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One of the categories with which corporates struggle the most is running a successful hotel programme – a topic which came under the spotlight at an African Business Travel Association (ABTA) event held in Johannesburg recently.

According to travel buyers at the event, hotel programme challenges include Duty of Care concerns, control of spend, end-user satisfaction and consumerisation where traveller choice is not in line with the travel policy.

They say travel agents have a key role in assisting with managing a corporate’s hotel programme, as the travel agent can assist in controlling traveller compliance. Quite often the traveller fails to comply because they are not confident about the option they get from the travel agent. That is why travel agents must step up and consult instead of being happy to book an air ticket.

Airbnb transactions and other non-GDS data make it difficult for corporates to track the spend and their travellers although travel buyers recognised that travel agents are now looking at how to incorporate this data because it is unavoidable.

Travel Managers need accurate, comprehensive data to successfully manage their hotel spend, agrees Peter Schoeman, City Lodge Sales and Marketing Director.  “It is essential for effective sourcing and better understanding of traveller behaviour and there are several sources where a travel manager can source this data, including TMC transactions, corporate credit card spend, the GDS and MIS reports from their accommodation provider.”

Peter further cites the importance of understanding traveller needs and behaviour and the need to design an effective hotel policy. “Travellers play a key role in optimising hotel spend so they need clear guidelines on how to book, which hotels to use, and what to do in a typical situation, such as selecting a hotel when the preferred property is not available.”

Corporates, he says, must provide guidelines such as setting a price limit for travellers to respect if they are booking outside policy and encourage travellers to follow recommendations made by the TMC at point of sale.

Peter also encourages corporates to monitor hotel performance systematically to ensure their rates are loaded correctly into GDSs and that negotiated rates are available to travellers. “Regular tracking is essential for ensuring the hotel programme meets traveller needs and improving compliance.”

Peter believes that hotel spend will be increasingly managed by companies as they seek further savings from their travel programme. “Best performers will build on a keen understanding of the hotel market and traveller behaviour, bringing improvements in such areas as data consolidation, understanding traveller behaviour, travel policy, traveller compliance and performance tracking.”