MasterCard is clearly becoming the preferred travel companion for major hotel companies. Just in recent months, Hyatt and now Starwood, which owns Westin and Sheraton, have partnered with MasterCard to improve corporate travel departments receive line item expense data from employee corporate payment card purchases. MasterCard’s Jay Singer, group head, U.S. Commercial Products, shared with PYMNTS.com how their hotel folio data program will help Starwood ease the burden of managing T&E expenses to better serve the needs of their business traveler guests.
PYMNTS.com: For our readers who may not know about the MasterCard enhanced folio data program, please give us a brief overview. Who are some of the participants in the program in addition to Starwood?
JAY SINGER: MasterCard’s enhanced hotel folio data program provides line-item expense data from corporate charges incurred at participating hotels, including lodging charges, meals, taxes, business center charges and other expenses. The program is designed to streamline expense reporting and analysis, and integrate with existing account systems to simplify the accounts payable process. It also helps enhance compliance with corporate travel policies by offering the ability to match and reconcile booked to billed travel transactions and identify irregularities or areas for improvement. The level of data provided enables corporations and travel managers to gain a better understanding of travel expenditures to negotiate more favorable vendor agreements. ”¨”¨The addition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts to the MasterCard enhanced folio data program puts MasterCard’s program ahead of the competition by expanding the list of business traveler-preferred brands providing expense data. Starwood will add nine new hotel brands and more than 1,000 properties worldwide to the program, expanding the number of business traveler-preferred hotel choices available from which corporate travel departments can receive line item expense data from employee corporate payment card purchases. In addition, our hotel folio program includes Hyatt Corporation, Marriott International, Hilton Hotels Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Intercontinental Hotels Group and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
PYMNTS.com: Why did Starwood choose to join the MasterCard Worldwide enhanced folio data program? What stood out to Starwood about MasterCard’s program as compared to other available options?
SINGER: Starwood had been hearing from customers that they wanted a more seamless solution to better serve the needs of their business traveler guests. Our partnership is a direct response to those requests – to offer US cardholders an easy way to track more detailed line-item expenses during hotel stays or at events, saving time and effort.
Given our leadership in both the corporate travel and payments spaces, a partnership between Starwood and MasterCard was a natural fit. Enhanced hotel folio data is available through the MasterCard enhanced hotel folio data program from more than 13,000 properties globally, but predominantly in the U.S. and Canada. Over 60% of business travel reservations in North America now have folio data available from MasterCard. Our expertise, experience and reach – along with the robust level of data provided – helped MasterCard stand above the rest.
PYMNTS.com: In this new partnership, how will MasterCard help enhance and expedite access to line item expense data for Starwood customers?
SINGER: With MasterCard’s enhanced hotel folio data program, corporations who utilize Starwood properties for business travel will have access to detailed line-item expenses that they didn’t have access to before, including room, tax, meal, telephone and business center fees, among other itemized expense details. The transactions are presented back to the corporation electronically and on its monthly invoice, streamlining expense analysis, management reporting and the accounts payable process.
PYMNTS.com: How will this partnership help Starwood to even better serve the needs of its clientele?
SINGER: Corporations and travel managers are always looking for business travel options that enhance the expense reporting, analysis and management process through automation. By providing detailed line-item expense data directly to corporations, the MasterCard hotel folio enhanced data program eliminates the need to manually enter expense data, reducing time spent on expense reporting. While that’s a plus for individual business travelers, it’s also beneficial for their corporations. Automating the process and integrating with existing accounting systems means data is transferred quickly and uniformly, making it easier to analyze data and enforce travel policy compliance. By making it easier to analyze data, the MasterCard hotel folio data program also provides greater insight across the organization into how employees are using various hotels and other services, enabling travel managers to identify areas for improvement.
PYMNTS.com: In light of the turbulent economic times, why is a strong T&E strategy so imperative?
SINGER: When the economy first began its downturn in 2008, we saw corporations rein in spending on business travel significantly. Businesses were very focused on keeping costs low. As part of this, there was an increased focus on ensuring a strong T&E policy and robust data to provide insight into spend and travel policy compliance to support cost containment. Not only do these items enable travel managers and CFOs to identify areas where there’s opportunity to cut back in spending, but they also make it easier to ensure all employees are sticking to corporate travel policies. They also enable corporations to negotiate deals and better rates with frequently used travel vendors, reducing overall travel expenditure and boosting the bottom line. Particularly in a downturned economy, these items help businesses optimize their travel programs and maintain value and profitability.
As businesses adjust to the new economic environment, we’re seeing some loosen the reins on business travel spending. Even so, the themes from past few years remain – there’s still a strong focus on keeping costs low and ensuring programs and policies are optimized to help corporations get the most for every dollar.