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March 6, 2013

Seven Tips for Booking Business Travel

Alyssa Schulke, owner of Schulke Travel, a Travel Experts affiliate, has some tips for ensuring that travel for a cluster of three to 10 guests goes exactly as planned.

Alyssa Schulke
Alyssa Schulke stresses that negotiating an unbelievable rate and amenities are not the most important factors for corporate bookings.

Clearly define client requirements: This goes with any corporate or leisure client, but I’ve found that business clients may have requirements that trump all others and they might not be items you consider. For example, I have a TV production client who won’t stay anywhere without 24-hour valet and large enough elevators to transport his gear up and down floors. Another client keeps very unusual hours and requires 24-hour room service. Don’t just assume that negotiating an unbelievable rate and amenities is going to be the most important qualifier.

Sales departments are your friends: Even when I don’t have enough rooms for a “group,” I may still be asked to negotiate a rate with inclusions I can’t find in the GDS. A client of mine that travels a lot on contract has to have breakfast, Internet, and parking included in the rates whenever possible as it helps control budget. Sales departments can often put together customized rates to meet clients’ needs. In addition, even though I might only have seven rooms instead of 10, I may still have enough room nights to get a group rate. It never hurts to ask.

Read the fine print (and make sure the client knows what happens if plans change): Be sure you have requested a contract for every corporate stay and that you’ve negotiated the best terms you can. Every supplier has different policies when it comes to attrition, cancellations and payment authorizations, and you don’t want to get caught in a situation where the client has to pay exorbitant penalties they didn’t know about on that special rate you negotiated.

Learn what the client’s accounting department needs to reconcile accounts: A big and often easy win to get your clients to love you is to understand what their accounting department needs to reconcile expenses and how they need their travel broken out. I am already often working with the accounting department on commissions so I might as well inform them in advance of how the receipts should be formatted so I can speed that process along for my client.

Have paperwork on hand to speed commission payments: Many suppliers who deal with business clients or special negotiated arrangements need more than an IATA to pay commissions. Have a W-9 and invoice ready to send as soon as the client starts their travel, and commissions will be sent much more quickly.

Keep track of arrival times: Are they checking in and running to a meeting? Do they need to just drop their bags, or do they need somewhere to freshen up? How many are arriving together? Make sure the hotel knows these details so your clients aren’t drumming their fingers at the front desk waiting for someone to help them, or worse yet, have a case where some rooms are ready and some aren’t.

Keep that relationship friendly: If a supplier won’t work with you or doesn’t instill that confidence that they will take care of your client, find one that will. I’ve found that if a business supplier seems unorganized or unable to meet your client’s needs when negotiating, that can be a strong sign that the overall experience won’t be great. Find someone that makes you feel comfortable that they’ve “done this before.”


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