Choice Discusses 2010 Rate Negotiations Outcome

Choice Hotels International has yet to see a pick up in corporate bookings demand, and expects corporate negotiated rates to remain flat in 2010, according to CFO David White, speaking during an investor conference call last week.
"The key things that we are seeing here is corporate travel managers are generally looking to have fewer hotels in their hotel program with more spend allocated to each hotel," White said. "The other thing that we are hearing anecdotally is that corporate travel mangers are looking for more value-oriented hotels to provide amenity types that we typically do free breakfast, free newspapers, free parking, etc."

Additionally, White said the number of requests for proposals Choice is seeing is "roughly in line with where it was last year." However, travel buyers are "a little bit pickier than they were a year ago," and corporate demand "has been pretty flat to down ... it certainly has been weaker than the leisure travel side of things."

Choice's president and CEO Stephen Joyce agreed that corporate "has not seen the pick up we have seen on weekend leisure. It is fair to say that at least from our perspective, which is limited, we probably saw it stabilizing going into the summer but we also have not seen improvement. Bottom line is the trends are not really improving."

Joyce acknowledged "corporate business travel is less significant to us than it is to the other companies," but attested that it has "not yet seen the floor in the occupancy decline on either leisure or business, but it seems to be stabilizing."