The Covid pandemic created a “great testbed” for Stuba’s new initiative to provide Holiday Confirmation Numbers (HCNs) on all bookings, according to its chief commercial officer.
The online accommodation specialist’s policy sees it reconfirm an agent’s booking with the hotel directly and then provide an HCN on the accommodation voucher and on its website seven days prior to check-in.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Matt Stuart said the new scheme had been introduced on a trial basis 18 months ago but had been properly tested with the advent of the global health crisis.
“With Covid coming along, it’s been a great testbed, because hotels during this last year have been planning to open and then with little or no notice, not opening,” Stuart said. “And of course, there have been a lot of reports sadly that clients have been arriving to find that the hotel is closed.”
He added: “When these things happen, it’s always typically out of hours and, unless the agencies have an out-of-hours service, it can just snowball into a huge nightmare. So [the new system] has been getting a proper test over the past 12 months.”
Stuart said the trial had proved very effective and he and his team had been sharing data with trade partners on the reduction in complaints and issues to prove to them why having a Hotel Confirmation Number on bookings was so important.
“We’re reaching out to all of our trade partners, large and small, to try to introduce HCNs and try to explain why it’s important. On the face of it, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a hotel confirmation number is that important when you’ve got your reservation number,” he said.
“So we’re just talking them through what we’re doing behind the scenes, why we’re doing it, and sharing some of that data and insights with them so that they understand the value it is actually bringing to them.”
Stuart added that he hoped the investment in the new service would “set a new standard and that others will follow”.
“Ultimately, if they do, then we are going to create a much safer and more confident environment for hotel bookings across the UK trade,” he said.
Asked if he was confident competitors would follow suit and provide HCNs, he replied: “Time will tell, but I’m guessing that our competitive set and tour operators are going to be asked that question by travel agents.
“They’d like an HCN because it’s a no brainer that is obviously going to reduce the chance of there being a problem, and they will start saying ‘why can I not have that?’
“It’s not necessarily a competitive issue, but it’s simply about us looking at how can we raise standards. We’ve been trade-only since 1991. We’ve been doing what we’ve been doing a long time, the trade is our lifeblood and we’re constantly just trying to innovate and find ways that we can raise standards, and obviously share the benefits with the travel agents and tour operators that we work with.”