Boutique Hotel News event review: Winning Corporate Business

16 November 2012 | Updated 18 November 2012

The sumptuous surroundings of The Gore Hotel in London played host to the latest Boutique Hotel News networking event, titled Winning Corporate Business.

Moderated by Bob Papworth, executive editor of Buying Business Travel, the session's panellists were Sarah Makings, european category manager - travel at KPMG LLP; Ricky Kapoor, commercial director of The Edinburgh Collection; Lone Konradsen, account director at BSI Travel; and Edward Bracken, owner of The Gore and The Pelham Hotels. Watch video highlights of the discussion.

The attendees were a mixture of hotel owners and operators, and service suppliers and included Grant Powell, general manager of The Arch London, Paul Hemmings, VP sales at Red Carnation Hotels, Samantha Trinder, managing director of The Bingham Hotel, and Nicola Lomas, director of corporate travel services at OmnicomGroup, who is also the chairman of the Institute of Travel and Meetings.

Bob Papworth kicked off proceedings with fairly staggering numbers: the annual UK corporate hospitality and travel spend is £25 billion, and members of the Guild of Travel Managers are on course to deliver pre-recession levels of hotel transactions in 2012, at over 4 million.

The speakers were then asked the seemingly impossible question - what defines a boutique hotel? As ever there were varying answers, but one constant was that it was somewhere that is small and flexible enough to offer guests a very high level of service, and to have a personal relationship with them. Lone Konradsen said a boutique hotel is somewhere that "when you walk in, you see something different, something that stands out from the crowd".

An issue that was quickly identified was the difficulty for boutique hotels - which generally have a much smaller number of rooms - to manage any inventory set aside for corporate business. It is hard for a small property to guarantee to have rooms available for corporates, and as Ricky Kapoor observed: "We can't accept high volume, low rate business - it doesn't allow us to provide the service we want to and that our guests expect."

One area where boutique hotels can use their flexibility to their advantage is by putting packages together which enable corporate travel managers to address the total cost of stay of their travellers. Where some of the bigger chains - who it was claimed can be indifferent about promoting themselves and working to attract corporate business - will often add a range of extra costs to an initially attractive room rate, boutique hotels can put together deals which include free wifi, parking etc.

"The total cost of stay needs to be as controllable and predictable as possible," according to Sarah Makings, and boutique hotels are in a good position to help with that issue.

Both Sarah and Lone suggested that if boutique properties are struggling with allocating part of their limited room inventory to corporate business, they should consider concentrating on the growing meetings and private dining sector - this is an immature market but one which the corporates are becoming more heavily focused on.

Audience member Brian Yates, of The Appointment Group, asked the panel if they were members of business groups and associations, which led on to a discussion of the importance of networking. Edward Bracken stressed the importance of making your brand visible by attending events where you will come in to contact with your target market - he also said The Gore and The Pelham aim to turn satisfied guests into ambassadors for the hotels within their corporate organisation.

Bob Papworth brought proceedings to a close with a tip to hoteliers to take of advantage of their local business connections, when networking, as they can lead on to bigger things.

The next Boutique Hotel News networking event will be held in the new year, and will be themed around attracting the Chinese guest. If you are interested in sponsoring or speaking at the event, contact

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