6 Industry-Insider Tips on Getting the Best Rates for Your Group Hotel Booking
Negotiating the best rates for your group hotel bookings is about understanding all the ins and outs of the business. It’s about looking past the listed rate and securing a great price for your company.
You also want to secure the best amenities within your budget for your team.
Take a page out of Hotel Engine’s group booking playbook with these tips, straight from industry experts with years of experience negotiating and booking group rates.
1. Groups Don’t Have to Settle for the Listed Rate
Maybe you think the rate listed on the hotel’s website is the best you will get, but that’s not always the case.
Even hotels that promote a “best available rate” can come up with a more competitive price — if you can make it worthwhile with a large group or extended stay reservation.
Roughly 1 of every 5 dollars of hotel room revenue comes from the U.S. meeting industry. This is all the incentive hotels need to win your business, so event planners and group travel coordinators have some leverage.
The best deals lie at the end of a negotiation.
Consider not just the room rate but also meals, Wi-Fi and other amenities, and ensure every last detail makes it into your final contract.
Be fair and reasonable as you negotiate, and make your group reservation a win-win for both parties.
That way, they’ll want to work with you on future reservations.
You might be able to snag an even deeper discount if you use a platform like Hotel Engine. We save businesses up to 60% on lodging and will handle your group reservation for free if you need more than nine rooms.
2. Smaller Rooms Can Mean Cheaper Rates
Usually, a room with one king bed will be slightly cheaper than one with two double (or queen) beds. That seemingly small number can save you a pretty penny when booking for groups or extended periods.
Now, you’ll need to know how many people you are putting in a room to establish how many rooms you’ll need.
For your average corporate booking, you’ll probably put just one person in each room, so you can go for the cheaper, smaller layout. If your travel policy allows you to put two people in a room with two beds, you may discover further savings that way.
Of course, some hotel rooms might also include a pullout couch that can sleep an extra person or two. That means the largest occupancy for a hotel room can range from two to six people.
For example, if you’re booking a retreat or organizational reunion where employees can bring the whole family, that still means you only need one room per family.
Another consideration is the number of rooms of each size a hotel has. If they only have rooms with two beds but the price is good, you already have your answer.
3. Read Your Contracts Carefully
Deloitte found that 91% of people accept terms and conditions without actually reading them. Though this likely poses little risk for mobile apps or well-known software, your must-haves could slip through the cracks if you don’t read your group booking contract in full.
Consider the difference between a courtesy room block and a guaranteed (also called a “contracted”) room block:
A courtesy room block holds the rooms at no cost to you but can cost you money in the long run, as you won’t always get a special offer.
Guaranteed/contracted room blocks come with more risk — as you’ll have to guarantee the number of rooms you book — but the hotel may cut you a deal since they know those rooms will be paid for.
Check-in and check-out times, wireless internet access and truck parking can also be worked into a contract to help you save.
4. Book Your Room Block Early
Group booking requests can be hard to get confirmed with your company, but the earlier you sign off on it, the better rate you’ll get.
Many hotels prefer to have their rooms booked up by large groups. Take advantage of this preference by solidifying your room block as early as possible.
Hotels will work with you at any point leading up to your group’s stay. Even the 12-month mark isn’t too far out; that’s when you’ll likely get the best rates since demand will be lower than if you wait until months before the event.
What About Late … Very Late?
We’ve all heard the old adage that if you really want the best price, book last minute.
Those that say it, claim that in the last week — or even the day before — hotels are just desperate to recoup any money they can on those rooms.
Don’t risk your job over this fool’s errand.
While it is true that rooms tend to be cheaper two weeks before check-in than they are four months out, the amount isn’t significant enough to take a chance.
There may not be enough rooms available when you need them, and some hotels require an RFP for large bookings, which can take days to compile and review.
Besides, any deal you might get playing the waiting game will be minor compared to what Hotel Engine can do for you.
5. Make Connections With the Hotel Sales Team
As with most things, securing good hotel rates can be all about who you know.
Though Hotel Engine’s experts are already well-connected, the average travel manager might not be.
Once you’ve identified a few of the best hotels for your group, contact those hotels directly. Make a note of all the people you speak with and negotiate with. You can always refer back to them if your needs change.
This is also a great opportunity for travel managers to get in some networking. You’re a valuable person for travel agents and hotel sales teams to know, especially if you book a high volume of business trips or room blocks.
Use LinkedIn and travel industry groups like the Independent Lodging Congress to build relationships with hospitality industry professionals that you can leverage later on.
6. Always Inquire About Perks
Without perks, a guest room is just a bed, a bathroom and a TV. The concierge can always help guests during their stay, but it’s better to ask the hotel sales team what sort of amenities are available before booking.
Here are some common examples that aren’t strictly necessary but can go a long way towards colleague convenience:
- Shuttle service to and from the airport
- Late check out
- Free, fully-stocked minibar
Even the simplest perk can set one hotel chain apart from the other.
For instance, Hotel A and Hotel B might rent similar rooms for the same price, but if Hotel A offers complimentary breakfast and exclusive coupons to local restaurants, that’s a better deal.
Just think of how much you could save on meal expenses!
Upgrades: Like Perks But Even Better
Everyone loves a free hot breakfast, but a bowl of cereal tastes a lot better in a top-floor getaway with an ocean view.
Yes, suites typically cost a premium, but that’s not always a given. In New York City or San Francisco, where every hotel room has a classy view, the price difference may be negligible. If you’re booking a conference on business days in a beach town in the wintertime, you may already be dealing with a very cheap base rate.
Upgrades are a great way to boost employee morale, which can be quite helpful if they are on a particularly long business trip.
7. Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards
Many credit card companies offer rewards to customers who use their cards as their payment option for travel bookings.
These rewards come in the form of airline miles, hotel room upgrades, car rental discounts and other perks valuable for travelers.
AmEx, Capital One, Citi, Chase and Discover all maintain travel programs, and you can use your points to save money for your company.
Not to mention, when you book through Hotel Engine, you earn additional points that you can use alongside your credit card rewards for further savings.
8. Ask the Experts
Booking a hotel for a group isn’t as easy as clicking “Book Now.”
Though you’ll learn a lot as you go, there’s much to be said for asking the experts.
The hospitality industry is rather tight-knit, and its members will have already built the relationships you’re vying for, saving you quite a bit of time and effort.
Make use of their network and know-how to get the best rates for your group business bookings every time.
Reach out to someone you can trust within your own network, or outsource expertise through a Lodging Performance Network (LPN) like Hotel Engine.
We leverage our experts to bring you the best advice on hotels and locations completely free of charge. And if you ever have any questions, just ask — we’re happy to help.
Business travel managers are expected to plan inspiring itineraries on shoestring budgets. Companies don’t want to break the bank on rooms, but your team needs comfortable accommodations.
That’s why you should pull out all the stops to secure the most competitive fare.
Hotel Engine saves organizations up to 60% on lodging.
You can save more by following some of the insider tips above, or you can hand the entire process off to our team and enjoy a worry-free booking experience.
Learn more about our group booking service here.
When it comes to group bookings, the key is to plan ahead and keep your options open. Reserve early and read the fine print.
Always inquire about any extra perks or potential upgrades; the little things go a long way in keeping your employees smiling while they’re away from home.
Also, when finding a great group rate is not cut and dry, your industry connections could get you over the finish line.
Of course, Hotel Engine is happy to take care of the hard stuff for you (say goodbye to reconciling dozens of credit card transactions). We can get you the best group deal at over 700,000 properties, so you never have the hassle of comparing prices on booking websites.
Follow these practices, and everyone is sure to have a great hotel stay.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.