All About Hotel Bookings

An interview with Valesa’s Owner, Marcy Forman

Do you feel confident in your skills to book the best, most exclusive hotel stay at the best price for your clients?  Valesa’s own Marcy Forman wants to help answer your lingering questions on hotel bookings,  when to use DMCs (Destination Management Companies), and she shares open and honest information about how to navigate this crucial part of creating an incredible itinerary. As General Manager and Co-Owner of Valesa Cultural Services, with more than 40 years experienceand a Bachelors degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University, Marcy answers the most pressing questions facing advisors.

Let’s take a lookat her specific insights and reflections.

When booking hotels in Europe, how does it differ to book directly with hotels or use a DMC? 

When working with DMCs, or Destination Management Companies, it’s all about expertise and relationships. DMCs are local to the region the client is traveling to and (should) have close relationships with hotels in the area. Communication is also a key factor that provides DMCs with a leg up; many times, being able to communicate in the local language alone can help ease the booking process.

Furthermore DMCs, with their connections to local hotels, are usually able to better protect clients in case of unforeseen circumstances. We saw this personally during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the expert firsthand guidance and relationships are what make the difference when working with a DMC.  Nevertheless,  the time frame, client knowledge of the hotels, and frequency of booking this region would also be determing factors when you decide to use a DMC for your hotel booking. While it is often helpful (saves time and keeps whole package together), it is not always in the best interest of the advisor to use a DMC for the hotels. If we don’t work with a hotel you request, at Valesa we are straightforward in communicating that with our clients.  Our investment in personal inspections and decades long relationships offers peace of mind to our clients… this is our secret weapon.  Does your DMC have personal phone numbers of hotel contacts, and checks in with your clients to be sure all is well?

What should the relationship look like between a travel advisor and a DMC? How does Valesa address those needs?

Trust and clear communication are at the forefront of a productive and successful relationship between advisor and DMC. With this, travel advisors will feel comfortable taking local recommendations. At Valesa, the most important part of our relationship with advisors is simply that. We build trust through our focus on the American market, our commitment to our repeat customers, and ensuring that anything we recommend is first personally inspected by our team. We have a toll-free number in the USA and Canada to streamline communications from booking time until the traveler arrives with 24hr oncall coverage.  Each Customer Service Manager at Valesa is an expert at itinerary creation, but beyond that, more than half the team comes from the hotel industry. 

How does rate parity play a role in the process? What does the DMC role look like when it comes to rate parity?

Online Rate parity plays a very important role in the booking process and gives advisors another option in terms of booking hotels. Rate parity can be used as a general guideline even when working with DMCs and can be especially helpful for advisors that want an approximate value as a reference point.  And of course booking directly could include greater flexibility to cancel close to arrival.  Advisors who seek as inexpensive as possible, booking outside of a DMC might be best. But If looking for highest quality and assurance of a successful stay, DMCs are most often helpful to use.  DMCs, like Valesa, know the right contacts and the best rooms, what clients are paying for, and they can problem solve if anything should arise when client is here. This additional level of service and guarantees come at a cost, and of course increase the value of your package too.  Simplifying the process for hotels in the package usually improves the quality of the trip.  At Valesa we prefer this traditional style package, but it is not a requirement to book hotels through us.  

What makes a good versus a great hotel?

Marcy has this down to a science and visualizes this like a pyramid. At the top of our pyramid and with the highest priority is the perfect location. Next comes guest experience. If the hotel has a perfect location and guest experiences are very good, that makes a good hotel.

Now, what distinguishes a good property from great hotel?  Here lies the commercial relationship which includes possible collaborations and improvements, such as joint promotions, special rates, exclusive packages, or amenities. A great hotel has this additional  layer of aligned actions. With perfect location, great guest experience, and a collaborative relationship, you indeed have a great hotel in place for your clients. When there’s high demand or during any busy season, this relationship makes all the difference. Valesa only recommends great hotels where we have seen excellent guest experiences go hand-in-hand with extra perks and amenities.

 How important are amenities, upgrades, and luxury add-ons in hotel bookings these days? 

Amenities and upgrades are important, yet, lack of them shouldn’t be a dealbreaker and could be opportunity for a special gift or a savings perhaps.  Normally upgrades are subject to availability and can be difficult to come by in moments of high demand.  It’s important to have amenities if hotels boast offering them and want to stay competitive, but if these exclude a better option for your package (like a guaranteed upgrade), then they are not as important overall and can perhaps be resolved in multiple ways for clients.

Whether booking your hotel reservations with a DMC or not, we hope these words answer questions about DMC pricing and added value to the advisor and the client. DMCs provide recommendations that come with a greater in-person guarantee, often most important in lesser-known destinations like Portugal and Morocco. At Valesa, we want to be open about when to use DMCs and when not to,  by developing trusting relationships with advisors to provide the highest quality experience for all clients.