Independent corporate agents are missing out on hotel bookings because staff see these as time-consuming compared to flights, say leading members of Advantage Travel Centres.
Advantage head of hotel supplier partnerships Julie Janzen told the agency consortium's conference in Malta at the weekend that hotel transactions made up less than 20% of corporate members’ flight bookings.
Helen Sawyer, services director at Advantage member Business Travel Direct, reported a sharp rise in the ratio of hotel bookings to flights. But she said: “Booking a hotel can be complicated compared with a flight booking.
“Staff often don’t see the value. A lot of education is needed. We have weekly reviews to see where we may have lost opportunities. Training is key.”
Q A Business Travel managing director Kevin Thom, president of Scottish agents’ association the SPAA, said: “Our hotel bookings have grown substantially, but the procedures for hotel bookings can be laborious for agents. We need to make it easier.”
Richard Coupland, director of business travel and GDS sales for APEX Hotels, said: “One of biggest focuses is driving hotel sales through travel management companies.” However, Coupland argued agency owners sometimes block hotels from direct access to retail staff.
He said: “Hotel groups spend huge amounts on agency consortia programmes. They should be allowed to come into agencies. But there is a feeling hotels will try to cut agents out by going direct. We would not spend the money if we were trying to do that.”
Sawyer insisted: “We're happy to see hotel groups, but hotels telling clients their commissionable rates is a problem.” She added: “We still find bed banks have different rates.”
Coupland said: “Hotels are becoming cleverer about parity of pricing, but we get unscrupulous agents offering rooms at different rates. We put out net rates and can't control what rate rooms are offered at.”
Thom said: “The biggest frustration is bill backs. Clients find a room has not been paid for when they check in. It doesn’t make us look good.” He said bookings often “never make it from the back office to the front desk”.