Getting the best hotel rates for SME's

New Zealand’s tourist industry, similar to Australia - is booming and so are hotel rates. In many destinations hotel rates have increased by double digits and are set to increase further in the next two years. So how can small and medium sized companies find the best rates in these changing conditions?

How can companies save money on their hotel bills? What can you do to find the best rate? The following tips will go a long way to helping you and your company get the best rates every time you travel.

1. Compare prices online.

The online industry has revolutionised the hotel booking process and are an excellent way to save on hotel rates. Online travel companies such as Bookings, Expedia, Wotif and are the best place to start your search. These sites provide some of the lowest rates in the market which can amount to substantial savings. Trivago is another great site as it compares hotel rates and lists hotels from the best sources on the web. Websites may charge booking fees so your best strategy is to shop around, find the lowest rate and then call the hotel directly to determine if they can match the price. When searching for deals, websites can track what you're looking at and keep that information as cookies. Doing your research in Private/Incognito mode in your web browser will help prevent websites adjusting their prices and get you the best online rate available. Read more at Private Browsing to Save Money.

2. Call the hotel directly.

Most major hotel companies offer rate parity with the online providers and will generally match any rate you find on the web. Often establishing a contact in the hotel reservations office can help you get rooms during high periods when the central reservations systems are closed. While there are great offers on 0800 & 1800 central reservations systems, many hotel chains only allocate a certain number of rooms to these systems, so it is always best to call the hotel directly. 

3. Join a hotel rewards programme

Several of the major hotel companies such as IHG (InterContinental Hotel Group), Marriott and Hilton are offering exclusive rates to their reward programme members who book directly through one of the hotel company’s channels. These rates, which are often the lowest rate in the company’s portfolio, are designed to match the online providers. Other benefits of joining reward (loyalty) programs can include free internet access, late check-out and the ability to use your points to pay for upgrades or free rooms.

4. Be flexible with your dates

Hotel rates vary depending on the time of the year so it is always best to plan well in advance. The busiest days of the week for business hotels are Monday through Thursday. This is when hotels have the opportunity to charge a premium for their rooms. While it is not always possible to change your business plans, avoiding these days can save you money. Bed and breakfast hotels and other leisure properties tend to be less busy during the week and have lower rates midweek. This can often make a good economic alternative to business hotels.

5. Ask for a lower rate

Hotels often have weekend specials, frequent flyer, promotional or off season rates. Enquire about what special rates the hotel is offering over the dates you need. Also don’t forget to negotiate. Hotels with vacancies are often willing to negotiate if they need the business. Don’t be afraid to ask for free breakfast, parking or Internet; these are generally low cost items for hotels and will save you money.

6. Develop relationships with hotel companies

Establishing relations with hotel companies or individual hotels can save you money. These relationships usually start with the hotel Director of Sales or Sales Managers. Determining your total annual hotel spend and the room nights involved may provide you the ability to leverage your hotel room rates. When a relationship has been established it’s possible to avoid significant rate increases even in high demand areas. Chain-wide hotel agreements are often tougher for small to medium sized business to secure but more and more hotel chains are now recognising the importance of their SME clients and the revenues they can generate.

7. Consider less expensive options

In high demand periods when rates are at a premium it is wise to check out alternative accommodation providers such as Airbnb, bed and breakfasts or owned small hotels. Most of these options can be found through online providers.

8. Use travel management specialists

Travel agents or travel management specialists such as Corporate Traveller often work with SME’s to provide solutions to their travel needs. Travel management specialists can provide multiple benefits such as specialist expertise, online booking tools, reporting capabilities and negotiated rates that provide the best possible prices. Outsourcing your travel programme can deliver meaningful benefits and savings to companies that don’t have the time or resources to do it themselves. 

9. Coupons and vouchers

There are a number of discount coupon and voucher companies both in print and on the Internet such as the Entertainment Books. These coupons and voucher distributors offer significant savings, usually in the region of 50 percent, on a variety of hotel products from rooms to meals. You can investigate what is available in your area or destination by searching the web.

These are just some of the ways SME’s can save money on hotel expenses. However as a caveat cheap rates may not always offer the best or most convenient option. There may be restrictions on minimum night requirements or non refundable clauses so it pays to do your homework and be an educated consumer. 


Author, David Shackleton, Partner of nem New Zealand.

David Shackleton has over 40 years experience at senior levels in the hospitality industry. He has broad international exposure having worked in Singapore, Thailand, China, Korea, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

This article is based on research and opinion available in the public domain.