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Expert Insight: Building hotel RFPs from the ground up.


post-it notes with question marks on in a glass jar

As RFP season approaches fast, it’s time to think about how you can build an objective supporting hotel programme. Here at Agiito, we know a thing or two about infusing your business travel experience with a dash of innovation and outside-the-box thinking, and we’re here to give you a glimpse behind the curtain at how we do hotel RFPs differently.


So, how do you build a successful programme? Spoiler alert: it's not about pleasing everyone – but we’ll get to that…


So, what does success look like?

Making a success of your hotel programme hinges on identifying the right objectives, and then ensuring the hotels chosen will do the job.


As a business, you should be happy with every hotel accepted on your programme. This will ultimately set the scene when applying rate caps and other levers on how to manage compliance. So, a hotel that doesn't check your boxes shouldn’t make the first cut. But what exactly should these boxes be?


Think about the essentials, the non-negotiables that a hotel needs to flaunt to be part of your programme. Is it payment preferences? Car parking? Sustainability savviness? These must-haves are your programme's compass, defining them at this stage will make your job much easier further down the road. But there’s a knack to deciding what these essentials are – stakeholder engagement!


It doesn’t end there though. There are a few tips and tricks to building and executing a successful programme:

  • Nudge your travellers to spend like it's their own. Does a one-night stay need a gym, especially if there’s a dinner and early morning planned? Maybe not. But if it’s a multi-day conference, a gym might just be in order. And who knows, maybe a gym-less hotel in your line-up could save some cash without breaking a sweat (we’re genuinely sorry for this pun).

  • Don’t let loyalty cards stand in the way of your programme. Loyalty cards are nifty, but they shouldn't be the sole compass guiding your travellers. Let's think bigger picture and encourage your travellers to base their booking decisions on business objectives, rather than personal points and rewards.

  • Not sure about a hotel? Send out a scout! If you are not sure about a hotel or its location, see if you have someone within the business that can visit the property and report back.

How to engage: the right questions, in the right way.

Engaging with stakeholders doesn’t have to mean endless calls, 30 people around a table or a stalemate of conflicting opinions. It can often be about giving your stakeholders a platform to have their voice heard to get a better understanding of what they value. This could be as simple as a stakeholder specific survey.


Asking your business to rate or rank existing suppliers over the past year could help form an overall opinion of what’s worked well, and drill into whether those suppliers have scored highly on specific topics. You could also use this as an opportunity to ask open-ended questions about what they want. You could even measure overall sentiment scores so this can be benchmarked year on year.


Booker events have also proved popular with customers as there’s nothing quite like an opportunity to say what you think face to face. Your people will feel heard, and the feedback may be a lot more conversational.


Unsure what to ask? Ask your TMC the kind of questions that can give you’re the most useful feedback for programme building.


Now we know how, who do you engage with?

We mentioned earlier that it's not about pleasing everyone, but it is about involving the right people.


The magic word is alignment when it comes to outlining your programme objectives. Give your relevant stakeholders a seat at the table to help you decide the criteria by understanding what you want to see from a hotel that you can then enforce within the business – with as little pushback as possible.


Your stakeholders depend on your overall business objectives, traveller profile and culture. This could involve HR caring about quality standards, security teams ensuring certain information is captured or being involved in the approval process, or your travellers being presented with hotels that support their needs. These components, when fine-tuned, create a balance of opinions in your programme.


Here are a few common stakeholders to bring in:


  • Travellers: Traveller experiences are the real-world insight to base your programme on. Think about what’s important to them. Don’t just think about the complaints or grumbles you’ve received over the last 12 months, ask what works well. Can these insights be taken into consideration when deciding the right hotels on you programme for the year ahead?

  • Bookers: Your bookers might see another angle. They’re often the people helping to enforce your programme and challenging travellers to stay at compliant hotels. If they’re not behind the hotel selection, non-preferred hotels could crop up in your booking data.

  • Human Resources: HR can be a very useful voice in the room. They’ll might look at things from the perspective of convenience (like making sure hotels are close to office or station), wellbeing, diversity, equity and inclusivity. One way of ticking some of these boxes is setting a quality standard e.g., requesting a minimum standard that should be applied (do all hotels have to be 4*, or all rooms include specific door locking mechanisms?).

  • Duty of care: Traveller safety and security is paramount and there are a dozen different reasons security teams can often be very useful voices in the room. One example can be selecting international locations and hotels. International locations can require niche local insight and knowledge that security teams can know better than anyone. This could mean recognising countries that are hostile or more challenging to LQBTQ+ travellers. Or recognising that a 4* star rating doesn’t tell the full story, and that particular areas of a city might not be safe or appropriate.

  • Finance: Wellbeing, sustainability and duty of care have become more and more prominent over the years, but budgets always matter. By working with finance teams, you can finetune the balance between cost control and supporting organsiations and traveller needs. Your TMC will be able to support in providing data on rate changes by location to make sure your budgets are aligned with real world costs.


Can technology help with hotel RFPs?

This one deserves a blog of its own, so we’ll keep this light for now, but striking the right balance of resources is really important. Travel technology and data play a big part, but tech can often only take you so far before you need the human knowledge, interpretation, and intuition to connect the dots. Ultimately, tech won't deliver a good programme on its own. It should be supported by insight, engagement, and an experienced team. It’s about dialling up the right support at the right time and recognising there isn’t always a one size fits all approach to hotel RFPs.

Keep a look out for more on this topic in the future!

 

So, there you have it, the lowdown on turning your hotel RFPs into an objective-hitting singularity. When done right, this critical process is anything but an annual repetitive grind, it’s laying the foundations for a stellar year.


Hotel RFPs can often be a highly emotive area. Juggling cost control, security and sustainability targets, all while supporting the increasingly more personal needs of your travellers. It's like trying to balance a seesaw while riding a unicycle. But you're not alone; many organisations walk the same tightrope, and programme negotiators like ours are there with you every step of the way.


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