Take a moment to reflect on this statistic: up to half of all corporate hotel bookings are made outside policy. This equates to £3.3 billion in unleveraged hotel spend in the UK during 2012 according to the Guild of Travel Management.
The implications of this non-compliance? It takes two hours nine minutes to search for and book a hotel on the internet, according to Google, compared to say eight minutes on your chosen booking tool. Apply this to £3.3 billion of hotel spend (approximately 16,500,000 bookings) and that’s a huge amount of time wasted – roughly 18,000 years or £592 million of lost productivity. Add to this roughly 10 per cent of hotel savings lost, or £330 million, by booking out of policy, and it’s little wonder that compliance to policy is a key objective for 80 per cent of procurement and travel managers.
So how do you get people to book in policy? It’s estimated that 42 per cent of the managed travel market in Europe is made up of online bookings – 97 per cent of HRS bookings are online. You must therefore ensure the content and usability of your chosen booking channel is of an equivalent quality to that of the online search engines that people are ‘leaking’ to.
Our research shows that content is king. For example, doubling the number of photographs can increase a hotel’s conversion several times over. The breadth and depth of information, or content, provided by hotels directly impacts the conversion of searches to bookings in both online and offline environments. Ensuring the right content is available radically reduces the temptation to book outside policy.
Of course, cost is the primary driver and you should ensure your supplier offers a best price guarantee that matches the lowest price the internet can provide. But, unless you get the content right, people will go to search engines to get a better hotel description and may book a higher price, rather than coming back to the company tool.
Here are some tips to getting effective content on your chosen channel, taken from our Content is King white paper:
• Professional photography should reflect the personality and features of a hotel and its different room types
• Multi-language descriptions, translated professionally
• Detailed information about facilities, services and location
• Room and advance booking availability
• Cancellation policy of at least up to 6pm on the day of arrival or midnight if possible
• Guest comments and reviews
Lastly, it’s also important to choose the right travel policy for the tool and content that you are providing to bookers.
☛ Jon West is managing director of HRS UK and Ireland