Trend watch: Online meeting booking is already happening


With online travel booking already being widely prevalent in corporate and consumer markets, it seems only natural that the meetings industry is following suit, with new tools shaking up the traditional distribution channels for MICE.

For example, CWT Meetings and Events recently partnered with Meetingsbooker.com, an online meeting room marketplace, to launch a new meeting room booking platform for its UK and Ireland-based customers last year.

Paul Stoddart, md UK, Ireland and Benelux for CWT Meetings and Events, told Travel & Meetings Buyer that offering its customers the ability to allow staff to book simple meetings online is a “no brainer”.

“It makes the whole process more efficient and cost effective,” he said. “Of course, this demands the use of the latest technologies and cutting-edge UX design to deliver a truly consumer-grade experience,” said Stoddart. “In our experience, where this is the case, we rapidly gain adoption from even die-hard traditional bookers, who are more used to picking up the phone to one of our consultants. So, we expect online adoption rates to continue to increase for simple meetings as the online booking experience continues to improve and users become more comfortable with the idea of using self-booking tools.”

But, at the same time, Stoddart made it clear that the ability to provide an online solution for simple meetings was just one element of a much broader and more complex meetings management strategy. He said it went hand-in-hand with the provision of a broad range of additional services, ranging from reporting tools, through to venue-sourcing consultants and data-driven insights.

 

Small and simple


Certain types of meetings were far better placed to benefit from online booking solutions though, said Stoddart. “Simple is best for online bookings. In our experience, once the requirements become more complex, most bookers naturally want to discuss their meeting objectives, needs and options with one of our expert consultants.”

These are usually one-day or half-day, room-only bookings, primarily for small groups of between one and 20 attendees, with the ability to easily add on basic equipment hire and food and beverage where needed. “We are finding that for hotel venues, increasingly clients are asking us to deconstruct the traditional day delegate package anyway, to avoid waste and reduce cost, so this bottom-up approach to booking simple meetings plays to the strengths of an online booking strategy,” he added.

Recent research released by Meetingsbooker.com has shown similar trends. The average size of a meeting booked online is eight delegates – with 95% being under 20 attendees and just 5% between 21 and 40 attendees. Full-day events were the most popular (49%), followed by morning (17%) and afternoon (14%).

 

Last-minute deals

Meetingsbooker.com research also showed that 50% of online meeting bookings had a lead time of less than a week. Stoddart said the ability to quickly and easily search and book small meetings online meant that this had increasingly become a route to service the demand for last-minute bookings.

He said: “It will be interesting to see how venues approach pricing for such bookings as this distribution channel matures. Will it be an opportunity for a booker to bag a last-minute bargain or for a venue to charge a premium rate?”



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