New initiative to beat recession
Hotel chains are reacting to the recession by filling their rooms with hotel employees, friends and families.
The recession has been particularly brutal for the travel industry.
Airlines have seen slender profits nosedive while hotels are in the middle of their largest ever expansion and opening new properties daily into the worst market many have ever experienced.
As a result there are a lot of empty rooms, and little money to reward staff. The solution to several seems clear: turn your staff members, their families and even their friends into customers.
The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), which has brands such as Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and InterContinental in its portfolio, has recently relaunched its Friends and Family programme to include all of its 4,000-odd hotels worldwide.
This allows them to fill hotel rooms at discounted prices without those discounts becoming visible to the general public.
So while there are many aggressive promotional rates, particularly for leisure travels at the moment, hotels are resisting widespread discounting.
The reason is that customers take note of the new prices, get used to them and it can take years to get the rate back up again. The new scheme avoids that pitfall.
Meanwhile, Marylebone Warwick Balfour, which owns everything from Liberty department store to hotel brands De Vere, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, is looking at something similar.
Richard Balfour-Lynne, its ceo, said: "The new website will offer deals to our 20,000 employees across all of our nine companies.
"We will then roll it out to friends and families, which will take numbers up to 100,000, with a view to eventually offering it to the employees of our major customers and our major suppliers, so we could have five million people with access to the deals which will not be open to the general public."
The nine companies are Malmaison, Hotel du Vin, De Vere Collection, De Vere Venues, Greens Health & Fitness, Village Hotels & Leisure Clubs, Searcys, Greenall, MWB Business Exchange.