When I was Internet Manager with Tourism Ireland we regularly organised meetings in Dublin city, but it was always a slow process as we needed to call or email venues to get meeting room hire rates and book. In my next role I was director of marketing for one of Europes largest hotels, Citywest Hotel. Here I found very few websites were delivering meeting room bookings. A combination of these two experiences led me to create Meetingsbooker.com to solve both these problems.
How does it work? Itâ€™s a booking process, a RFP system, a gets instant quote system, other?
Meetingsbooker.com presents meeting room hire rates and special offers. It acts as a market place for meeting rooms online. Venues can choose to manage availability or not. We have a live booking engine whereby the hotel or venue updates availability and also an instant quote system. The instant quote system gives the user meeting room hire rates, equipment and coffee break costs etc however it is not a live booking. The venue or hotel in question follows up to confirm availability. We do not submitt RFP’s, our experience of RFP’s are that often they are sent to too many hotels.
On Meetingsbooker.com hotels will get either a live booking or a quote from a user who already knows their prices and product and just wants to confirm availability. We also offer hotels and venues with the opportunity to use our software on their own website. This allows them to effectively promote and market their meeting space online and drive meeting room bookings through their own website. Hotels can deliver special offers for certain meeting rooms during quiet periods, set up an automated booker reward system and also sell food and beverage. Again, updating availability is optional. Software clients include Park Plaza Belfast International Airport, Clarion Royal Christinia Oslo and the Bewleys Hotel Group.
What is the the revenue model?
It is free to join Meetingsbooker.com. We charge a Euro 390/pa listing fee after the hotel receives over Euro 450 in confirmed bookings. So if we do not deliver any business there are no costs. Due to the commericial nature of Meetingsbooker.com, hotels and venues can clearly view how many bookings they receive unlike a lot of directory led websites. If a hotel requires our meeting room software for their own website we charge an annual license fee of Euro 490. Again, no commission is charged.
It is free to join?
Yes, hotels can sign up and add their details and be online immediatetly.
Can you provide some figures on Meetingsbooker since its launch?
Meetingsbooker.com was launched in Oct 2009 with only a handful of hotels and venues. Now we offer over 1,650 meeting rooms from hotels and venues in 13 different countries. The majority of meetings booked are for less than 100 attendees with the average booking value is Euro 1,300.
In the battle against other system in the MICE sector, what do you think are the elements that you have that will help you to catch up?
Meetingsbooker.com saves you time and hassle by providing an online market place for meeting rooms. A lot of competiting want users to leave an enquiry which is then sent on to numerous venues as an RFP. This is a slow process. On Meetingsbooker.com you can shop around and find the meeting venue that suits your needs and budget with attractive special offers and booker rewards. As we dont charge commission the user is guaranteed to get a competitive price from hotels and venues. We also offer conference hotels and meeting venues with the flexibility to manage availability or not. This accommodates the varying strategies in this area.
Are further synergies also possible through partnerships with other technical or marketing providers (PMS integration, channel manager, revenue management tools, sales MICE, etc)?
Yes, we are in discussions with a number of possible partners in the PMS and channel manager areas. We are very much option to developing partnerships with partners and certainly feel our area of expertise lies in the meetings area and therefore we have no conflict of interest with PMS, revenue or channel managers.
What do you think about the trends that are governing the dynamics MICE market (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions)?
I think it is a big market and covers a number of different segments. Certainly the success of Meetingsbooker.com is testament to the trend towards small meetings being booked online as the consumer gets continues to value time saving instruments and online engagement. Mobile technology is fast becoming the norm as our target audience embrace this media venues and providers will need to provide the necessary tools to sell and present their products on mobile phones. For example: Web2.0 impact, mobile-phone interactions, video-conference expansion, new services for hotels as marketing and promotion, etc.
What are your thoughts on European and international expansion?
Our main focus is to continue to grow our presence in the main cities in Europe in 2010 through our head office in Dublin, Ireland. We have recently opened a sales office in Sydney which will cover Asia/Australia as well.
Hoteliers are struggling in many countries and across many markets. Any tips for them, especially for the MICE market?
Most people who book meeting space now are haggling with the hotels or venues and beating them down on price. Hotels in many cases are still quoting high rates to give them some room to discount. Â I would encourage hotels to stop forcing people to phone or email them to negotiate. Why not present competitive already discount rates online and provide your customers with a quick faster booking or quotation process. So by saving them time and hassle you are creating a competitive advantage while also providing a better service.
You are also the founder in Ireland of events through the Hotelwebsitemarketing.com brand. Any interesting news and views on your last event and for your future event?
I love listening to passionate people talk about online marketing in the hotel sector. There are so many opportunities out there for hotels to capture more business online. The Hotelwebsitemarkeing.com events and blog have really helped me develop Meetingsbooker.com and also meet up with some of the leading experts in this area.
NB: The next Hotel Website Marketing conference is in Amsterdam on 25 March and includes presentations from Hoteliers.com, Ideas Revenue Management, Expedia, RateTiger, ScanYours, and Curious.nl.