Take Advantage Of High Vacancy Rates
The Best Hotel Room Rates Without A Hotel Reservation
How can you get the lowest hotel room rates without even having a hotel reservation? Simply by asking for a cheaper hotel room rate and by trying to view the room rate decision making process from an owner’s perspective. Unless a hotel is full or near capacity you generally have some significant bargaining power over the room rate that you may not even be aware, particularly in a down economy. If you use an effective strategy you may get a discount hotel room rate.
Envision the hotel as a store which has 100 widgets (or rooms) to sell. These hotel rooms must be sold today, if they aren’t they will disappear and the opportunity to sell them will be lost. Tomorrow the store will receive another shipment of 100 widgets to sell but the ones from the previous day are gone. Obviously if you are the owner of this store - or hotel - you will be increasingly motivated to discount your inventory as the day progresses depending on how many you have remaining. If you have more than half remaining by early evening you may be willing to discount hotel rooms for half or even less of what you were originally asking.
So, you are going to have increased leverage in a price negotiation over hotel room rates if you are dealing with a hotel that still has significant hotel room vacancies later in the day. How can you get a feel for the vacancy rate at the hotel? Check the parking lot. If half of the hotel parking spaces are empty, the hotel is probably roughly 50 – 60 percent full unless this is an airport hotel property or another motel at which a significant number of hotel guests do not have vehicles. Another thing to look for in the evening is the percentage of hotel rooms you can see which have lights on in the windows.
Now that you have a sense of the hotel room availability walk inside and see what’s going on at the front desk and in the lobby area. Ideally you want to approach the staff at the front desk at a time when other guests are not present. If someone else is checking in or the staff is helping another guest simply have a cup of coffee or relax in the lobby until they are gone. The front desk may be willing to negotiate a discount hotel room rate with you, but they won’t want to do this in front of a guest who may have paid a significantly higher hotel room rate.
When speaking to the front desk staff it is very important to be friendly and polite. Do not demand anything. On the other hand, do not appear as if you are ready to check in, show that you are tired or that you have already made a decision to stay regardless of the hotel room rate you are quoted. A guest who looks tired, walks in and lays a credit card down on the counter and asks for the best hotel room rate never gets it. Ask the staff member for their best room rate for the evening. Once the hotel room rate is quoted to you, you may appear slightly surprised and ask again if that is really the best they can do on the room. Oftentimes they will immediately come back with a discounted rate.
If, from your survey of the hotel parking lot, you believe the hotel still has quite a few rooms left you can casually mention that to the staff member. “It seems like you guys aren’t very busy this evening, I was hoping you could do a little better on the rate.” They may respond by coming down further in their price. If not, it’s at this point that you should ask if there is any special discount for AAA members or corporate discounts or discount X. It’s not important if you actually have these cards as very few hotels will ever ask to see one.
Once it appears that the staff member you are working is not going to be willing to go lower, make a counter offer of ten or twenty dollars less assuming you are already within what you consider to be a good discount price range. If they accept that, then the deal is done and you can check in. You could also press your luck a bit at this point and see if they would throw in some type of a room upgrade as well. If they decline your counteroffer you can seem a little disappointed and then tell them you’ll have to think about it, that there are a couple other hotels you’d like to try check first (assuming there are others close by). Frequently the staff member will acquiesce to your last offer as you are in the process of turning away from the desk to go. If not, you can always go outside for a few minutes and come back assuming you are basically happy with the last room rate quoted.
A final tip if you are willing to put up with some minor inconvenience for the sake of a discount room rate is to ask if they have a room on a maintenance hold they would be willing to let you have at a lower rate. Often hotels have rooms blocked in their computer systems which have a maintenance issue that needs to be dealt with. Often these can be minor issues such as a broken hair dryer, a bathtub with that is draining too slowly or a TV that has poor reception. Some hotels may be willing to rent these at a discounted rate if you ask and assure them that you can accept the hotel room deficiency.
This type of bargaining strategy works extremely well with hotels that are stuck with a large inventory of rooms left to sell. It is important to note however that the reverse is also true – if the hotel has only a few rooms left the front desk will have no interest in bargaining over the room rate with you. In that case you will take whatever rate you are quoted or leave because they are confident that they can sell the rooms at the rate they want.
Finally, if you did negotiate a good discounted hotel room rate, please be discreet about it. Don’t make the front desk regret their decision by bragging about your incredibly low discount room rate the next morning over coffee with your fellow guests – they likely paid much more.