American Express Global Business Travel and meetings management and transient sourcing provider Cvent have partnered to create and launch a set of 47 hotel sourcing questions focused on sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, the companies told BTN.
The new questions are supplemental to the Global Business Travel Association’s request-for-proposals template and were released to hoteliers in late July so they could begin to fill in their responses. The questions will be available to buyers using Cvent Transient today, in time for the 2022 RFP season.
“Corporate social responsibility topics around sustainability and diversity we feel are a growing priority for many of our clients at GBT,” said Nina Marcello, principal of GBT’s Global Business Consulting arm. She proposed the RFP initiative, which began in the spring. “We are being inundated with a deluge of questions about how we can support clients that need answers to these questions,” she said.
Marcello explained that the current GBTA module doesn’t fully capture the full spectrum of questions asked by clients. “This has resulted in a large amount of custom questions and back and forth with hoteliers,” she said, adding that questions on sustainability and DEI-related topics for many buyers were not at the current level of priority when the association created its current set of questions.
For example, some GBT clients have asked questions about the ability to support charging stations for electric vehicles, Marcello said, adding those are not in the current GBTA template. Another set of questions is for more detailed information on diversity-owned businesses. Carbon emissions is another topic covered.
“This is huge both on the transient side and on the meetings side,” Marcello said. “A lot of hoteliers don’t have [the information], and they are going to have to work hard to get it, but it is so important to the people who are part of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and have committed to certain goals around working with diversity-owned businesses. That information is truly lacking in the current deliverable, and it is something clients wanted to see this year.”
GBTA released an updated hotel RFP template in 2019, but the pandemic paused a 2020 update, according to a GBTA spokesperson.
“The update coming soon will incorporate new and expand upon current questions around sustainability, DEI and health and safety,” according to the GBTA spokesperson. “Additionally, it will include more flexibility and customization options so that buyers can include specific questions relevant to their organizations and priorities without requiring GBTA RFP tools and hotel systems to be updated with new templates each year. We recognize that sustainability and DEI are rising to the top of the agenda for so many in our industry. We look forward to rolling out the updated hotel RFP template that will help our members and the industry address these priorities.”
GBTA did not provide a date as to when the updated template would be released.
Marcello said she and Cvent let GBTA know that they were doing some “pop out” work for this year, and once they receive feedback from clients, they would let GBTA know if hoteliers were able to respond. They also said they’d share the list of questions with GBTA, “so if they want to include them in their next release, it would be great if they could,” she said. “This is not about working around GBTA. We hope to be able to work with them in the future.”
Coming up with the questions started with feedback gathered from GBT clients and meetings with major hoteliers, many of whom sit on the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, Marcello said. They also spoke with other consulting organizations and travel management companies and used historical client RFPs.
The new questions are not just a GBT initiative, said Cvent senior director of product management Brian Sullivan, who runs the company’s transient product line. “As we started talking with hotel suppliers and other travel management companies, there was a need across the industry to do something pretty quickly,” he said, adding that some of the hoteliers they interacted with are on GBTA’s corporate responsibility committee. “So we took some of those questions that they agreed upon and for the new rewrite incorporated them here. Again, they are not in the full structure because that hasn’t been submitted by GBTA yet to the industry, but we know what some of those questions will be, and we’ve incorporated them into this supplemental model.”
It’s notable how quickly key players in the industry came together to agree on these questions and achieve consensus on the information they wanted, Sullivan said, then moved to get a solution into the market quickly.
“We tried to keep it simple,” Marcello said. “There will still be some clients with very, very specific initiatives that they want to dive deep into and ask more of the hoteliers. I don’t think we’ll ever avoid that. But what we are managing here for is the norm, and trying to reduce the workload for the hoteliers, who also are seeing these types of questions. … It really is an industrywide initiative to save time. I’ve stayed at hotels recently and saw people wearing a lot of hats. Hoteliers are asking for increased time to respond to RFPs, so anything we can do to help the industry is a win.”