Is it counterproductive for hotels to offer incentives to those who book direct?

Business travel will build up momentum next year
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Hotels are in the business of making money, but they need to be careful that by wooing one type of customer they are not putting off another - potentially more profitable - revenue stream. 

By offering free wifi to customers who are members of their loyalty scheme and who book with them directly, Marriott was clearly trying to give value to their regular customers, but possibly to the hotel chain's detriment.

 While the incentive was no doubt welcomed by those who it was directed at, the Institute of Travel and Meetings felt compelled to contact Marriott, describing its plan as an "anti-corporate initiative". 

Mark Cuschieri, chairman of ITM's industry affairs group, said: "We recognise the importance of rewarding loyal customers with complimentary services or amenities. 

"But when there is an effort to attract business travel away from approved corporate channels, it becomes a major problem," he said. 

Corporates want to keep tabs on travel 

A major concern for any company regularly sending their executives on business trips is the expense of doing so. In order to keep tabs on costs, it is vital for businesses that their employees book through proper channels, rather than direct. 

This is where deals like Marriott's risk upsetting corporate clients and alienating travel management companies (TMCs). 

Buying Business Travel quotes Stephen Swift, regional corporate travel manager at Ford, on the matter. The motor manufacturer uses American Express as its TMC and company policy states that all bookings must be made through the Amex site. 

"If non-compliant behaviour is challenged and those expenses are not reimbursed, that ensures the processes are robust. We want to know where people are and to track volumes for negotiating purposes." 

Systems like Procon Solution's ProTAS mid-back office solution lets TMCs automate their booking processes and subsequently delivers detailed reports on where, when and how their employees travel. 

Booking tools need to keep up with business travel demand 

It seems that in order for TMCs to keep up with the offers being made to loyal customers booking direct, their software needs to become more sophisticated. 

Business Travel News (BTN) questioned six travel managers about what functions they believed the next generation of booking tools should have. 

They all agreed that companies should be looking to develop a so-called travel management system, rather than simply an advanced booking tool. 

In a best case scenario, it would be capable of automating interaction with individual travellers before, during and after their trip. It would be able to recognise the status of their flights and previous trips they had made. 

BTN said the taskforce agreed that "similar to the technological experience offered by online retail giant Amazon.com, the booking tool should know travelers' prior bookings, itineraries and activities and be able to recommend similar options". 

It should provide feedback from other travellers and should be hooked into supplier performance data and corporate travel policy restrictions. 

Reports to be produced post-trip 

While solutions like ProTAS can't handle the booking phase of the trip, it does allow users to automatically input all the transport and accommodation information and will produce a report at the end. 

This was a feature that was requested by all the travel managers questioned as part of the taskforce. 

 
ProCon Solution A/S
Herstedøstervej 27-29
DK-2620 Albertslund
Phone: +45 4363 2266
Email: procon@procon.dk