Bridging the Gap Between Travel Buyers and Travelers.

Author:Wartgow, Joel

Though different in certain aspects, hotel category management in both the commercial and government sectors face similar challenges in striving for the shared goal of reducing program costs for travel managers and travelers. In a recent survey conducted by GBTA and Roomlt, travel buyers identified their top goals of 2019 as reducing program costs and increasing policy compliance.

While commercial organizations and Federal Government entities share the same ultimate goal, the survey uncovered some disparity between how travelers and travel managers approach controlling program costs, increasing compliance and improving traveler satisfaction. At the 2019 GovTravels conference, results of the survey were presented, generating lively discussion amongst the participants about some of the common challenges all organizations face when trying to manage the hotel category. Below are some highlights from the findings.

When it comes to the goal of savings, travel buyers and travelers often differ in their approach to booking and viewing potential savings. Travel managers are not looking at savings rate-by-rate, but instead focus on overall compliance. Travelers, however, feel that they can find better rates on their own, which ultimately increases costs by diluting negotiating power and the advantage of flexibility and benefits available when booking the organizations desired hotels through official channels. Education is necessary to ensure that travelers follow the correct path to booking the correct hotel rates.

With this in mind, there are ways to bridge the gap between the goals of travel buyers and travelers by considering the factors that lead to booking outside of approved channels. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to:

  1. Lack of availability of lower rates at or below per diem within approved channels

  2. Ease of finding a hotel close to their destination

  3. Perception of availability

  4. Travelers don't have a clear understanding of what is in policy

  5. Preferred hotels are outside of policy, so they cannot earn loyalty points

Enforcing policy compliance is the most challenging and important aspect of managing a hotel program. When travelers book outside of the approved channels, it becomes difficult to determine if hotel spend has been optimized. This also raises an issue in negotiating participation in hotel programs.

Not surprisingly, in the commercial sector, the survey uncovered...

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