Being accepted on to one of the high profile, global hotel programmes such as Goldman Sachs, UBS, McKinsey or BP can simultaneously enhance your hotel’s reputation and increase revenues but it can also seem wildly out of reach, especially if your hotel is not part of a national, regional or global chain.
Almost all chains will have a sales team specifically targeting inclusion in the top 50 global hotel programmes. They’ll have regional account managers, hotel based sales teams and marketing programmes all focused on increasing their share of the business – and, for the most part, they’ll be good at it. They’ll know when each company runs its RFP (request for proposal) and their sales efforts will reflect this.
So, what can you do to maximise your chances of being included?
Global Hotel Programme managers have a wealth of information at their fingertips, they are well informed and they’ll expect you to be the same; and for you to add value to their programme, not just by offering the lowest price, but by demonstrating that your hotel is the best choice; taking in to account price, traveller benefits and location to name just three of the criteria they will probably be judging a hotel on.
Below you’ll find our essential checklist of what you absolutely must know before you start:
1) Your competition
Which of your competitors is already on the programme? And don’t stop there, if you can, find out their rate, how many room nights they receive and how long they have been on the programme. You’ll also want to consider factors such as location – are they next door to the client’s office or are you closer?
2) Your (potential) customer
Why are they travelling? Is this a short term project or part of a strategic long term commitment in the location? How many room nights are they producing? Is the programme mandated? Do they book through an agency and if so, which one? Who is the decision-maker? What is the cycle and where are you in it, right now?
3) Your hotel (and what you can offer)
Do you already have some guests from your target company staying with you, if yes, find out why (hint, your operations team can help you with this). What do you want to achieve, realistically, how many room nights do you want from this account? What are you going to offer? In our experience, although the rate will play a major role in every negotiation it’s dangerous to make this your only tactic as it won’t be long before someone else offers a lower rate.
So, you’ve done your research. You know who your competition is, what your customer needs and how you can provide it. What next?
You need to get face to face. It might be impossible to meet with the final decision maker, but they will probably have stakeholders in your region and you need to meet with them. But they won’t be swayed by an invitation to lunch only. It’s likely they are approached by suppliers wanting to get on to their programme every day so demonstrate value and understanding of their needs from the beginning.
Show you’ve done your homework and tailor your approach to them. “My hotel is new and we’d love to be on your programme” is not a compelling offer. Be specific. If you think you can save them money, tell them how much and how you’ll do it. If you’re closer to their office then their travellers might save on taxi fares to and from. If you’re farther away, can you offer a car service? And be prepared to offer free WIFI as standard and for availability to play a major part in negotiations.
As with most things, timing is key. You’ll know from your research when their programme runs to and from, so if you’ve just missed the boat and the programme is closed for the year, tell them you know that. Unless something goes wrong with their choice or they suddenly need more capacity in your location, they are very unlikely to accept late entries so use the time you have to make sure you are included in the RFP next time.
Inclusion in a global hotel programme is achievable for an independent boutique hotel. By taking the long term view and combining it with consistent account management, a deep understanding of your (potential) customer’s needs and an offering that reflects this, you too can be one of the chosen few.
Contributed by Johanna Till