Cheltenham Festivals is a registered charity that organises four festivals every year (covering Jazz, Science, Music and Literature) in the spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. The largest of the events is the Literature Festival, which is held in the first two weeks of October and sponsored by The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers.
Up until 2013 the Literature Festival organisers had managed the hotel bookings for the sponsors and attendees themselves. They paid all of the room charges directly then billed the money back after the event. The number of bed nights required could be anything from 300 to 600, depending on how many early starts and late sessions were scheduled in the festival programme.
The festival had grown to the point where they could no longer manage the bookings themselves and needed to outsource the process. Inntel won the account after just one presentation, at which we impressed the organisers with our passion and commitment to finding a solution that worked for them.
The organisers were waiting up to eight months to get their money back from festival attendees – and some of the bills were very large as there was no cap on allowances. While they were therefore keen to avoid paying their preferred hotels up front, they wanted to preserve the close relationships they enjoyed with them, regardless of any new arrangements.
There were six hotels in total, ranging from £300 a night four-star hotels to £80 ‘no-frills’ budget hotels. We met with the management teams at all of the hotels and assured them that we were working on behalf of the organisers to simplify and improve the booking and billing processes for the benefit of both parties.
To remove the financial burden, we agreed that the organisers would only pay for their own team’s accommodation, and that this would be limited to bed and breakfast. Inntel would be responsible for all other payments.
We created a bespoke and branded landing page detailing the hotels and room rates available during the festival and sent the link out for publishers to take their pick. Their requests were sent to us to manage and, as soon as the cancellation deadline date had passed, we billed them for their agreed bookings. Where individual authors were concerned, we took payment by credit card. This ensured that the bulk of the money was paid up front, and only late changes or amends needed to be reconciled after the event.
We also set up a VIP desk and hotline for the main sponsors, who usually had more detailed requirements for their celebrity guests. All of the VIP bookings were handled individually by members of the Inntel account team to guarantee a trouble-free booking.
During the festival itself we provided an out-of-hours mobile number (on the accommodation landing page) so that anyone could contact the Inntel account manager with any problems, day or night.
The festival organisers could not be happier with the new arrangement, which has saved them a considerable amount of time as well as reducing their costs. We have also taken on the annual rate negotiations with the hotels and use our expertise to get the best possible deals.
Our commitment to Cheltenham Festivals has been doubly rewarded. In 2013 (the very first year of our association) our new clients nominated their Inntel Account Manager for one of Business Travel Magazine’s People in Industry Awards. And in 2016 we will also be managing the accommodation bookings for the Cheltenham Science Festival, working with the same hotels and sponsors.