A historical perk for working in the hotel industry is the chance to get a complimentary (“comp”) room when traveling. One call to your former co-worker or college buddy and you are all set with a free junior suite, complete with a welcoming wine and cheese basket.

Unfortunately, due to the proliferation of yield management tools, increased reporting, and the recent industry recession, hotel managers are increasingly reluctant to offer such acts of kindness to their friends. Managers now have to consider the impact of complimentary rooms on their property’s operating statistics, as well as the need to offer an explanation to the hotel’s owner. Instead, the “employee discount” has become the favor of choice.

Of course, there are other reasons to accommodate guests at no charge. Hotels routinely “comp” rooms for travel agents, meeting planners, and corporate travel executives in an attempt to promote their property. Complimentary rooms are often used as an incentive to secure group business – “Book 100 rooms, get one free.” While offering rooms for free can be an effective business strategy, the current favorable supply/demand conditions are putting more pressure on hotel managers to maximize revenue at their properties. Therefore, the tendency is to limit the number of complimentary rooms extended to guests for business or personal reasons.

Operating statistics gathered by PKF Hospitality Research illustrate this trend. The number of complimentary rooms offered by a sample of hotels in PKF’s Trends in the Hotel Industry database declined 1.3 percent from 2004 to 2005. The result was a decline in the ratio of complimentary rooms to total occupied rooms. In 2004, comp rooms represented 1.63 percent of total occupied rooms. This ratio dropped to 1.57 percent in 2005.

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