|by Kirby D. Payne, CHA , 1999
Kirby D. Payne, CHA is President of Minneapolis based
American Hospitality Management Company, a growing hotel investment, management
and consulting firm. Payne is also Secretary of the American Hotel &
Motel Association, and Chair of the A. H. & M. A.'s International Council
of Hotel-Hotel Management Companies. Additional articles can be found on
the internet at http://www.American-Hospitality.com
Travel agents are an important source of business referrals for many hotel properties. To maximize this source, everyone should treat travel agents, and the business they refer, in the best possible manner.
As a major potential source of business referrals, travel agents must receive a commensurate amount of attention from the hotels to which they refer business.
The three most important things to a travel agent are:
1. Ease of making reservations with confidence. 2. Client (guest) satisfaction. 3. Prompt and accurate commission payment
General Rules General hotel procedures to remember to get the most out of this business:
1. Never dishonor a reservation made by a travel agent.
2. Clearly note on each reservation, registration card and folio that the guest was booked by a travel agent. This is best done by obtaining a rubber stamp, "TA," for this purpose.
3. If a travel agent uses your hotel regularly, be sure to tell their clients at check-in that you appreciate the fact they booked through that agency and that you think very highly of that agency. Leave a small gift or treat for them occasionally, compliments of the agency that booked them. They'll appreciate it and their thanking the agency will get the word to just the person you are really trying to please.
4. If it won't cost the hotel any revenue, upgrade the guest to a better room and advise the guest you are doing it because they used that particularly agency.
5. Keep a list (see procedures below) of reservations booked by agencies and use them to learn:
While having a policy of never dishonoring a travel agent's reservation, it is also very important to make sure they can communicate with the hotel with ease and that they have a good point of contact. Ideally, this could be the Front Office supervisor in a smaller property. In a larger property, it might be both the Reservations Manager and someone in the Sales Department. These people should visit with the agents booking the hotel on a regular basis at least quarterly just for the sake of having personal contact or bonding a little. Thank you notes and other gestures are always welcome with the booking agents and agency managers.
For chain affiliated properties, it is important to insure that the hotels' data is accurately reflected in the various airline reservation systems used by the travel industry. Stop by a travel agency where you have contacts and ask them to show you the hotel's displays. Usually, the chain's headquarters can also provide copies.
Always pay travel agents as soon as possible. The goal should be paying on a daily basis. This is only possible if the hotel has someone at the hotel with the authority to write these checks and is truly only feasible if the hotel has more than 120 rooms with sufficient travel agent volume to justify the steps. The following are suggested procedures for smaller hotels paying on a weekly basis:
1. Each day have the night auditor list the checkouts, if any, of guests booked by travel agents. The list should include:
3. Your central office, General Manager, or your accounting department should pay the commissions as soon as the list is received on a weekly basis. Consider including a hotel brochure or some other promotional piece with the checks when they are mailed.
Adopting a "Pay Travel Agents Today" program can be well worth the effort. It is designed to address the prompt and accurate commission payment issue often complained about by travel agents across the country. However, I do not recommend that this program be adopted by a hotel with fewer than 120 rooms.
1. Each hotel should operate a separate checking account for commission payment purposes only with the following specifications.
3. Each morning the Front Office Supervisor will pull the folios from the night audit packet and copy, then return the originals to the packet.
4. The Front Office Supervisor should prepare checks payable to the travel agents in the appropriate amount.
5. A check register should be completed and a copy of each folio should be attached to the register. The copy should be annoted with the check number and date.
6. The check should be mailed that day with the voucher portion clearly showing the guest name, dates of stay, room rate commission amount and the name of the booking agent, if available.
7. Each Friday the check registers and the supporting folios must be turned into the hotel's controller, or to the Corporate Office if your hotel is on centralized accounting, along with a check request. He/she will review the documentation and, if all is in order, will immediately reimburse the account for the amount spent with a check payable to that account.
8. The copy of the check/voucher retained by the Front Office Supervisor should be filed alphabetically by agency name in reservations or at the front desk.
Adapting these ideas to your hotel will help increase travel agent business over time. If your hotel is using the central payment program offered by many hotel chains, you can still make many of these ideas work to your benefit.
American Hospitality Management
1500 South Highway 100, #375
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Phone: 763-591-7640 Fax: 763-591-1593