In this article, We will talk about hotel corporate rates and how they work, and who is entitled to use them. Keep in mind, the purpose of the article is purely informational and does not represent our moral endorsement of any practice.
What is the hotel corporate rate?
Most travelers who work for large corporations are used to enjoying extremely discounted rates at the largest hotel chains around the globe. Discounts vary significantly depending on the chain, the specific property, the period of the year and the contract with the corporation. Typically discounted corporate rates go from a 10% discount to a 70% discount. Sometimes having access to the corporate contract at a hotel chain does not only give you access to a highly discounted rate but often to other benefits as well, such as free internet connection, room upgrade, free breakfast, access to the hotel business lounge, or late check-out. Moreover, the other major benefits of corporate rates over other types of promotions have to do with the cancellation policy: typically corporate rates can be canceled by 6 pm of the check-in date with no penalties (other times there is a longer cancellation notice but it’s quite reasonable). On the other hand, if you want to get a decent rate at a hotel and you are not entitled to a corporate rate, you will be left with advance payment rates, typically that do not provide any refund in case of cancellation.
How did hotel corporate rates work?
Large corporations are very good at negotiating fantastic corporate rates that typically are chain-wide: this means that any hotel of that specific chain will provide you a certain level of discount, although the level of discount may vary from property to property. Because the discount is deep and based on how many rooms are sold each year using a specific corporate code, large corporations who have these contracts in place push all their employees, suppliers, contractors and consultants to use those corporate codes. The more rooms are sold on the corporate code, the better discount the travel team of the corporation will be able to negotiate for the following year. Typically corporate rates can also be used by employees for personal trips and vacations (as long the bills are not expensed or charged to the company) and in some cases, family members have access to the same rates.
For hotel chains, providing deep discounts to corporations allow the hotel chain to have higher occupancy rates and to have many people who book rooms directly with the hotel (or using the hotel website) rather than using a website such as Expedia, Orbitz, or Booking.com that charge to the hotel very high commissions. Corporate rates are not available through most booking websites and you are forced to use the hotel website by applying to corporate code in the reservation search form. This is not a detail for the hotel, because they push you to their own website and aways from travel websites that charge them commissions from 10% to 25% on every booking made. Therefore, at the end of the day, everybody gets a pretty nice deal: you get a low rate, the corporation gets another night sold using their corporate code and therefore a nice discount next year, and the hotel saves money because you book directly on their website. Moreover, if it’s the corporation itself paying directly or indirectly for your stay, the corporation owning the corporate contract with the hotel chain enjoys the saving as well as your employer, client or supplier.
“As a corporate traveler and experienced negotiator of corporate deals, I always suggest to my friends and colleagues to be fully aware of the corporate rates they might have access to as employees, consultants, contractors, customers or suppliers of large corporations. The benefits are great for everybody and people should not be shy at taking advantage of the opportunity.” Clark says.
Do you need a corporate ID to qualify for a hotel corporate rate?
Online I often have read about people concerned about using a corporate rate because they feel the hotel will be asking for identification at check-in in order to confirm eligibility for the discounted corporate rate. I found many people asking these sorts of questions and many other people relying on online forums that an ID is required in order to use a corporate rate. However, my experience is very different and I believe it is purely an ethical issue in cases you are not eligible to use a specific rate. Nobody would most likely ever catch you (neither anybody is motivated to catch you). On the other hand, it is a matter of what ethical standard you aim at in your personal and professional life.
In my career I have been enjoying corporate rates at hotels in many different capacities, however, most of the time I have been using corporate rates as a consultant, contractor, supplier, or customer of the company who was holding the contract with the hotel chain. Therefore, I had no form of identification, and sometimes the details of my relationship with the company that booked the room for me were confidential in nature. In any case, the details are never the business of the receptionist at the hotel.
Typically I am asked for a form of corporate identification less than 10% of the time I have a reservation using a corporate rate. When I am an actual employee I typically show my business card but when I am a contractor or supplier I just say so. No further details are needed. Typically my answer to a request for corporate ID to prove my relationship with the company holding the contract with the hotel chain sounds like “Sorry, I am a contractor/supplier/customer”. Not a single time I was asked any additional questions or challenged further.
The truth is that the hotel chain itself has no interest in investigating eligibility because its business and profitability are all about occupancy. Their number one goal is to fill the property in. It is the old pricing game. Let’s make an example. If we are talking about a hotel that charges a rack rate of $300 per night, they would be happy to sell rooms at $150 to fill in their property as long as their guest paying $300 per night does not get to know that. For this reasons website like Hotwire are successful. Hotwire allows hotels to sell rooms with a heavy discount and raise their occupancy without losing margin with the price-insensitive customers willing to pay the rack rate anyway to stay at that specific place. Therefore for the same reason, they are very glad to accept guests who booked with a discounted rate through a corporate deal. Moreover, corporate guests book directly with the hotel, either by phone or on the hotel website and therefore the hotel is able to save the commissions they typically pay to travel websites such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Booking or any others. Commissions are very expensive, typically in the 15-25% range. Therefore providing a similar discount for a corporate client makes total business sense for the hotel chain.
The only scenario when a hotel is not happy about having guests booking with a corporate discounted rate is when they are pretty much positive that the entire hotel will be fully booked anyhow, for example in certain locations during holidays or during large conventions. You will be able to tell that immediately from the hotel website because the website will not accept the corporate code and you will be only left with the rack rate.
So should you worry about being kicked out of the hotel? Not based on my pretty extensive experience. Am I suggesting you use corporate rates you are not eligible for? Not at all but purely because I do not feel it is ethical. However, I would suggest that you understand if you are eligible to take advantage of corporate rates because very often you do not need to be an employee of the company holding the contract with the hotel. Contractors, consultants, suppliers, and customers are very often eligible as well.
How to use hotel corporate codes to get corporate rates?
There are two ways to book a room enjoying a corporate rate: calling the hotel and asking for the rate or booking on the hotel website using the corporate code.
Calling the hotel is not always successful because sometimes the reservation agent of the hotel will ask for an email from a corporate email account in order to confirm the booking. Therefore in case you are eligible for the rate as a contractor, supplier or customer but you are not an actual employee, you will not be able to complete the booking. The solution is to ask your contact at your client or supplier to book the room for you.
The more convenient way to book the room is using the hotel corporate code and going directly to the hotel website providing the code during the reservation. There is usually a field called “Corporate Code”, or “Corporate Contract” or “Discount Code”.
For example, Hilton has a field called “Corporate Account”. This is similar to Marriott.
Every hotel chain looks different but somewhere along the way, the online booking page should show that the corporate code has been applied.
The issue is clearly getting access to the corporate code because very often not even employees know the corporate discount code to get access to the discounts. It is typically the information in the hands of the travel department. However, once you know that you are eligible for a discount as an employee, contractor, supplier or client, you can just search for the corporate code online on Google. There are many forums online where these codes are typically shared by people and Google will bring you right there.
What hotel chains offer corporate codes?
Almost all major hotel chains offer a corporate discount. Clearly large corporate and large hotel chains are the best candidates to find codes. Such as Intel, Google, HP, Microsoft, Siemens, IBM, Oracle, Accenture, Dell, General Electric (GE), Honeywell or Cisco. All these large corporations are very good negotiators of corporate rates and they typically have deals with most of the largest chains such as Hilton, Starwood (Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, W), Club Carlson (Radisson, Park Plaza), Marriott and Hyatt.
Here are some of the most prevalent corporate rate codes, hope will help you: