As corporate travel teams get their accommodation programs ready for the future, here are seven areas to assess to help keep travelers safe and obtain the best value:
- Shore up duty of care gaps.
To help traveling employees during a disruption, you must know where they are heading. Travel risk management technology can enable security teams to locate and communicate with potentially impacted travelers quickly. However, in order for it to be effective, business travelers need to book all segments of their trip, including their hotel stay, using the approved booking channels so that complete itinerary information gets captured. Problems can arise when business travelers opt to book directly with hotel brands or via online travel agencies. Therefore, a large part of bolstering duty of care is about bolstering policy compliance.
- Adapt and promote your accommodation policy.
When repatriations efforts began a few months ago, a number of companies encountered difficulties locating travelers who had booked outside the approved booking channels. To avoid this issue moving forward, some companies are shifting to a mandated program, making booking via the approved channels mandatory.
Even if a mandated program isn’t right for your company, hotel compliance is essential to duty of care, so set the right tone by consistently communicating to traveling employees about how adherence benefits them and debunk the myths they may have about managed programs. For instance, some travelers book directly with hotels because they mistakenly believe they will not earn loyalty points if they book through the company tool. Not true. Most company tools do offer loyalty points, unless the rate specifically doesn’t offer it.
Through our Rest Assured Solutions, a comprehensive collection of accommodations products and services, we offer our travelers over 2 million properties, including inventory from Booking.com, Expedia, and alternative lodging options, so we have content that satisfies all types of traveler types and preferences.
- Revisit your supplier engagement and strategy.
With hotels offering steeply discounted rates to entice guests back to their properties, a number of travel managers are planning to negotiate rate reductions this year with preferred suppliers through to the end of 2021. Others, heeding the advice of the Global Business Travel Association, are postponing the hotel request for proposal (RFP) until 2021.
According to a recent Skift article, some travel and procurement directors moving ahead with RFPs are seeking “dual-rate loading” with fixed and dynamic pricing in place for their top properties. This gives corporate clients the best of both worlds – the security of having a spend cap while also having the ability to take advantage of price drops. Travel buyers also may negotiate other favorable terms appropriate for these times, such as flexible cancellation and refund policies.
- Prepare travelers for their hotel stay.
When companies send employees back on the road, travelers will have a preference to stay in hotels with high safety and hygiene standards. So speak to suppliers about the cleaning and health measures they have implemented and what they are doing to prioritize guest safety since consistent standards across properties will be key to instilling traveler confidence.
Hilton, for example, is creating a contactless experience for guests, enabling them to check in, open their guest room door, and control the room temperature, lights, and TV all through its app. Marriott is using electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces while other hotels have begun employing UV light sanitizing technology.
You also may want to explore contactless payments technology to eliminate the need for physical credit cards. With our Virtual Payment ExpertÔ solution, hotel transactions can be paid digitally using a secure virtual card number.
- Redesign service and technology around new needs.
To reduce the risk that comes when employees book outside company-approved channels, companies are leaning into services and technology that help drive hotel policy compliance. Pre-trip approval technology that automatically flags bookings made outside the policy can easily prevent noncompliant travel. An online booking tool that enables you to create custom policy notifications and whose algorithm prioritizes preferred suppliers could be helpful too.
You also may want to test out our complimentary Trip Recommender™ solution. It automatically sends messages to travelers who have not booked a hotel with their flight reservation and offers up to three click-to-book accommodation options based on a traveler’s previous behaviors and preferences, so you can naturally boost hotel attachment without.
- Redefine hotel program value.
With an increased emphasis on cost savings and efficiencies, companies are carefully reviewing their hotel partners to shift share and optimize spend when possible.
Increasingly, program value will be defined by factors beyond cost savings. For 2021, travel buyers will have a dual focus on cost containment and increased safety and security. This may mean working with hotels to implement more flexible cancellation policies to allow for sudden travel changes as well as selecting brands with enhanced cleaning protocols. Further, if a property has halted the buffet breakfast usually included in the corporate rate to reduce risk exposure, there may be other meal options, such as a “grab and go” offering, instead. If not, travel buyers will be negotiating rate reductions.
- Evaluate your data and reporting capabilities.
Organizations should do a thorough assessment of their reporting tools to make sure they support their hotel attachment and duty of care goals. A robust data analytics solution can help travel managers quickly identify the source of leakage, down to the traveler level, so you can address the problem head-on. The data analytics reports also can be shared with business unit leaders so they are aware of noncompliant activities and can follow up directly with policy violators.
Having hotel data will become more essential in the months ahead since you will need to understand your company’s travel activities and price fluctuations to prepare volume commitments and budgets. If you need tailored hotel advice or help with forecasting trends, we are here to help.
To learn more about how our Rest Assured Solutions can help you protect traveling employees, check out our new “Duty of Care: Key to Your Accommodations Program” e-book.