BizAv Tips for World Events and Holidays: Hotel Accommodations
Preferred hotel accommodations can be particularly difficult to secure and revise during busy event and holiday periods around the world. During these high occupancy times, crew rooms may cost up to 500% of regular rates and are often non-refundable/non-changeable. Accommodations, however, may be possible when working with experienced ground handlers and 3rd-party providers.
The following is an overview of what you need to know about hotel accommodations when operating during an event period or holiday season:
1. Major holiday periods and seasonal locations
Major holidays around the world include: New Year’s, Christmas, Thanksgiving (U.S.), Lunar New Year, and Carnival (Brazil). These holidays attract high volumes of travelers and cause hotels to fill up quickly. Major events (non-holidays) around the world include Davos World Economic Forum, Cannes Film Festival, fashion weeks in Paris and Milan, and major air expos such as Farnborough, Paris, and Dubai. These events tend to strain hotel availability and push costs up. Sporting events, including the World Cup and Champions League, routinely soak up all available preferred accommodations months prior to the events.
2. Accommodation issues
During event and holiday periods, many locations get overwhelmed with requests for accommodations. In many cases hotels may have no availability. Room prices increase, and cancellation policies are frequently extended and/or are non-refundable. When hotels do fill up, operators may need to consider alternate destinations for crew rest. These alternates, however, may also fill up quickly, pushing remaining accommodation options further out and at increased rates. For large sporting events, for example, hotel rooms are often reserved in advance. There are creative solutions – such as using a cruise ship to handle additional accommodation demands –of which crew facing scarce accommodation options can take advantage.
3. Hotel revisions
When hotels sell out, or are close to being sold out, they may not allow date revisions or refundable cancellations. These confirmed reservations may also impose early departure penalties if you leave earlier than the original checkout day or time. In other words hotels may require you to keep the dates to which you’ve committed. In such cases it’s often possible to change the name and credit card guarantee on the rooms. So, if you need to cancel rooms due to a schedule change, there may be an opportunity, either directly or via your 3rd-party provider, to re-sell or assign confirmed rooms to another user. Keep in mind that it’s usually easier to extend an existing hotel reservation than it is to shorten a hotel booking that’s already confirmed.
4. Planning ahead
During particularly busy seasons or events – such as Christmas on popular Caribbean islands, summer in the south of France, or at the Davos World Economic Forum – you may need to reserve hotel accommodations months or even a year in advance. Aircraft parking must also be considered in the equation. In some cases parking confirmation may not be available until closer to day of operation, and you may not want to commit to non-refundable crew rooms until parking availability is known.
In all cases when making reservations at a hotel with which you are unfamiliar, it’s always best to obtain a security report for the hotel. This report will provide you with information such as hotel security protocol and intel about the surrounding area. For more information read our series on security briefings for your trip.
5. Plans "B"
If your preferred hotel or chain is sold out during high traffic periods, consider other hotels or chains with which you may be less familiar. Your 3rd-party provider or ground handler can help find the types of accommodation/amenities you prefer – perhaps with local "boutique hotels." While it’s not recommended that crew members stay at less than 3-star accommodations due to security issues (and we usually recommend 4-star+), there may be times when you may need to consider three-star lodging. Alternatively, you may be able to source adequate quality hotel rooms in nearby towns – perhaps 50 to 100 miles away from your destination. Accommodations in private residences are also an option you may wish to explore with a well-connected ground handler. Be creative. Be open to changing your hotels in the middle of your stay or putting crew members at different hotels in order to accommodate the whole crew in the same city. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to consider dropping off your passengers and repositioning to an alternate location for aircraft parking and crew rest.
6. Day-of-operation issues
When hotels experience high occupancy rates, it’s less likely that hotel managers will permit early check-in or late checkout. Early arrivals or late checkouts may require reserving rooms for the night before arrival and/or keeping rooms until the day after departure, in order to ensure immediate check-in on arrival and late checkout on departure. While your ground handler may have some degree of negotiating power with his or her preferred hotel sources, there’s the potential that you may find yourself waiting hours for check-in if you arrive before 3 p.m. without prior arrangements. In certain cases crew members with high-level, elite statuses with major hotel programs may be eligible for room upgrades and confirmed accommodations even during "sold out" periods. In order to use such program benefits, however, you’ll usually need to provide the hotel 48 hours’ notice, and not all properties will accommodate your request.
7. Best practices during times of limited availability
When hotel availability is extremely limited, work closely with your ground handler. He or she may have some rooms reserved during busy event/holiday periods or have other ways to secure accommodations. While it’s always best to reserve crew accommodations as soon as the schedule is known, you do run the risk of having non-cancellable bookings in the event that aircraft parking cannot be secured, or a schedule is changed at the last minute.
8. Special rates and credit policies
Special crew rates will usually not be honored when hotel occupancy is above about 85%. Also, most hotels have blackout dates where negotiated rates are not available. Ability to use hotel points for rooms or room upgrades may not be possible during high-demand periods. Preferred method of payment is usually the credit card of the person checking in or pre-established credit arrangements via a 3rd-party booking service. In some cases, hotels may require a wire transfer of funds.
9. Day-of-arrival issues
If a hotel misplaces your reservation, it’s the responsibility of hotel management to ensure that all confirmed persons are accommodated. Best practice is to reconfirm reservations on the day of arrival and to contact your 3rd-party provider if any issues arise at check-in. If you need to cancel/revise a hotel reservation within an extended cancellation period, your 3rd-party provider may be able to help you avoid certain cancellation/change charges. Whenever your plans include an early check-in, and you have rooms reserved for the night before, always call the hotel to confirm that your rooms have not been occupied in error.
10. Resources that can help
To alleviate the burden of keeping track of all the different holidays and events throughout the world, we have compiled this Business Aviation Planning Calendar to provide guidance on when you should begin operations and hotel planning for major worldwide events.
When trying to source crew accommodations during busy event/holiday periods, be prepared for limited choices, higher prices, and extended cancellation policies. Plan ahead as much as possible, keep your options open, and try to be flexible. When you operate to non-familiar destinations, it’s recommended to obtain a security brief for the hotel and area.
If you have any questions about this article or about hotel accommodations in general, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.