Maintaining business relationships with vendors and providers makes planning travel easier for corporate travel managers. Working with the hospitality industry requires some finesse, especially for small businesses.
Types of hospitality vendors and providers that travel managers work with include:
- Ground transportation
- Air travel
- Food establishments
Managers might also establish partnerships with:
- Luggage retailers
- Software vendors
- Corporate credit card issuers
Each partner makes booking travel for company executives and staff easier. Others provide services that streamline the process. Moreover, each represents a valuable relationship.
We look at how a travel manager can build relationships with vendors and providers.
Communication remains the most important way to build lasting business relationships. No reason exists to dance around a topic or request.
For example, prices for Chicago business hotels rank in the Top 10 most expensive. By establishing contacts with decision-makers in the Chicago hotel sector, it’s easier to negotiate favorable rates.
Managers don’t need to communicate budget restraints with their hospitality partners right off the bat. That’s a card to keep in your back pocket. However, establishing clear communication makes negotiations transparent.
Relationships also require maintenance. If company executives and staff provide vendor and provider feedback, managers must process it. Clear communication makes feedback discussions productive.
For example, maybe the rooms didn’t receive thorough cleaning before your team members arrived. Before you book rooms at the property again, ensure that the situation isn’t normal.
Find Cultural Fits
Managers benefit from creating a Rolodex of reliable vendors and providers. Then, update it. The needs of companies will change. Therefore, the list of hospitality partners will change too.
Nonetheless, travel managers should establish at least one contact in every major city. Then, add contacts from mid-size and small ones.
For example, travel construction teams often head to rural destinations. If these towns have limited accommodation options, managers must search for options in the town and surrounding ones. Then, your team might need ground transportation and meal options. Establishing on-site relationships helps your team succeed.
Limited options mean you have to work with what’s available. When you can pick, establish relationships with those that have natural cultural fits. For example, hotels will accommodate small businesses. Other times, boutique establishments might fit better.
Pay Invoices Promptly
Most business partners bill on 30-day terms. That’s plenty of time to send them their payments. Even if company policy dictates to wait until Day 30, pay invoices promptly.
Partners who accrue too much debt will cause concern. Those who pay bills promptly could curry favor over others.
For example, the peak business travel season takes place from January to April and September through November. In some cities, it makes booking rooms at favorable prices challenging.
Therefore, stay on good terms with your hospitality partners by keeping up with the bills.
Book in Advance
The hospitality industry continues over-booking to maximize revenue. To avoid missing out on favorable rates, rooms, and preferred modes of transportation, book in advance.
Then, confirm your reservations one week before the arrival date.
Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid last-minute travel scenarios. If you have partners, they might accommodate you once. However, avoid making it a habit. Repeated requests can put a strain on the relationship.
When business partners show you loyalty, reciprocate it.
For example, if a property or transportation company offers your team discounted rates, remain loyal to them.
It’s not a marriage per se but they’ll expect reciprocation.
If you break loyalty, you risk alienating your partners and others.
Understand their Processes
Every business partner has a process. When each understands how the other operates, it makes things easier.
For example, understand booking procedures, feedback options, and payment systems. Some partners prefer digital payments while others still accept corporate checks.
When booking flights, transportation, and restaurant reservation, use the partner’s preferred method. Some have established online systems and others want to receive phone calls.
Ideal business partnerships take place when everyone brings something to the table. When a partner provides favorable rates, they must find other places to make it up. If you provide them referrals that deliver, partners can continue offering you discounted rates.
In addition, they might refer your team to other partners that will also treat them well.
Like the United States economy, business partnerships are a series of interconnected components. When they work in harmony, they deliver optimal output.
Building relationships with vendors and providers is an important part of a travel manager’s job. These relationships make booking travel and tracking it easier.