The pandemic had major impacts on the travel industry, but with restrictions easing and comfort levels rising, global business travel is making a comeback. This indicates a light at the end of the tunnel for those who want, prefer, or need to travel for work. Business travel spending worldwide will likely jump more than 38% this year and return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, according to the Global Business Travel Association, with revenues topping $1.48 trillion at that time. As the industry continues its rebound, hoteliers around the world can use this time to review their technology and determine how to equip travel managers with the tools and resources they need to better serve their corporate clients. With consumers and businesspeople becoming more digitally advanced, corporate hotel guests have higher expectations for smooth, tech-enabled options.
First, Property Management Systems (PMS) can build up their digital infrastructure to meet consumer demand. Hotels tend to have older infrastructure, operate on-premises versus on-cloud and have been heavily disrupted by online aggregators. For hotels, this would include direct bookings through online travel agencies, such as Booking.com, that specialize in the selling of multiple travel products, like flights, hotels and airport taxis, as well as packages.
This digital transition would also ease some of the main stressors currently weighing on the industry: staffing shortages and lagging Average Occupancy Rates (AOR). And in doing so, it will help future-proof hoteliers’ business strategy and set them apart from the competition. Beginning at the time of booking, and right until the moment a guest checks out, a critical component of the guests’ user experience is payment. Going digital allows the payment process to be more streamlined and invisible.
Here are 3 ways hoteliers can use direct invoicing to make corporate travel easier for both business travelers and the hotels themselves:
1. Implement automated billing solutions. Manually creating, sending and tracking invoices leaves room for errors and can be laborious. According to a Joblist survey of 13,000 job seekers, more than half of U.S. hospitality workers said they wouldn’t go back to their jobs, due to rate of pay, workload and feeling unappreciated at work. By implementing a consolidated billing solution, hoteliers can leverage technology to take the administrative burden away from staff and increase the likelihood of job satisfaction. The company can be billed directly through a single, centralized invoice. This allows the company to make a single payment for multiple stays and alleviates hotel staff administrative duties, allowing more time to focus on the important tasks that need a human touch.
2. Make invoicing seamless for the traveler with an embedded finance solution. The current system for employers to manage business accommodation receipts from their corporate travelers is currently tedious and time consuming. Many hotels’ corporate clients distribute and manage travel and expense (T&E) cards to traveling employees, who then need to consolidate and categorize expenses with their accounting team. For others, business travelers are required to use their personal credit cards to pay for hotels and then expense the total amount through a complex expense management system. Instead, companies can direct their business travelers to stay at hotels that have a dedicated financial relationship with them. Without any need to present a physical card for reservation or payment, the traveler’s invoice can be automatically sent to their company for payment on-terms after their stay. Friction-free finance, enabled by embedded payments, means making the payment experience almost disappear for a customer.
3. Strengthen your direct relationship with corporate clients. Companies are spending more than $111.7 billion on business travel every year, which opens a market opportunity for hotels to build a dedicated financial and expense management relationship through consolidated billing to increase corporate loyalty. An industry example is Choice Hotels who recently launched Choice Direct Pay and is now the first hotel chain to offer this type of payments program through TreviPay. Hoteliers can establish pre-negotiated rates with an external team to manage the risk of extending trade credit to their corporate clients. These corporations will be more likely to work with a participating hotel again in the future, which increases occupancy and revenue.
The pandemic has accelerated the digitization of consumers needs and hoteliers incorporating direct invoicing will be setting themselves up for success in the future. Direct billing systems alleviate and solve many issues business travelers and their companies face. It can easily be integrated into a hotel’s PMS to remove the need for paper invoicing and tasks that don’t require a human touch. These changes lead to an overall more positive experience to build brand loyalty with business travelers, their corporate clients and most importantly hotel staff.