In another sign of digital disruption in the events industry, venue distribution is going online. Just as online travel agents now dominate accommodation bookings, venue procurement is becoming increasingly digital.
Responding to this trend, two former CWT Meetings & Events senior executives, Michael Chiay and Steven Ong, have teamed up to launch MEETWIZE, an venue sourcing portal for small meetings. The platform allows event planners to search, compare and book venues with real-time updates on availability and pricing.
Chiay, now CEO of MEETWIZE, says: “A live venue-sourcing platform allows search, booking and procurement of venues via a peer-to-peer digital marketplace for businesses to connect with hotels for their meeting needs.
“By automating the sourcing process, this direct channel connects clients and hotel partners to seamlessly match meeting needs with meeting space inventory.”
While large events tend to dominate the (procurement) spotlight, Chiay says up to 80 per cent of client events are considered “small”. Such events (of 50 people or less) are often held at short notice, yet planners still need to source venues and get quotations to comply with company policies and procedures. Many handle this themselves; others go through their appointed TMC, DMC or event management company.
According to Chiay, a real-time venue sourcing platform will allow planners to focus more on fulfilling strategic meeting objectives, while also making life easier for hotels that would otherwise spend time pushing vacant space and responding to RFPs.
Chiay says: “Hoteliers we approached have generally embraced the concept of a ‘live’ distribution platform for function rooms. The platform enables them to respond to market demands for short lead-time meeting rooms instantly, which they couldn’t do before. We are automating a traditionally manual and document-heavy sales process.”
And the platform has already garnered interest from a number of international and regional hotel brands, including a major hotel chain with operations in China that sees an opportunity to tap into the huge SME market.
Chiay expects pharmaceutical, ICT, FMCG and financial services companies to be among the main end-users.
China and Indonesia represent the biggest source markets due to their volume of meetings and typically short lead-times. Other business cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Taipei are also being targeted by MEETWIZE, which is currently in the beta testing phase, with full launch planned for February 2018.
This development seems to bear out GlobalSign.In’s 2017 trends report that predicted improvements and innovations would facilitate the work of event planners, mostly in automation of various processes.
In October, Expedia partnered with Minor Hotels to offer event planners a complete suite from accommodation to F&B and meeting rooms.
But will disruptive online distribution reduce the role and influence of intermediaries and corporate meeting planners? The latter especially may fear redundancy and loss of perks.
MEETWIZE will offer traditional channel partners a separate and suitable commercial model with commensurate compensation built in. Chiay says planners can focus on content and activities that will not only make them more efficient but also happier, as they achieve better results.
He adds: “As companies in Asia-Pacific become more aligned with their global counterparts in managing supplier relations and compliance, personal relations and individual perks will be increasingly discouraged. We are preparing a point-based loyalty system that systematically rewards clients in a compliant and transparent manner.”