The Institute of Travel Management, the U.K. equivalent of the National Business Travel Association, this month introduced an online request for proposals tool for its members to source U.K. hotels. Like NBTA, ITM intends its new RFP template to streamline a time-consuming process and free travel buyers to focus on rate negotiations and qualifying vendors. It differs from the NBTA format, however, in the methods by which buyers ask hotels for specific data.
"The RFP allows buyers to tell hotels what is important to them in a list of priorities," said ITM chairman Tom Stone. "Pricing certainly would be a crucial concern, but beyond that, it could be any number of factors that reflect the program and type of travel the company undertakes." Buyers are free to indicate as few or as many priorities as they wish.
Hotels prepopulate the RFP fields of information and can respond quickly when they receive an account's specific requirements.
"Hotels have never fully understood what was most important to the buyer. Consequently, their response to the RFP often was incomplete or just not as helpful as it might have been," said Martin Coleman, head of ABC Connection, a U.K.-based third-party RFP vendor that provided technical support to ITM. Stone and Coleman estimated that a buyer would be able to issue an RFP in under one hour.
Underlying the development is the shift from traditional travel management hotel-sourcing processes to those of procurement.
"As procurement officials get more involved in the process, there's a greater need for standardized procedures that can be applied to many areas," said ITM executive director Loraine Holdcroft.
The ITM tool can be used to source meeting sites as well as transient travel. NBTA expects to add a meetings module to its RFP standard in time for the 2006 bid season.
For the 2005 bid season, the NBTA hotel committee released an updated version of its electronic tool. Aside from a client-specific module, which contains all pricing information, the NBTA approach includes separate modules on such subjects as safety and security, communications and technology, and services and amenities (BTN, Feb. 9).
Buyers are able to specify which modules they want hotels to complete. However, each module, which can request answers to dozens of questions, must be completed in its entirety. The NBTA tool also includes a user-defined module so buyers can ask questions relevant to their programs.
"With each revision, the hotel committee has built in more flexibility, considering that the size and scope of buyers' hotel programs are so different," said Peggy Lee, a former member of the NBTA hotel committee. "Buyers really can customize the RFP format to a significant degree."
Buyer acceptance of the tool, which was revised in August, has been high, according to Lee, who also is global travel and meeting manager for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based technology firm Network Appliance Inc.