Guest blogger Nelson Carvalheiro is a travel writer and manager of a boutique hotel. In this entry, he shares his insider tips on how you can score fabulous hotel deals–anywhere!
1. Give yourself plenty of time. Hotels forecast occupancy and rates on a daily basis, so the more time you have between booking and the check-in date, the higher the chances the hotel will be able to drop the rates.
2. Avoid booking for peak times. Easter, Summer, Christmas, New Year’s and school holidays are what hotels prey on to maximize revenues. Booking outside of these periods, when the hotel has a lower occupancy, will definitely improve your chances of getting a great deal. The hotel’s need for cash is greater than ever in the off-season, making this the best time to explore their hidden goodwill.
3. Spot the differences. Chain hotels will almost always be inflexible on their rates. Instead, look for privately owned small or boutique properties, which will certainly be more open to negotiating with you.
4. Listen to your friends. Have any of your friends been to the places you’ve shortlisted? If so, try to get the name of a front desk agent or the manager.
5. Do your homework. Scout the prices made available by the hotels in both their own websites and online travel agencies like expedia.com, hotels.com, and lastminute.com. Compile the information on a comparison chart with the prices, services offered, the type of room, manager’s name, and other relevant information. This chart will be needed for the next and most important step.
6. Make the call. A direct call by a potential guest is called a “moment of truth” in the hospitality world – and it’s by direct personal contact that you’ll get better results.
7. Ask for the manager’s name, mentioning that their hotel has been highly recommended by a very good friend of yours and that you’d like to share the same experience. Go on to say that they loved the way he personally took care of their stay. Just like all of us, hoteliers love to be praised for their work. Make them blush!
8. Ask the person over the phone if they remember your friends. Remembering the names and details of past guests is the cornerstone of hospitality, and even if they don’t remember, they’ll say they do. Now you have the upper hand!
9. Mention the dates and the room where you’d like to stay, asking politely if they still have availability. Never be presumptuous over the phone! Hoteliers are groomed to spot the tiniest details, including tone of voice and word choice. It pays to use your manners.
10. The first quote they’ll give you will be a top priced room. This is fine! Acknowledge, verifying with the homework that you’ve done, that the quoted rate corresponds to the room. Go on to ask if there a possibility to have that room at a lower rate since you’re contacting the hotel directly.
11. In a very polite manner, let them know that you’ve already searched prices and are aware of the commission that hotels pay for rooms booked through online travel agencies. (These range from 15% to 25% of the room rate.)
12. If the rate drops, hooray! Success! If not, continue to inquire as to which room would be available at a discounted rate until you are happy with the quote. Alternatively, ask if you may have a complimentary upgrade to a superior room or suite.
13. If you encounter high resistance to a discount, explore the flanks of the business and ask for hotel-provided services like breakfast, spa and pool access, massages, late check-out, or a complimentary mini bar to be included in the rate.
14. One last piece of advice: don’t agree to continue the conversation through email, as the momentum will be broken and you will likely receive a copy of the information you already have.
15. Enjoy the extra cash you’ve saved and buy yourself something nice!
Hungry for more? Check out London-based travel writer and hotel manager Nelson Carvalheiro’s blog at nelsoncarvalheiro.com/blog.