RFP Season – Setting yourself up for a successful 2021

By Sophie Henning

Its November and we are in the midst of Corporate and Consortia RFPs.. But what is the RFP Season and how do you tackle it to successfully secure the best outcome?

RFP season is the time of year where Travel Managers and agencies start to send out requests for proposal (RFP) to hotels they wish to obtain bids from, for rates for the following year/two years for their clients. This usually starts in September and negotiations can continue well into the next year, in some cases well into February. The bulk however want to contract by the end of the year to avoid any issues with their guests and maintain a streamlined booking process.

The main players within RFP Platforms are Nexus, Lanyon, Sabre RFP and ProLodgic, each of which can assist with making the daunting task of keeping track and responding to bids a lot less painful.

Getting Started

If using an RFP platform, and you haven’t already, complete your profile in full now instead of waiting for RFP’s to start coming through. This will make the RFP process run a lot smoother and give new users the chance to familiarize themselves with the tool. The profile information is used on all RFP’s so having this completed means the information will be available for all and you will not have to constantly answer the same questions repeatedly. It also saves valuable time which I know a lot of us wish we had more of these days!

As well as completing the profile on your property, also make sure that all the contact information of the team is up to date, especially in the current climate where a number of people are moving around career wise.

Receiving an RFP

There is a lot more to an RFP than just filling in the details and submitting your bid. Firstly, you need to build a business case, but why? The business case is the foundation of the relationship and proves to the agency that you know what is at stake. There are a number of factors that need to be considered when putting this case together, these include Location, Comp Set, Year to Date production, Rate, Company information and does the local office support your hotel?

Once you have reviewed the business case with the decision makers in the property it’s time to submit your bid. It is essential that the RFPs are completed within the timelines provided by the agency. They are usually quite generous and give you 5-10 days to complete however, if you feel you have not been given adequate time to complete the bid then you must let the agency know immediately.

Tips to completing RFPS

  • Make sure you include all information requested the first time.
  • Give serious consideration to offering added extras as they are becoming just as important as having an LRA (Last Room Available) rate.
  • Do not change the format of the RFP when submitting (if applicable)
  • Use the comments section of the RFP to explain your reason(s) for your offer.
    • If your rate went up 5% explain why.
    • If you’re flat Year Over Year, explain that this is a courtesy to them as a valued client.
    • This is the only place in the RFP to SELL your offer; use it.
    • These travel managers/consultants are reviewing hundreds of offers
    • The simpler and more straightforward yours is, the better response you will get.
  • Pay special attention to “Custom Question” fields as these are written in by the client (not auto-populated), and often represent very important decision factors for the client.

Important: some RFP negotiations can take months, therefore in order to prevent any booking gap for your existing Corporate accounts and Consortia partners in Q1 – you should request an extension and load rate until end of Q1.  

Accepted Bids, Loading Rates and Content Optimization

So, you have been accepted, what’s next?

Travel Managers should always confirm in writing if a submission has been successful or not. If you are successful, they will send you the terms of the agreement. For rates which are to be loaded on to the GDS, make sure that you receive the correct loading instructions. This information will be required by your loading teams so they can map the correct rates between your CRS and the GDS platforms.   

Something to remember is that it’s not just about the rate being on the GDS, optimization of rate content in the GDS can also make a huge difference in improving booking conversion in this very specific channel. Your hotel may not be the only one in the area that has been chosen, so you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd and make sure your content is presented in a way that can reach the largest target audience.

When we talk about content optimization, we need to take a look at different aspects within the GDS. For example, are your images giving the guest the best view of the hotel? Are there enough of each room type and hotel amenity to really give them a taste of what’s to expect when staying at your hotel?

Description’s and key attributes also play a big part in this, for example, has the hotel completed all information fields to give the agent the information they require without having to call the hotel for more details. Is the Wi-Fi complimentary or do you have room service for the guest who arrives on a late-night flight?

These may seem like basics but you will be surprised how many hotels neglect their content and miss out on that traveler who can see that everything they require is provided by the hotel next door who has updated content.

Something to also bear in mind is that the GDS not only feeds information to the Travel Agency community, they also feed into numerous online booking tools targeting business and corporate travelers, thus information must be clear and optimized keeping these targets in mind.

Our industry is constantly evolving, and distribution channel optimization has become a vital part of successful operations for all hotels. We at Premiere Advisory Group have access to the GDS platforms and can provide you with a fully comprehensive GDS audit that takes a deep dive into all things content and includes looking at ways we can optimize the content currently visible for your hotel. Within the audit we will provide recommendations and best practices to help you achieve the highest standards and stand out amongst the rest!

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