Skift Take

Hyatt seems to realize not only that small businesses are the most untapped portion of corporate travel, but that a solid business travel experience can lead to dividends on the leisure side as well. Whether this program catches on is another story, though.

There’s no shortage of players looking to tap into the surge of travelers hitting the road from small businesses. Upside, Lola, TripActions, Concur Hipmunk, and numerous other companies are working to fix the problems faces by small companies and their travelers, even if a revolution is still in the offing.

Now, Hyatt Hotels Corp. wants to get into the corporate travel game by providing basic travel management tools to businesses that stay at Hyatt properties.

Hyatt Leverage, a new program, will give small businesses up to 15 percent off the lowest available room rate at participating properties while providing traveler tracking and spend management tools to company administrators. It’s not meant to replace its existing relationships with travel partners, though.

“Putting the right tools in place is not rocket science, but there is a science involved for sure,” said Gus Vonderheide, vice president of global sales at Hyatt. “We certainly rely heavily on travel management companies, consortia, and global distribution systems; they are a very important part of how we manage, but almost 50 percent of the American workforce is working for a [small or medium-sized enterprise of 100 people or less. When you get into that size of organization, they don’t have a travel tool or portal they work with.”

Only companies, and not gig economy workers or self-employed travelers, can enroll in the program. Companies with existing agreements may not be able to join, and none of the bookings made will be commissionable. Hyatt is targeting companies with at least 50 room nights spent at their properties each year, and can kick a company out of the program if it doesn’t reach that threshold.

Travelers may also need to verify they are actually employed at their company when checking in at a hotel.

Individual hotels are tasked with reaching out to local businesses to get them enrolled in the program. Hotels, as well, can choose how big a discount they want to give to participants on a day-by-day basis, and hotels in any region can participate. “It’s not being pushed down their throats at the corporate office,” said Vonderheide, so hotels won’t be required to give out a 15 percent discount just because a traveler belongs to the Hyatt Leverage program.

This approach lets hotels use discounts to drum up extra room nights from business travelers if they need to. Instead of negotiating a corporate rate, then, a hotel can simply offer a discount to receptive companies.

Travelers will be given a code to plug into that lets them receive the discount, and administrators can track what’s being spent and where travelers are from a simple dashboard hosted online by Hyatt.

“No brands have done this like we are, and we think we’ve got a neat opportunity,” said Vonderheide. “We can help the casual travel administrator be better at what they do and give them a tool to make their lives earlier. We’re putting the tools in the hands of our salespeople to knock on doors and talk to the neighborhood. We’ve gotten some really good comments back on exactly that.”

It’s interesting that a hotel chain would enter the travel management sector for small businesses. Marriott International does have a small business program, but it’s aimed more at getting travelers enrolled in its loyalty program.

It’s hard to see Hyatt’s program being transformational for administrators, though, because it doesn’t hook into a company’s expense platform or incorporate rooms booked at other hotels.

There is also a wrinkle in Hyatt’s strategy that involves encouraging business travelers to stay with them when traveling for a vacation. A 5 percent discount is also provided for bookings made at Oasis Collections properties, and the code provided to travelers will also work for leisure stays as well.

This is one way Hyatt is trying to push its Oasis Collections brand, after adding it to the World of Hyatt loyalty program last year.


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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, hyatt, oasis collections

Photo credit: A promotional photo of a Hyatt Hotels front desk. The hotel chain's new program aimed at small businesses is an interesting, but narrow, foray into business travel. Hyatt

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