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MICE on the move with tech that saves time and money

It is not a case of if but when hotels start using meeting booker technology. Sally White reports

Put ‘meeting room booking apps’ into Google and millions of results will queue for your screen. Of course, there is an awful lot of duplication in that, yet the move into this space in the travel market of Airbnb not so long ago is a signal that this market still has dynamism. And so there are, therefore, also savings to be made.

A good place to check out the numbers is just one of the apps, Meetings Booker (which has just won the Enterprise Ireland Pioneer Travel Tech prize against competition from the country’s 100+ travel tech groups). Firstly, it has now garnered 125,000 meeting places in 138 countries, and is used by well over 500,000 companies, an indication of the market’s size. Then, as its marketing highlights, the technology can secure 40% discounted rates and more, and free items such as coffee breaks.

And, there is an indication of who is most in the line of fire from Airbnb – it is the hotels again, of course. Meetings Bookers says that around 50% meeting rooms are in the hotel sector.

Airbnb has taken the plunge with the acquisition of gaest.com, a four-year old business which was founded in Denmark, but now operates across six continents. Having signed on 700,000 companies (and that was a few months ago) into its Airbnb for Work, for accommodation, it was a no-brainer for Airbnb to add meeting space.

Gaest.com focuses primarily on inspiring meeting spaces for short-term rentals (hours/days). “Guests book spaces on Gaest.com for interviews, meetings, workshops, team building events, and even photo shoots. Hosts can easily list their spaces to reach thousands of business professionals, and can optionally provide add-ons and other services to enrich the stay,” David Holyoke, Global Head of Airbnb for Work announced.

..it was a no-brainer for Airbnb to add meeting space

A pure meeting-rooms-offer needs some embellishment, as Meetings Booker has found. Last autumn it launched its Preferred Meetings Programme, a new tool which allows companies to develop a preferred programme for meetings, via a fully automated system. Using this technology, hotel and meeting venues can load company specific negotiated rates, delivering savings for meetings and events.

The system also includes a dynamic tracking tool to monitor popular meeting venues and automatically requests them to load preferred rates. This builds on the Meetingsbooker.com revenue management (RM) technology, which enables venues to yield spaces and deliver dynamic pricing with over 35% of bookings including a discounted rate.

Inspired by experience

According to Ciaran Delaney, founder and CEO of Meetings Booker, this is the first time a technology has addressed collating preferred rates for meetings. Delaney, whose background includes being internet manager at Tourist Ireland and head of marketing at Dublin’s Citywest hotel, was inspired by the experience of trying to locate good meeting rooms quickly.

What Delaney has found is that travel managers like the control, savings and reporting, which Meeting Bookers’ account system provides.  Some of the advantages for travel managers are the ability to:

  • Create their free company account in minutes
  • Load staff who book regularly
  • Set up approval rules and add preferred hotels
  • Deliver centralised billing.

Partners won range from American Express to Carlson Wagonlit, Microsoft, Worth Electronics, Roche, Regus Workplaces, Jupiter Hotel and many others. Bookings made through Meetingsbooker.com are charged a commission of 10%, and hotels and venues pay a joining fee.

Spoilt for choice

Well over 500,000 companies now use Meetings Booker. And Delaney adds that travellers like the access to a variety of venue options: - 48% of bookings go to a mix of sports and cultural venues, pubs and restaurants, business or conference centres.

Airbnb is also making a point of stressing the unusual. It aims to select the more unusual homes from its listings and form ‘playlists’ of spaces in which meetings can be held outside global city centres.

Venues spend on average 47 minutes handling an offline meeting booking. By automating the process that time can be better spent working on more valuable larger conference bookings

This seems to be a fertile marketplace with new companies proliferating: there is Book2Meet Breather (offering hundreds of spaces across 10 cities including New York, Los Angeles and London), Condecca, Meetio, - the list goes on right through the alphabet to Zipcube.

For hotels the decision-making, suggests Meetings Booker, has moved from ‘if’ meeting booker technology should be used to ‘how’, especially now when fully automated rate optimiser systems and online payments are available. The apps also help manage margins on small meetings. As its website points out: “Venues spend on average 47 minutes handling an offline meeting booking. By automating the process that time can be better spent working on more valuable larger conference bookings.”

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