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Should small meetings booking platforms integrate?

By Caleb Parker, tech and innovation chair, HBAA

Small meetings booking platforms would all deliver a better, totally comprehensive service to clients if they were to cooperate in sharing data, collaborating on content and partnering on distribution.

By providing access to a greater range of potential venues to offer in response to a search, they would enable clients to find the right venue at the right time at the best price much easier and faster. Currently too much time is wasted searching, checking availability and confirming the booking.

The need for this is in response to significant growth in the small meetings* sector of the market, driven by factors such as increases in contract workers, flexible hours and remote working.

As consumers, meeting organisers expect technology to enable them to find exactly what they want, when they want it easily with instant confirmation, just as they do when they book a bedroom or flight.

If this formula is so well refined on the consumer side, why can’t that same fluidity be applied to business?

The issue is that in the rapidly evolving small meeting bookings sector there are many players, large and small, backed by significant investment, who at any one time each have access to a considerable quantity and range of inventory. But it is only part of the total availability as, while there is some cross-over, quite a lot of the inventory is not widely shared. If it was, then bookers would be able to choose one platform that gave them the best user experience rather than have to search several platforms to access a wider choice.

The benefits of this approach also extend to venues and organisers. It would provide more time for them to focus on the human aspects of event planning, not researching and booking as well as completing the booking faster. Integrated search platforms would also allow for a more streamlined listing process for venues, with a one-time registration providing access to the maximum number of potential clients.

So how would it work? By splitting the commission.

Commission could be redefined as remuneration for acquiring a customer and transaction fee as remuneration for processing a booking for the venue. A 10 per cent commission, for instance, could be split with 8 per cent assigned for customer acquisition and 2 per cent paid as the transaction fee.

Short of Expedia acquiring all the major providers, a connected ecosystem would be the most beneficial solution for everyone. Customers and bookers will gain instant access to information and a confirmation mechanism while venues and connected platforms will gain global distribution and more business from this new structure.

While there are obstacles to be overcome and so much to debate, agree and implement, I would be so bold as to predict that within five years small meetings will be managed the same ways a transient business travel.