The success of most companies relies on the relationships built around it, whether that is with customers, suppliers or other partners. Successful partnerships are not built overnight, however, and can often take years to develop, requiring great effort by all parties. When it comes to establishing solid partnerships between hoteliers and corporate travel professionals, there is no formula or silver bullet that guarantees success. There are a few key elements though that both sides agree help lay the foundation for productive, mutually-beneficial relationships.
A new GBTA Foundation study, conducted in partnership with AccorHotels, reveals that most agree successful partnerships are earned through trust, active communication and understanding each other’s goals. The research looked to identify the tenets and best practices to establish and grow a mutually-beneficial working relationship between travel professionals and hoteliers, as well as determine common roadblocks and barriers to success.
“Building successful partnerships is critical for success in many businesses,” said Christine Kerr, Vice President of Global Sales, Corporate Division, AccorHotels. “We especially understand the value strategic partnerships bring in a constantly evolving hotel market, and this research shows trust, communication and a mutual understanding of goals are paramount when it comes to building strong, lasting partnerships.”
Almost all interviewees stressed the importance of trust in a partnership, which is built over time through responsiveness, honest communication, delivering on promises and full transparency when it comes to pricing and the ability to meet expectations. Being upfront and willing to share information is a basic element of trust for both sides.
Frequent engagement is important. Communicating once a year at an annual review or during the RFP process is not enough to build or sustain a meaningful partnership. Regularly scheduled check-ins help both parties better understand how the partnership is progressing and identify if adjustments need to be made.
Additionally, travel professionals and hoteliers need to spend time learning about the other in order to determine if the partnership has the potential for success. Discussing key priorities and goals early in the game will help gain alignment, so both sides are working toward a common goal and fully understand their value proposition.
Solid and successful partnerships between travel professionals and hoteliers often suffer a breakdown during the RFP process when any of the components of trust, communication and understanding are compromised. The RFP process has many pain points resulting in a frustrating process for both hoteliers and travel professionals, alike. Both sides see it as a time consuming process where unrealistic goals or expectations can get in the way of deals. The current RFP lifecycle also creates an environment of one-year partnerships, which makes it difficult to foster loyalty. There is interest from both parties to move to multi-year deals, reducing the number of RFP seasons and giving each side more time to demonstrate commitment to the partnership.
Outside of the RFP process, direct booking is another major pain point hoteliers and travel professionals face when working together. Travel professionals say direct booking undercuts their travel program and feel unsupported by hoteliers encouraging this practice. Another major concern for travel professionals when travelers book direct is losing visibility into their travel details and data. Hoteliers could make an effort to collect and provide data from direct bookings for their partners helping them meet their duty of care requirements and record all travel bookings.
So what best practices do all successful partnerships have in place? The two sides determine shared goals early, practice transparency and communicate continuously. Travel professionals and hoteliers taking the time to invest in these relationships report great returns on streamlining and improving their respective programs.
Methodology: This qualitative study is based on 12 one-on-one, in-depth, phone interviews, six with travel professionals and six with hoteliers conducted between March 1 and May 16, 2016. To participate, travel professionals had to be involved with selecting, negotiating and booking hotels for their companies and hoteliers must manage relationships with corporate clients at the regional or global level.
Read the Full Report: The study, Hoteliers and Travel Professionals: The Road to Successful Partnerships, is available free of charge exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing email@example.com.