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« Find the lowest hotel rates for your transient and group travelers | Main | Launching a Strategic Meetings Management Program »

July 17, 2010

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John Arenas

While I agree that Travel Agencies are still missing a huge opportunity for revenue and deeper client relationships, I have a different perspective on why this is so and how recent developments in meeting management technology are now allowing them to offer these services profitably.

You are certainly right that SOX and Pharma regulations have been drivers for certain large-market clients to demand control, compliance and cost savings for their meetings programs. Mega TMCs have been at the vanguard, responding by developing and offering their clients sophisticated meetings management services, with the help of the latest meeting and attendee management tools, online sourcing and booking technology and payment solutions. These tools allow for central policy management, while allowing any meeting arranger to book on negotiated rates, custom contract and payment terms instantly.

TMCs in the next tier (ARC of $100MM-$1B) do generally provide central meeting desk services for their clients. However, these services are typically limited to sourcing and management of their clients’ largest meetings, not a comprehensive or strategic meeting management program. These TMCs have also shied away from assisting with sourcing of small meetings under 50 attendees, which comprise over 2/3 of meetings in most client companies (a $25B spend in the US alone). Until very recently the profitability of managing these meetings has been hampered by the many manual, ad hoc processes associated budgeting, sourcing, negotiating, booking, managing registrations, rooming lists etc… all of which can now be handled through touch-less online meeting booking and attendee management technology. The migration to providing these services is now underway, much the same way agencies migrated to reselling online self serve booking tools for transient travel.

Even smaller agencies, with client companies that have a simple need for visibility and for maximizing use of preferred suppliers, can now take on more opportunities efficiently by designating a resource within the agency to assist clients with sourcing and booking with online meeting booking tools.

Of course it doesn’t stop there. The same tools that now allow agents to book meeting space, AV, catering and group guest rooms, now offer the ability to book video conferencing and telepresence. Now that’s a whole other blog.

Susan N Losurdo

It is important to recognize that in today's economy - corporations are looking to reduce spend and thus 'non-critical' headcount such as internal meeting planning departments. As a result - outsourcing of these services to TMCs has become more and more prevalent. Currently - TMCs are providing the more basic meeting planning services and reaping the benefits but not to their fullest potential. If TMCs work to develop the relationships with their corporate clients - they can slowly build trust and facilitate some change management. TMCs will then be better positioned to propose SMMP to their clients and promote/expand their full service portfolios.

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