200 percent increase

It is generally difficult for small and medium-sized companies to do business with large corporate customers. The four-star Hotel Ascot in Zurich has achieved this feat – with the help of the HRS Group's corporate discount. This forms the basis for the Business Tariff which only registered business travellers can book on HRS and HOTEL INFO.

text: Astrid Schwamberger  //  photography: Markus Bertschi

At the Hotel Ascot on Tessinerplatz square in Zurich, Sandra Heering's new year got off to a relaxed start. And the head of the hotel business department has a good reason for this: Because in the past 12 months, the booking volume which she has received through the HRS Group portals has expanded by a hefty 200 percent. "That is an immense increase," Heering says and beams from ear to ear. Thus the hotel's occupancy rate has risen by 3.5 percent overall from 2014 to 2015, she says. "That is pretty good for a four-start hotel in Zurich."

The HRS corporate discount, which the Ascot initiated about a year ago, probably played more than a small part in this positive development. In light of the increasing price pressure within the Zurich hotel business, this discount – a tip from HRS Regional Sales Manager Normen Casagrande – came at exactly the right time. Because the excess supply of beds which emerged because of building boom of the last ten years was lagging severely behind demand as a consequence of the strength of the Swiss franc. The result: a price war.

Jumping into the fray was not an option for this hotel, which is steeped in tradition. "We wanted to offer attractive corporate prices, but at the same time protect the published rates," Heering explains. And the hotel achieved this feat: Despite the stiffer competition, it was able to increase the average rate by CHF18 in 2015. This effect is related to the fact "that previously we mainly had low-priced weekend bookings, whereas we now have many corporate bookings which book for during the week at a higher rate."

Bait for big businesses

Since then, registered business travellers who log into the HRS Group booking portals have received a 15 percent discount on the current daily rate, and this applies to all 74 rooms in all categories. "We are one of the hotels in Zurich that grants the highest discount," Sandra Heering says. "in the first year, we just let it run like that to see what the response would be," she says. Out of all the guests who booked through HRS or HOTEL INFO in the past year, 87 percent used the Business Tariff – predominantly larger international companies, but also several small ones, and most of them were from the UK, the United States and Asia – guests who otherwise would probably have never become aware of the hotel.

However, apart from the numerous additional bookings, the corporate discount also enabled the hotel to gain access to an international corporation which increasingly had business dealings in Zurich and was on the look-out for new contract hotels. In the meantime, this company's employees were happily booking into the Ascot via the HRS corporate portal, using its Business Tariff and giving good feedback. So one thing led to another, and the hotel was accepted into the company's hotel programme and booked by the company's travellers – without having to go through a bidding process at all. "The corporate discount opened the door for us," is how Sandra Heering summarises the process.

Because the normal procedure for gaining access to the big players – via direct negotiations with the companies – tends to be rather difficult for small and medium-sized hotels like the Ascot: It ties up resources, there is no guarantee of success and the investment is down the drain if the hotel does not succeed. This is a dilemma. Because after all, business travellers are a lucrative target group: They book higher room categories, use additional services that are subject to a fee, and overall spend about twice as much money as tourists. Unlike city travellers, who like to embark on forays of the local gastronomy, business travellers order room service more frequently, or eat at the hotel, for example. "Many of them are just happy if they don't have to go out again in the evening," Sandra Heering knows, "our restaurant is very popular."

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