In our last post we discussed establishing and enforcing an expense policy. Here we'll look at how to negotiate discounts for travelers.
Most hotel chains, rental car companies and airlines offer discounts negotiated on a company wide basis. This will take some leg work, but will pay off. Here's an example of how to negotiate to get the best deal at hotels.
- Review the last 6 - 12 months of expense reports and determine the top three hotel chains where your employees stayed (be sure to note how many room nights for each hotel).
- Determine where most of your business travel takes your employees and overlay that with a map of each hotel chain.
- Contact your top three hotel chains and talk to them about your needs, your past usage of their hotels versus their competitors (give numbers), and make sure they know that you are going to choose one chain for all of your future business. If you don't have a lot of room nights, don't worry - most will still offer you a discount.
- Once you've collected the bids you'll need to do some online research. Check out travel sites, like travelocity.com or orbitz.com and compare your bid to what is being offered online. Also check out the hotel's own website and look at their special rates and discounts. The bid you received from the hotel should be below what you find online. If it's not, call them and try to talk them down.
- Choose the hotel which offers a good discount (not necessarily the best), but also takes into account their locations and convenience for your business travelers.
Be sure all your business travelers sign up for the hotel's rewards program, and let them know that they can use those rewards points any way they like. This way your employees will be incentivized to use the preferred hotel.
Of course, there will be occasions when the preferred hotel chain does not have a unit near where your business travel takes you. This is where your expense policy comes into play. Make sure that you have a clear policy that states what the procedure is when the preferred hotel is not available.
Negotiating better rates is not only good for business, it's extremely gratifying. So, enjoy!