Like most aspects of corporate travel, accommodation can be subject to the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
RFPs for hotel services can be issued by either a company's travel manager or a Travel Management Company (TMC). Similar to an invitation to tender, RFPs invite submissions from service providers (in this case, hotels and hotel chains) who want to provide the services in question. This will vary with the company's needs and could be for either a large one-off event like a trade show or an ongoing, standing arrangement.
How do RFPs Relate to Hotels?
With websites dedicated to linking potential corporate buyers with hotel chains, the hotel RFP process is more accessible than ever.
RFPs will often focus on the following areas:
The Basics – Contact details and location (in relation to the trade event, if applicable) will be requested.
Health and Safety – This information is vitally important and shouldn't be seen as a "box ticking exercise". Ethical employers will want to know that their staff are staying somewhere safe and comfortable where they're protected from hazards such as bad food hygiene. Indeed, many invest in training on travel safety due to the high importance of this issue. Health and safety concerns should always be prioritised above all else, even cost; apart from the moral and legal obligations companies have to protect their workers, business trips can be derailed by health problems, which are more likely in a hotel that hasn't been properly vetted.
Room and Event Information – Does the hotel have enough capacity to accommodate all of the people who will be needing it? How well does the hotel meet the needs of people with limited mobility? Are there meeting rooms if required, and how many will be available? Are any extras included, such as breakfast? These are all examples of things to include in an RFP. The specifics will of course vary between companies, circumstances and the individuals attending.
Price – Business travel is one of the largest sources of expenditure for most companies, and the "extras" can often add up quite considerably. Both the companies themselves and TMCs will be looking for savings on the larger, unavoidable expenses, of which accommodation is a major one. Some TMCs have long-standing agreements with particular hotel chains and can negotiate considerable savings.
What to Look for in a Hotel
It can be tempting to plump for the cheapest hotel – or at least the cheapest hotel that's close enough to the event to avoid incurring bigger travel expenses. Given the price of corporate travel, pricing is of course a hugely important factor.
However, the RFP process allows scope to consider a range of factors. Some of these, such as health and safety, are a large concern. All hotels should be vetted in advance and any issues taken into account by the trip's risk assessment document. This is all particularly important if it's the first time you're booking that particular hotel, as you can't draw on the experiences of employees who have previously stayed there to help with your decision.
The location of the hotel is important, especially if there will be daily travel to a trade show or other destination during the trip. Central locations can push the price up considerably but pay for themselves in terms of money saved through less travel, as well as employees' time. Furthermore, if you have employees who need extra consideration in terms of accessibility or dietary requirements, it's important to check in advance if these needs can be met.
If meetings are going to be conducted at the hotel itself, its facilities need careful consideration. Do they have sufficient space for the group that will be meeting, and are these rooms available for the dates in question?
It's a matter of personal taste whether small, independent hotels or larger chains are preferred, and will vary depending on other circumstances. Some TMCs have ongoing deals with big hotel chains and can negotiate favourable rates based on the number of bookings made.
It's always a good idea to check online reviews before booking, and this is just as true for business travel as for leisure. If an issue is being raised repeatedly, it might be worth looking for extra assurances that it won't be a problem during your stay before committing.