In what it calls a sign of confidence for the long-term future of business travel, corporate hotel procurement platform HRS has extended its 10-year-old partnership with Radisson Hotel Group.
This expansion is meant to benefit both HRS’ client companies and the Radisson properties as they reopen, improving connectivity between the two companies and property flexibility while facilitating updated corporate rates and amenities.
In extending the partnership, the two companies are looking to shift away from the industry's traditional request for proposal season for corporate travel planners and encourage a more dynamic relationship that adjusts to the ups and downs in business travel.
The two companies plan to leverage sanitization protocols developed in partnership with inspection, testing and certification company SGS. In May, Radisson introduced the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol. A month later, HRS launched its Clean & Safe Protocol, facilitating labels in online procurement and booking channels used by its client corporations. The labels are meant to help travelers know what a hotel’s cleaning standards are. Fifty-two percent of respondents to HRS’ August Business Traveler Sentiment Survey said that updated hygiene standards is the leading driver of hotel adoption. In HRS’ May survey of corporate clients, 86 percent of business travel programs would only consider hotels with enhanced cleaning protocols.
“Obviously it's very important that you have global reach when you do something like this and you have a very reputable partner,” said Rob Hornman, SVP, global supplier relations, HRS. Radisson, he added, took steps to make sure the implementation of the protocols were as complete as possible, creating a “bridge” to procurement as companies decide their next steps. “There's been a lot of discussions on whether it's time to go into the procurement phase or not,” he said. With so many different elements of corporate travel up in the air, and with so many companies requiring different safety standards, he said, the traditional request for proposal season has been shifted to the fall.
“We are right at the beginning of it,” Hornman said of the season, when corporate travel planners choose what hotels they will include in their systems, submit proposals for room rates and find ways to save money while giving business travelers special perks to keep them coming back. “Smart hotels understand why it's so important to deal with this process right now because now more than ever, things like duty of care are absolutely critical.” Just as leisure travelers are prioritizing cleanliness, corporate travel planners will not only want to know what hotels have safety protocols in place, but to be able to see within the booking tools all the details about those protocols.
“The traditional RFP season, once a year, with or without the lateral availability is, for us, passe,” said Eric De Neef, EVP and global chief commercial officer of Radisson Hotel Group. Moving forward, De Neef sees dynamic pricing taking over the traditional season—continuous fulfillment and continuous sourcing.
The constant influx of big data has changed every other segment of hospitality, so De Neef expects it to change the way corporate travel is managed by hotel companies and procurement companies alike. With this data, pricing in corporate hotels can be more competitive and can adjust as needed to demand.
According to De Neef, the loss of corporate travel has put around 30 percent of Radisson’s revenue under pressure. While many of the 450 hotels the company had to close during the height of the pandemic have reopened, 80 properties remained shuttered, although De Neef hopes to have them open again by the beginning of Q4. The company expects to add more than 100 hotels in existing and emerging business city centers by 2024, and plans to leverage a closer connection with HRS to attract more corporate travelers to its properties.
Developing safety protocols in a pandemic and travel downturn is an ever-changing process, De Neef said, with customer expectations changing by the week or the month. “That's why we created what we call the guest experience innovation committee within Radisson,” he said. “It's to understand what our customer wants and needs in order to be sure that the service you offer answers these needs and the expectations.”
“There are new opportunities for everybody,” Hornman said, suggesting hotels be “avant garde” when it comes to implementing their new standards. “This is the time to be very alert, to leave the lights on and to work with intermediaries such as HRS to make sure that we can respond to the needs of our mutual customers. This is a very important procurement season for the beginning of our industry’s comeback.”