Hotel booking agents have urged hotels not to cut rates or let standards slip as the country moves into a recession.

Agents who specialise in hotel bookings for corporate clients revealed their concerns to hoteliers in anticipation of a cutback in corporate spending.

Speaking at the Hotel Booking Agents’ Association’s annual forum, HBAA chairman Sue Burgess told the 230 delegates: “We think hotels will drop their rates without strategy. We’d like them to discuss this with us and if they do cut rates, make sure it’s the same across all channels.”

Members expressed serious concern about hotels allowing the quality of their offering to deteriorate. “We will not accept shabby hotels,” said Burgess. “You cannot afford to let the standard slip as this will affect you in the long term.”

Agents also hit out at hotels for over-using incentive schemes and marketing gimmicks. “If you want us to give you more business, then come and talk to us. Incentives often go wrong and just make staff compete against each other,” added Burgess.

Meanwhile, Catherine Whittle, who represents the hotel partners of HBAA, said the credit crunch was yet to hit the hotel industry. However, she added: “Hotels are facing massive increased costs so dropping rates isn’t really an option. We learned a lot from the last recession so we know not to go down that route.”

Training and incentivising staff would be key to surviving the recession, she said. “Companies should be reviewing their strategies and communicating that to every single member of staff.”

The annual meeting also saw the launch of the HBAA Training Academy, an umbrella brand for its training courses for agents including non-members. The new HBAA website, set to relaunch on September 30, will have a career zone and industry events page.