April 23, 2024

Keep your mouth shut

Scott Wylie, Chief Technology Officer at TripStax, shares some expert insights about hotel rate trends, but wishes he'd kept his mouth shut on other matters

My top life hack this month is: take care before you open your mouth in public. I’ve learned this lesson twice recently.

The first time was when I pledged in my last column to avoid alcohol until the end of March. Having told everyone, I’m having to stick to my word and have thus realised that non-alcoholic beer is as bad as vegan bacon.

The second incident occurred when I wrote a ‘colourful’ review on TripAdvisor about the hotel I stayed at during my December business trip to India. Not a problem you might think, but I submitted the review before checking out. Within minutes I was besieged by upset management.

Lounge access typically comes at a premium. It’s worthwhile should you want a quiet place to work and dine with attentive but non-invasive staff.

Cutbacks meant on this occasion that I waited upwards of 30 minutes just to be acknowledged. First world problems aside, what was this premium for?

“Take care before you open your mouth in public. I’ve learned this lesson twice recently”

Lately, I have been looking at a lot of hotel booking and rate data since relaunching our booking platform as TripStax Hotels. I am seeing some clear patterns emerge. Rates are still going up, as they have done since the return from Covid. In some markets increases remain in double digits.

That’s partly because costs are going up. In the main, however, hotels are whacking up rates because they can. Demand remains strong – for now – and owners are sensibly focusing on yield, not occupancy.

But the data is telling me some good news too, which is that if you actively manage your programme, you can improve the rate that you pay.

There are levers you can pull as travel buyers. What’s more, hotels are in the mood to let you pull them. They are twigging that while strong leisure demand is making it a seller’s market today, that revenue can’t be relied upon and so they need to keep sweet with corporate customers for long-term insurance.

“Another emerging trend is that corporate clients are willing to seek alternative hotels if the big chains are proving too expensive”

We’re seeing more negotiated rates being loaded into the TripStax Hotels platform, because hotels are actively courting deals with corporate clients again. More is being made of agency corporate discounts where clients have no deals of their own. Rates with negotiated extras like parking and premium Wi-Fi are becoming popular too.

Another emerging trend is that corporate clients are willing to seek alternative hotels if the big chains are proving too expensive. We’re getting more requests from corporates, through their TMCs, to directly connect small independent properties – many of which offer great facilities and service, and a lot more personality – all at a keen price.

The opportunities for travel managers to limit average rate rises are absolutely there right now. And that’s something I definitely raise my glass of fizzy lime cordial to.

tripstax.com