Looking Beyond | How will your hotel program look post Covid-19

Your hotel program is a vital piece of the chain that makes up your travel ecosystem, the travel policy.

For many years the hotel program has focused around the costs of rooms per night, corporate rates and inclusions. The scope has been changing, with extra CSR elements to consider. Hotel programs will now be more than cost and return but rather heavily rely on the safety and security of the program, leading from the very top at head office hotels to the small individual hotel in the countryside for a client visit.

The whole travel policy infrastructure will change; hotels will have to adjust their pricing and NLRA (Non-Last Room Availability) rates may vary. The way hotels will have to operate and serve guest will have the most significant effects on the rates available. Travel restrictions will place strain on the forecasts of the hotels, including the unpredictability of borders opening and remaining open; local government Afterall are the highest authority.

Hotels will need to release new rates with guarantees, in the business travel space we cannot solely rely on the supplier’s word that we have the best rates, steps need to be taken to ensure the price is benchmarked on a Realtime basis using third party sources.

Travel managers should be looking at their contracts to identify areas that could alleviate some of the risks within their hotel program, such as the elimination of B&B rates and relying solely on room only. It could be that your staff members use “grab and go” breakfast facilities to grab breakfast on the move rather than sitting in a hotel breakfast room or grab breakfast on the high street at a relatively reduced cost. Either way these Travel and Expense elements should be worked into the new ecosystem that will exist after business travel restarts.

From a safety point of view, risk assessments have included whether a separate locking mechanism is on the inside of the room door, to protect from intrusion. Some others have covered the distance from the office and lighting on nearby streets for safety while in-between. New risk factors are emerging too, such as social distancing on corridors and security resources being drawn to cleanliness rather than security. Could it be more hotels move to online check-in to avoid unnecessary interaction? Or perhaps travel safety kits are issued to employees to measure bacteria and cleanliness?

Safety will now include the status of the COVID-19 cleaning procedures, outlining what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. This is one of the critical factors which along with the length of stay and purchase conditions will lead to the overall nightly room rate of a hotel increasing.

The more the hotel needs to service your booking, the higher the cost.

Hotels will move to accreditation Programmes. This will take the bulk of your auditing and place it in the hands of the assessors at the global hotel chains who will implement new cleaning manuals for all rooms around the world. Accreditation on hotels will act as a new standard, which we have started to see countries like Portugal adopt voluntarily.

The stumbling point will be the importance of assessing hotels that are independent and smaller.

You will not have the resources to check these elements of your hotel bookings and will look to your TMC to be providing these. All of a sudden the lack of presence in the GDS and OBT’s doesn’t become the hotelier’s first issue, it now becomes necessary to promote the safety and security of the hotel to your business and agents. Perhaps a standardised measure could be introduced globally to alleviate most of the work; however, smaller hoteliers will fall behind and suffer. Looking at an external assessor could be the answer for more modest hotels, yet this will have cost implications and will lead to the next increase in your rate.

My advice is:

  • Please work with your partners from an early stage, learn how they do things and pass on your requirements. Working together, whether you have 30 room nights or 300, could be the way to finding common ground with your suppliers and establishing a safety mechanism while having a negotiated rate. 
  • Utilise rates such as the WIN hotel program provided by Isleworth Travel Management and see this evolve with new COVID measures. 
  • Talk to travellers in house and find out what matters to them, look at their reaction to home working and see if their way of thinking has changed.
  • Communicate change ad safety to your staff.

Making the first steps will protect you, your business and staff from day one of return.

Brett Gerrett

Isleworth Travel Management is a TMC with an SME focus. Isleworth Travel Management are members of The Advantage Travel Partnership (ATP) which is the UK’s largest independent travel consortia, with 200 businesses locations across the UK and a group turnover of more than £4.5 billion. We utilise our membership with The Advantage Travel Partnership to maximise the benefits that we provide to our clients.