Reverse auctions for hotel programs all but disappeared in the most recent seller's market, but Bob Brindley, vice president of BCD Travel consulting arm Advito, said he's beginning to see them return. "In a buyer's market, psychologically, they can be beneficial," he said.

Paul Lang, Bayer corporate and business services manager of travel services, already implemented reverse auctions for a portion of his hotel program, as he detailed during an educational session at the National Business Travel Association International Convention and Exposition in San Diego. Through setting up reverse auctions in a few key cities, he cut hotel rates by half, he said.

Bayer began its reverse auction strategy in 2008 with a pilot program in the company's largest market, as Lang followed a directive from upper management. He initially was skeptical about reverse auctions, he said.

"I was against it and thought it wouldn't work, but we were told to do it," Lang said. "It was very effective, to my surprise."

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