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HOTELS


“There is a squeeze on the four-star


sector to up their game and differentiate from what is an improving and generally good-quality, midscale property category. Therefore, four-star hotels need to improve enough to have a differential from three- stars, but without moving into the five-star sector, where they could be excluded from certain RFPs,” reiterates Armorgie. Certainly, there is a trend for more


open and multi-functional lobbies, with the melding between meeting, living and casual, coffee house-style spaces. There is also a stronger connection with the local culture, people and sense of place whether it be through food, art or music. Destination food and beverage spots within hotel spaces are all the rage. Investments in technology have


also made check-in, check-out and personalisation more seamless and hassle-free. Modern design aesthetics are crucial, too. Executives expect more from


customers to experience and love the product, but this is usually short-lived and then, if the occupancy levels are good, the prices will start to spiral upwards, again nipping at the heels of five-star brands in some locations,” explains Pauline Houston, senior global director for hotel strategy at American Express Global Business Travel. So, what does this all mean for travel


buyers in their upcoming RFPs? There have been distinct calls for buyers to do more, to audit hotel room availability, challenge hotel chains on their offerings and consider a move to dynamic rates and continuous sourcing, although this does not always suit buyers. HRS says it has seen a movement in this arena, with many corporations outsourcing solutions. “It’s a growing trend,” says Dabrowski. If you can’t stomach this, at least you can


grill your hotel suppliers this third quarter, in the knowledge that you hope that it’s a buyers’ market.


“The whole dynamic is changing. There is still a lot of competition and integration may have allowed us to become sticky, but you cannot rest on your laurels”


their travelling and business lives as their home and consumer lives evolve at an ever quickening pace. “A lot of four-star hotels are finally


catching up with the market. For instance, the Premier Inn or Express by Holiday Inn-type hotel has proved popular with travellers who just want a comfy bed, clean bathroom, a G&T and sausages for breakfast,” states Sarah Marshall, travel and security manager for operations at DAI Europe. “The main drive behind the popularity of this product was cost. My travellers aren’t going to request a hotel that is like a Premier Inn but more expensive, they’ll just stay in a Premier Inn.” The issue, as cynical players in the


market point out, is that someone has to pay for improvements to the four-star offering somewhere down the line. Possible investments and the pursuit of the cooler, brand-agnostic millennial executive traveller could end up being paid for by seasoned, road warriors with entrenched brand associations and loyalties. “Hotels traditionally will start with an early offer to gain interest and for new


84 BBT July/August 2018


Rethink your hotel strategy


¢ It is important to have a solid knowledge of the drivers of change and clarity when deciding which hotel to choose for your programmes.


¢ The key drivers still remain the same: location, price, quality and service delivery.


¢ There is a growing demand for less generic hotel environments, but you need to get down to the finer details as to why properties and new brands are different.


¢ The expansion in hotel group portfolios can lead to confusion among brands which, in turn, can make it a challenge to really understand which is the best hotel.


Lukasz Dabrowski, HRS BUYINGBUSINESSTRAVEL.COM


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