In the past, my main obstacle to using this technique was the time it took– for each hotel it could take 15 to 30 minutes. That said, your lodging will represent your #1 expense during your mini-retirement. The hundreds of dollars saved on housing can easily cover your food budget for a month. I believe you should at least be able to save at least 25% of the quoted price, which in a country like Vietnam can be 100 to 200 dollars a month.
I’m not sure this technique will work well in an established upscale hotel — though it wouldn’t hurt to try. I know there are lots of cool hacks working with them. In this article, I will focus specifically on hotels that cater to tourists, as they are generally cheap, clean, accommodating, and I am happy with the overall value on offer.
BEFORE YOU ENTER THE HOTEL
1) Know the season –
Find out what season is for tourists. Obviously you will have more influence during the low season. Don’t always assume that summer means peak season, as many areas in Southeast Asia may be otherwise.
2) Take your time –
This whole process will usually take some time. Take it as a challenge, and face it with a good attitude. Store your bags at a friendly restaurant, or stay at a nice luxury hotel on your first night on the town. Better yet– carry all your belongings in one lightweight daily bag!
3) Walk the edge of the tourist area –
There are always some intrepid entrepreneurs looking to start a Hotel Tourist a few blocks from the main tourist neighborhood. In my experience these places have almost always struggled and relied on improving tourist areas for success on a regular basis. The owners of these places are much more willing to negotiate.
4) Go at night –
I feel that small hotel owners are much more willing to lower their rates from 6-9 in the evening. At that point they know for sure that every guest they bring is income for the bottom line.
ONCE YOU SIGN IN
5) Build good rapport with staff –
Start with small talk with hotel staff. One question I like, “Are you the owner of this hotel?” (Can be delivered as a joke or a subtle compliment.) This will also lead you to the question you want to know, “where’s the owner?”
6) Get the facts –
The key here is to try and find out if their rooms meet your needs–AC, Wifi, etc. You’ll also want to get an idea of the # of vacancies they have relative to the # of rooms. Ask if they have many long-term residents. You want to plan, and continue to support the idea that you plan to stay for a while. Big advantage if you want lower price. I would not recommend taking the early bulk payment option as there are so many possibilities that you cannot take into account when reviewing your room (neighbors, pests, employees, etc.)
7) Request room rates and tours –
Browse individual room offers with staff and remember quoted rates. Have a checklist in mind of the things you want to confirm that you are in the room. I always check the wifi signal, take a hot shower, pay attention to road noise, security, air conditioning, and recheck the hotel policy on late night access.
8) Go back to the room you like best –
Let them know you are on business and have plans to stay for a few nights, so you hope to get a better rate than usual for a longer stay. Tell them that you think the room works, but that you think it’s worth around 60% to 70% of the offered price.
(If it’s low season and lots of rooms are available, ask for 60% to 70% off the price, if the hotel only has a few vacancies, keep asking for 60% off but don’t expect to get one!). It’s also helpful to mention certain flaws in the room with respect to your needs– “this room has no window so I’m not sure I’d want to pay full price for it.”
9) Don’t stop smiling when things get awkward –
Don’t make a budget. They’re used to it. Just smile, joke, and carry on with it all.
10) Don’t do anything that will stop the conversation –
A beginner maneuver in negotiating in developing countries. Never state your reserve price and stand like a proud statue. This causes the owner or negotiator to lose face. You have to take the bit of land that you want to give back.
11) Let them know you understand their country –
Say a few words in their language, let them know that you intend to stay and do business. If you’ve been there before, let them know.
12) If they don’t come down to your desired price, restate one of the reasons for your offer –
For example, “I plan to stay for a minimum of 1-2 weeks.” Offering something back can make it clear that you are standing behind its value. Make sure it’s valuable to them.
13) Offer not to use air conditioning –
This can be the biggest cost of keeping guests for many hotel travelers. If there is good airflow and a good ceiling fan, offer not to use the air conditioner. On more than one occasion, this concession allowed a price drop of $5 or better per day. (Air conditioning can sometimes make you feel a little nauseous in tropical climates, too, many hotel owners won’t offer this option because they’ll assume you need it).
14) GET OUT BIG WEAPONS –
Gamut #1 in all negotiations: “someone else is selling the same thing for less.” If they don’t get what you think you can order (for example, why doesn’t a small hotel give you a 50% discount if more than half of their rooms are vacant? Answers: 1) Pride, or 2) They think you’ll pay the quoted price. Now, put the pride issue aside and explain that you’re not going to pay the quoted price, assuming you think business is lighthearted, say, “I’d love to live here, but unfortunately I found a place nearby with a comparable room rate. for [your desired price].” If you think you can match the price, I’m sure I’d much rather stay here.” I really like [reception, library, view, friendly atmosphere].
15) 25% is often the golden number –
I’m not sure what the reason is, but I’ve seen time and time again that most hotel rooms seem to be listed for 25% of what hotels are willing to take for it. You can use this as a guideline especially during the busier seasons. Just ask for a 50% discount on a multiple night stay and you’ll probably find a way to get back to that figure.
Do you know any other tricks? Let me know and I’ll test it!