by Suzanne Neufang

Carlson Wagonlit’s hotel sourcing group published a study in June projecting the environment for corporate hotel negotiations after the Marriott-Starwood merger becomes a reality. One of the report’s highlights pointed out that Marriott declined to respond to RFPs 18 percent of the time during the 2016 RFP season. That figure is three times as often as Starwood decided not to respond. The prospect of that figure going even higher presents a challenge to travel buyers worldwide, especially those in North America.

The fact is, it’s not just the larger chains that don’t respond to hotel RFPs. Travel managers that manage their own sourcing often speak of the frustration of the silence from many of their hotel targets. Is occupancy so high that properties everywhere are OK to turn down corporate business?

The reality is that there are several factors in play that lead to this reality. In the case of Marriott and some larger chains, longstanding loyalty programs are drawing out-of-compliance business travelers in steady numbers. While travel managers gnash their teeth at this ongoing issue, the hotel chains (as you might suspect) continue to invest in making their loyalty programs as attractive as possible. And based upon those occupancy figures, hotel chains in a solid economic climate are not as keen to offer corporate discounts to every firm that asks – they just don’t need to.

The second reason that some RFPs don’t draw hotel responses speaks to the volume that firm may be projecting at the property and the relative number of staff the hotel employs to respond. Fact is, some hotel teams don’t have the manpower and resources to stay on top of a busy RFP season. Like everyone, they prioritize their top opportunities at a crazy time of year.

The third reason that an RFP may be under-responded to is language and culture. How many of your global manufacturing centers are in a top global financial center? Probably close to zero. Sending a North American-generated RFP to a group of independent hotels in China, Brazil, or even the UK or Poland may draw a blank stare. (And the email – in English – goes in the trash.)

What can give you an edge to counter these challenges? Outsourcing with an established global sourcing provider gives travel managers a reputable representative to engage with hotels on RFPs – and get them to both understand the process and to respond. HRS recorded a response rate of 92% for the 2016 RFP season, ensuring that the vast majority of their corporate clients got the feedback they desired, whether in the US, China, Brazil, or Europe. A dedicated group of 36 HRS sourcing team members now work with the worldwide hotel community to ensure RFPs get to the right people at a property, and that deadlines for RFP responses are met. And another 350 hotel-facing professionals on our staff go that final mile when a response is still missing. With this kind of deep global hotel experience – your global hotel program is in good hands. Learn more about HRS’ sourcing services, and the options they offer to corporate hotel programs, here.

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