The best deals for travel agents looking for city-centre hotels can be found via a combination of routes – including global distribution systems (GDS) or the hotel’s website, which usually has a login for agents to enter IATA numbers and to ensure commission is issued.
This is where hotels load non-refundable advanced purchase rates; flexible best available rates that are relative to their most current occupancy figures; and special offers including free breakfast or wi-fi or a local excursion.
Match your client to the package
For resorts, the best deals are usually made up from a combination of activities that are being undertaken by the clients during their break or holiday.
Buying a package (including more than room-only) from the hotel ensures you get the best deal on the additional elements such as spa treatments, rounds of golf, water sports etc. This can help save the client from paying full price for these services when they check out.
This is especially true for independent luxury hotels. Many more properties are adopting similar policies to airlines where the best rates are available the further in advance you book.
Last-minute offers are still readily available from hotels, however, these are usually offset by the increase the clients will pay in the air fare to get to their destination as flight availability decreases.
Clearly understanding and communicating what is included in the package and the typical hidden costs the guests may encounter is crucial.
- Should the clients be booked on a package that boasts free wi-fi when they intend to leave their computer at home?
- Is there a tray charge for room service breakfast that is more expensive than the breakfast itself?
- What exactly is that crane doing blocking my view of the sea from the window of my upgraded room?
Agents’ product knowledge is more important now than it has ever been.
Make yourself visible to the hotel
If you are booking via a bed bank or third party rather than via GDS, brand or chain websites, or directly with the hotel, you will be invisible to the hotel and they will not see all of your good work and previous year’s production.
This creates a cycle where the agent continues to book the hotel on a regular basis, but the hotel is not aware of the agent’s support. This also creates difficulty when VIP clients are travelling and need extra TLC.
Quite often hotels allocate their best rooms according to average daily rate (ADR) as well, and this is linked to the rate that the hotel secures for the room, and not necessarily the rate the end client pays for the room.
The more third parties involved in the booking procedure, the less ADR the hotel receives, and the more invisible the travel agent’s work is in the eyes of the hotel.
Most hotels offer fixed rates of 8%-15% commission, with 10% being the normal average.
Demonstrate your worth
If you organise client dinners, send out client emails or newsletters, or organise staff training sessions, these are all opportunities that hotels would very much appreciate being a part of.
They will often reciprocate your loyalty and trust with better rates, special offers for your clients, guaranteed amenities for your bookings, or higher commissions.
Staying close to your on-property hotel representative and hotel chain representative ensures that when you do place a booking, the hotel operations team will be made aware of your agency as the source of the booking and increase your chances of your clients receiving the VIP amenities and service. A room upgrade is the least expensive VIP amenity for a hotel that is not fully booked.
Understand the 2010 market
Hotels are adjusting capacity because of the recession and, barring a few unusual exceptions such as new destinations or new access or flights routes into established destinations, longer booking lead-in times for long-haul and local destinations with over capacity of hotel inventory will remain the two best deals to be had in 2010.
Jason Schellenberg is an expert in the golf leisure market, and was previously golf sales and marketing manager at MacDonald Hotels and Resorts.