Before the pandemic, I believed intermediaries needed to simplify meetings and group bookings and provide corporates with greater integration with travel. In today’s world, I’m resolute. Here’s why…
When I began my Wizme journey in 2015, mature organisations had exhausted travel savings opportunities. They were waking up to successful meetings management being a prerequisite to managing travel demand.
But while on its own, managing meetings is a complex and time-guzzling process, the challenges are compounded for buyers whose hands are full with annual hotel/airline RFPs, compliance targets, rate audits, and more. Many companies also lack meetings data and have a blind spot in understanding HOW effective meetings policy and management can influence desired outcomes on travel spend.
It’s clear that how people plan meetings defines who travels. So, meetings planning influences organisational travel costs, wellbeing, productivity (or lack of), and compliance with company safety governance. So, consolidation into a single service agreement can improve corporate clients’ spend visibility and duty-of-care.
As a natural next step, savvy buyers considered consolidating the management of meetings and groups through their intermediary partners, many of which weren’t ready!
Pre-COVID meetings market
Realising gaps in their proposition, intermediaries began building meetings and groups departments or acquired specialist companies. Reality dawned as they discovered manual booking processes and a lack of connected solutions — making margins worthy of their efforts was a challenge.
Lack of technology and high-touch operations tested intermediaries and frustrated meeting and event organisers. Agencies could offer the service, but often it was compromised by inadequate or ineffective technology and missed the mark.
Fast-forward to today!
We have corporates trying to drive compliance of their meetings and groups through intermediaries, but with fragmented technologies alleviating only SOME of the headache. Data is captured, but it is hard work alongside user friction, cost, and compromise. There is low user-confidence resulting in leakage of bookings going directly to venues and non-preferred agencies, and bookers agreeing to unfavourable contracts. All this non- compliance is building on buyers’ pain-points and, over time, everyone is ultimately missing their desired goals.
What is the underlying issue behind all of this? Technology in the meetings and groups space only addresses niche components of the big picture, such as small meetings, corporates’ internal office meeting space, delegate management, etc. Intermediaries need a platform that integrates all these components to achieve the corporate end goal of a fully managed approach to meeting and group management.
Business survival and co-existing with COVID
The market is still in its infancy. Most venue booking websites are mainly static venue directories and lead generation portals. The pre-COVID challenges still exist and are magnified 100-fold by the pandemic. As policies for meeting and travel, and their enforcement become commonplace, rather than the exception for many organisations, intermediaries have had a rough ride and, their traditional profit sources are under pressure.
From my viewpoint, I see smart intermediaries seeking:
- Technology that offers them increased productivity with service enhancements.
- The right technology that is aligned to the needs of customers who want control without a compromise.
- A platform that enables customers to capture and manage all organisational meetings and groups effortlessly to ensure an effective travel management programme.
The points above bring prizes; opportunities to grow agency revenues, sustainably increase margins, retain and grow existing customer relationships, and attract new ones. Where venue spend is not at least 15% of managed spend, intermediaries are missing a win-win formula — offering clients a complete travel management service and generating a growth that they need now more than ever.
Intermediaries that will survive the current business threat are the ones that move into the total meetings and travel management space and move from transactional commoditised services to a value-led solution. They will have technology that works to managing this space as meetings policies become mainstream to support the duty-of-care for COVID co-existence.
This new level of customer integration will ensure true customer/intermediary partnerships.