates
The key to getting the lowest hotel rates is having enough volume to negotiate a private rate. Small businesses usually are hampered by low volume, which drives the lower rate negotiations that larger companies and lodging management providers can achieve.

Unless a small business is targeting a location where it has 25 room nights or more a month, it can be difficult to get a private rate that is lower than other publicly available prices.

A lodging savings card provides access to those low negotiated rates at thousands of hotels. Many companies find their hotel savings are dramatic, including companies that save thousands of dollars a year.

Savings Card Advantages
The card works particularly well for per diem and seasonal travelers since there is no annual fee or minimal usage requirements.
A company signs up for the card and registers a credit card for billing. Company travelers present the card at check-in to the front desk at any of thousands of participating hotel locations.

The hotel sends the stay details to the lodging management provider that provides the savings card, who then bills the registered credit card.

An invoice statement is posted to the savings card online account, where the company can review it for easy credit card reconciliation. That means no more tracking down hotel receipts or playing detective work with purchase orders.

More than 10,000 smaller companies from the trucking, retail, staffing, energy, food service and other industries already are saving every day.

What Women Business Travellers Expect As Hotel Guests

Twenty-five years or so ago, when I first started travelling on business, there were very few other women on those early morning air commutes. Today women represent nearly 50% of business travellers, and hotels around the world are trying to determine what will keep women happy. It’s an important question because women are nearly twice as loyal to a hotel as men. Said one senior executive who logs 70 – 80 room nights a year, “When I find a hotel that make me feel welcome and safe, I’ll return again and again – even if they are a little more expensive and a little further from my meeting place.”

So what do women want?

Apologizing in advance for only being able to answer this question in terms of hotel stays, here are their/our top desires… assuming that all the business necessities (fax, internet connectivity in the room and/or WiFi, meeting rooms, access to printing, business newspapers delivered to the room, etc.) have already been met.

1) Top notch security. Many women like the idea of having a floor that can only be reached with a key card; it doesn’t have to be an all-female floor, but non-residents should not be able to gain access. Under the security heading, women include having well-lit, monitored parking garages with intercoms, valet parking and escort service to parking lots. Many hotels have their bell staff escort women to their rooms late at night. The front desk staff can help by giving women rooms near the elevators so they don’t have to walk down long, isolated hallways, especially ones that turn corners – and keeping these room numbers confidential at check-in. It can be as simple as pointing to the room number, rather than saying it aloud.

2) Clean, fresh smelling rooms. Most hotels have this one well in hand, but hotels making a special effort to cater to women add woman’s magazines, fresh flowers and pot pourri for the bathroom when the room is made up. Cupboards are stocked with plenty of hangers, including skirt and camisole hangers and padded ones, too. “Chick flicks” get included in their movie line-up; one hotel chain also offers yoga and guided visualization options.

3) Inviting bathrooms. Women expect bathrooms to be pristine. They are far more particular than men about this. This means no errant hairs on the floor (check the corners, because women do), no grit in the tub or smudges on the mirrors. Many hotels are starting to install curved shower curtain rails so that the shower curtains can be kept far from the body (and are less likely to grow mold). As well as being tastefully appointed, there should be good light (for putting on make-up application), a full length mirror on the door, outlets that will take a curling iron, and a good quality hair dryer with a cord long enough to permit styling in front of the mirror. Important to both men and women: The shower should have enough pressure to remove hair conditioner. It is very frustrating (and not a great way to start the day) trying to wash long hair when the hotel has installed a water miser! Hotelier hint: Cleaning staff should be instructed to leave the extra towels in the bathroom when there is a single female guest. Women need one towel for their hair, one for their body, another for their hands when putting on make-up… you get the picture, I’m sure.

4) Attractive amenities. This means milled soaps in the bathroom, shampoos and conditioners that don’t have a sports scent, thicker towels, generously proportioned and fluffy bathrobes. Some hotels have introduced a spa line for their female guests to a very positive reception.

5) Locked cupboard “mini bars”. Women travellers tell us that they would like a mini bar equivalent stocked such necessities as pantyhose (queen size and regular), tampons, panty liners – things that you can’t just run out and pick up when you run out, or need unexpectedly.

6) Sports Centres. In addition to having well-lit, well-secured gym facilities, some hotels are providing secure jogging tracks. Not only do women want to feel safe when they use the gym, they want to feel welcome. This means making sure the facility is kept clean and well-stocked with towels, cool water, Kleenex and anti-bacterial spray for the machine handles. It also means including exercise balls, floor mats and lighter free weights in the equipment line-up.

7) Food and Finer Fare. Women prefer bistro or cafĂ© style restaurants to noisy sports bars; they also like to have lighter fare to choose from whether they are dining in the restaurant or ordering room-service. As for the actual dining experience, women can feel uncomfortable being reminded of their single diner status. “Will anyone be joining you this evening?” is preferable to “Eating alone?” Being seated against a wall can also make women feel more at ease when dining alone – as can a little extra attention from the wait staff. One idea is for hotels to establish a single diner’s website where guests can make arrangements to dine with someone else. Or perhaps to ask single diners if they would like to be joined by someone.

8) Last but not least: To be treated courteously and professionally. Hint to Hoteliers: Women in their 40’s have the highest expectations for hotel service delivery – and yet are the most likely to receive second-rate service from hotel staff (and yes, this takes into account that they register more complaints because they are pickier!). Suggest your staff pay a little extra attention to this group because they are less price-sensitive and more likely to refer your property to colleagues.