Booking your hotel stay through AAA can mean big savings
As business travel begins the process of rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, booking through AAA Corporate Travel is more important than ever – your company’s bottom line, traveler safety, and overall travel spend could depend on it.
“We are seeing the needle move a little bit,” AAA Account Manager Oneal Wiggins said. “We are about 20 percent of the level we were pre-COVID with regard to bookings. Going back to April that was about 6 or 7 percent, so travel is increasing. There are some days the phones do not stop ringing with travelers booking reservations, and some asking questions so they are best prepared when they hit the road again.”
It is all about relationships
Relationships with our clients, travelers and vendors in the travel industry, are at the heart of everything AAA does. We are renowned for our exemplary relationships in the hotel industry, which helps your company save money.
“I cannot stress enough how big of a deal relationships are,” Wiggins explained. “And relationships with the hotels are of the utmost importance.”
Wiggins said as a AAA Account Manager, he interacts with the hotel Director of Sales at his clients’ contracted hotels, so if there is an issue or a traveler wants an upgrade, it is easy to reach out to that connection and try to meet the needs of the client because of that established relationship.
“Say I am on a flight and my flight is delayed in Atlanta, so I decide I am not going on my trip and will instead go back home,” Wiggins explained. “With the relationship your company has, it is very easy to call the hotel and speak to the right person to waive that no-show penalty for not cancelling in time. Relationships are very, very important with hotels.”
Good relationships lead to good deals
Discounted nightly room rates, waived cancellation fees, refunds, free and discounted meals and other accommodations can all be affected by the relationship, or lack thereof, a company has with hotels.
“If you are a traveler staying in a hotel that is not part of your company’s preferred program, there is no relationship, no preferred rate, and they do not know who you are,” Wiggins said.
When you book your preferred hotels through AAA, that relationship is there and AAA Account Managers are able to negotiate the best deal for their clients. When booking through AAA, reporting capabilities allow Account Managers to detect trends that can lead to big savings. For instance, a report may show travelers from your company have some activity in an area they do not typically visit. That data can be used as a negotiating tool to set up a discounted rate.
Account Managers can also negotiate value-added amenities which can be just as important as the rate and can result in significant savings for their clients when travelers book hotels in their preferred program.
“Often, the rates are based on volume from the previous year, but if you have a long-term project in an area where you may be booking rooms, that is a good indicator for the Account Manager to negotiate a preferred rate,” Wiggins detailed. “And getting those value-adds included, such as free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and parking, complimentary upgrades, along with rate discounts is key.”
While some hotels offer those perks, Wiggins said it is not uncommon to spend $12 per day on parking, pay for breakfast or internet access. Negotiating these amenities are important when looking to drive value into your hotel program.
Volume Commitments and Duty of Care within the preferred program
Booking hotels within your company’s preferred program is critical – plain and simple. When a traveler books outside of AAA, the hotel does not count toward any of your booking thresholds. Discounted rates are based on volume and at AAA every customer has a special booking code that is unique, which allows hotels to track your progress toward your volume commitments. When travelers go outside those channels, the capability to track room nights for program credit is lost.
“If volume drops below what is expected, the hotel could raise their rate,” cautioned Wiggins. “When it comes to RFP (Request for Proposal) season, which is usually in early fall, they will remember that you promised 200 room nights, but maybe only delivered 50, so going forward they may not honor the previously negotiated rate.”
Duty of Care is even more important than lost savings due to commitment shortfalls. Duty of Care is a top priority for AAA Corporate Travel and we place the safety and well-being of your travelers ahead of anything else. If hotel bookings are done outside of AAA, it is impossible to track that traveler. Emergencies may arise. Knowing exactly where your travelers are and keeping them safe is important and can only be done if they book within the program.
Ways to ensure travelers use the preferred program hotels
Can smaller companies get these benefits?
Absolutely, Wiggins said. A smaller company, typically with a $200,000 or less total annual travel spend, can often negotiate static rates, or they could score a percentage off the best available rate. There are always value-adds that can be acquired, too.
“Because of COVID, hotels are eager for customers right now,” Wiggins explained. “They want as many heads in beds as they can get. Right now is a great time for small companies to negotiate with hotels and drive greater compliance for the best possible savings.”
Do you want to learn how to get the most savings out of your hotel program? Current clients should reach out to their AAA Account Manager. New or prospective clients can contact us here or call us at 855-226-8398.
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