InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is launching Business ChoiceSM, a one-stop hotel reservation and travel management portal designed for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Providing flexibility, convenience and control for SME corporate travel mangers and their travelers, Business Choice is available across the IHG family of hotel brands, including InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites®, Candlewood Suites® and Hotel Indigo®.
Business travel has long been the bread and butter of the hotel industry, driving more than 65 percent of overall Holiday Inn room nights and more than 75 percent of overall Crowne Plaza room nights in 2005. Comprising more than 95 percent of all business enterprises globally, SMEs are a pivotal target for the travel industry. But for corporate travel managers who negotiate special rates with hotels and other travel providers, getting their travelers to adhere to corporate travel policies and maximizing the benefits of those pre-negotiated rates is often a challenge. In addition, most locally negotiated rates have previously been available only by calling the hotel directly to make the reservations, a disadvantage with the growing trend towards online travel booking.
“Business Choice means SME travelers can now find and book their locally negotiated rates at any of our hotels online, from Candlewood Suites to InterContinental, just as they would plan and book their family vacation online, and the travel managers can rest assured that corporate travel policies are being communicated and travelers have access to their company’s negotiated rates at IHG hotels all in one, centralized location,” said Del Ross, vice president of Distribution Marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group. “In addition to benefiting the travel manager and their employees, Business Choice also gives our hotels the tools to facilitate the process for their SME clients and help capture more of that pre-negotiated rate business,” he added.
Designed to make travel management more streamlined, convenient and efficient for SME travel managers and their travelers, Business Choice is the hotel industry’s first online tool that enables SME travel planners to create and customize their company’s own travel portal, which centralizes corporate travel policies and the online reservation channel in one place and allows travelers to guarantee reservations directly to the hotel without requiring a credit card at the time of the booking, using pre-established direct-bill relationships with individual hotels. With the Business Choice solution, travel managers then have the flexibility to assume greater or less involvement in overseeing travelers’ plans. Moreover, increased compliance with corporate travel policies means travel managers can more accurately forecast and track against annual travel budgets. Travel managers can even add customized links to other preferred travel providers such as airlines or rental car companies to their Business Choice portal, further streamlining the corporate travel process for all involved.
For travelers, Business Choice provides a centralized location where they can access their company’s locally negotiated rates at preferred hotels, make or change reservations online and review their corporate travel policies and notices. Giving travel managers the ability to post messages and travel information to employees on their Business Choice portal can be especially useful when communicating with employees on the road during a crisis or natural disaster.
IHG offers Business Choice to members of its Priority Club® Rewards program, the largest and fastest-growing program in the industry. Business Choice also provides travelers opportunities to earn Priority Club Rewards bonus points by making reservations on their Business Choice portal at participating hotels.
Business Choice is important to SMEs because the ability to effectively manage travel, control costs and maximize special rates can significantly affect their bottom lines. According to the National Business Travel Association, the impact of an effective travel manager is illustrated by the following statistic: a savings of $1.5 million in travel costs means that a company can sell $23.5 million less in product sales to realize the same profits without those travel savings, a return on investment of 17 percent.