Hotel reshopping and analytics company Tripbam has enhanced its Smart Sourcing tool and has made it available as a standalone service, the company told BTN.
The product, unveiled last fall, uses Tripbam’s hotel intelligence tool to find locations where there is opportunity for savings with sourced hotels, according to the company. Smart Sourcing implementation requires corporations or consultants provide 12 months of booking data in any format and the client’s current hotel program. Tripbam then identifies high-performing hotel candidates and calculates target rates based on the company’s room nights, volume and historical hotel behaviors. Travel managers can select a dynamic or a static rate, avoid blackout dates and room category restrictions, and request amenities. The predefined bid with an “accept” or “reject” option is sent directly to the hotels via email using Tripbam’s list of hotel contacts. Negotiations occasionally ensue, according to Tripbam. If a bid is accepted, rates are automatically loaded, and Tripbam immediately begins to audit and track hotel performance.
After a 2019 pilot of the tool, about 74 percent of travel managers’ bids were accepted by hotels, a figure that varies by company and market, said Tripbam founder and CEO Steve Reynolds.
Previously, Smart Sourcing was available only to existing Tripbam clients or travel management companies that used its rate auditing service. Reynolds said the company decided to offer it as a standalone product after requests by consultants, which increased after Tripbam in June launched a consultant certification program.
“The [consultants] started talking about the service to their clients, and some were not Tripbam customers,” Reynolds said. “Clients were like, ‘Great, let’s do it, but I can’t wait until I get a contract signed. … We need to get this going now.’ If the client was not going to be on the whole integration with the agency, we needed an alternative way to get the data into the system so we could do some sourcing. That led us to this solution. It’s really opened up the market a lot. There were agencies that really wouldn’t allow clients to use our service. Now the client doesn’t need agency approval, they just send us their [historical] data.”
Traditionally, Tripbam prices its services based on hotel bookings, but because there aren’t many for business travel at the moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, pricing for Smart Sourcing is based on the size of user’s hotel program with a monthly fee per included hotel, Reynolds said.
Among Smart Sourcing product enhancements is a batch request-for-proposals feature that allows users to bulk upload hotel targets, even thousands, instead of one at a time. There’s no limit to the number of bids that can go out at once, Reynolds said. The feature also can convert existing static hotel rate agreements to new static or dynamic agreements to account for ongoing market volatility.
Also in light of that volatility, the company has created a new method of determining discount recommendations to reflect current market conditions.
“If we were using just historical data, the current discount you would have gotten in the past is not the discount you are getting today,” Reynolds said. “Before, you were getting a 25 percent discount. If you look at the average daily rate for bookings as of this month, your actual discount is minus 5 percent. The [best available rate] is lower than your static rate. The problem is, I don’t have bookings for today for this client at this hotel. What am I going to benchmark it on? What we’ve done is, we know in this market the ADR has dropped, so I’m not going to use the ADR from the past. I’m going to discount it by what that market has dropped to and come up with a new benchmark.”
One differentiator between using Smart Sourcing as a standalone tool instead of coupled with Tripbam’s reshopping service, beyond the lack of reshopping benefits, is that it is more difficult for the company to grade hotel performance, so other benchmarks are used.
“It comes down to [last room availability] and rate availability,” Reynolds said. “I’m just not as aware real-time as to what are the available rates. You want to be more proactive and look at deals in the future, and we can’t really provide that with this new model. Everything else is pretty much the same. We can measure hotel performance, the effective discounting, and we can measure your rates to benchmarks. We just can’t measure LRA performance as well as we normally do.”
One potential hurdle for Smart Sourcing users is the widespread hotel layoffs and furloughs related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which could complicate identification of the appropriate hotel contacts to receive bid emails. “We consolidated contacts for each individual hotel across the 200,000 in our system, from a variety of sources,” Reynolds said. “We pinged those addresses to see if they were valid. For those that weren’t, we hired task rabbits to find out who is the right contact for that hotel. We finally got through the entire database and, as of today, we probably have the best contact list of anyone on the planet.”