Holding a meeting has become more expensive in recent years, due to rising commodity costs and a lack of hotel meeting space driving up prices.

At the same time, online booking is on the rise in the meetings space, giving venues a way to reach potential customers for less complicated events. Digital distribution of meeting space is still a work in progress, yet the growing stable of startups and booking sites is having an impact on the way businesses plan simple meetings.

Meetingsbooker.com, a booking site for meeting space that partners with big hotel chains and some travel management companies, analyzed its 2017 booking data for trends, finding that the majority of meetings booked online take place in a hotel and are relatively small in stature. This should come as no surprise since meetings booked online are less complex than larger meetings that require months of planning.

But they can also be cheaper than meetings booked through traditional means, with 41 percent offering a discounted rate or free extras. Distribution through online booking sites can also save venues time, allowing them to dedicate more time to more complicated and higher-yielding events. Most online meetings are booked just two weeks before they’re held, making them an attractive way for hotels to fill space they haven’t sold.

“Venues spend on average 47 minutes handling an offline meeting booking. By automating the process, that time can be better spent working on more valuable larger conference bookings,” concludes the report. “Over the last 18 months, there has been a notable increase in interest from hotels and venues to automate meeting bookings… So overall the debate has moved from, ‘Should we sell meeting rooms online’ to ‘How do we sell meeting rooms online’.”

Here are three takeaways from the report on the developing online booking sector for meetings.

Hotels Are Still Preferred

Despite the variety of different venues available through online booking sites, most companies still hold a meeting in a hotel or conference center.

Co-working spaces comprise a large portion of the Other category, however, showing the rising prominence of alternatives to traditional venues.

Types of Meeting Space Booked in 2017

Specialist Conference Center27%
Business Center10%
Academic Venue2%
Sports Venue1%
Cultural Venue1%

Source: Meetingsbooker.com 

Small Meetings Are the Norm

Smaller meetings are in the sweet spot of online booking, for a variety of reasons.

“There is a lot of conjecture and speculation in the travel media and industry about the most suitable meeting size for online bookings,” the report says. “Our research shows that 95 percent of meetings are under 20 attendees with the remaining 5 percent between 20 to 40 attendees. It makes sense, as the larger the meeting size, the more complex the requirements are and the need for direct contact with the venue. Automation, therefore, is focusing on one to 20 attendees with most of the meetings taking place in smaller meeting spaces and boardrooms. These are the ideal meetings to fully automate and sell online.”

A Day Long Affair

Nearly half of the meetings on the platform last year booked for a full day.

Interestingly, only 53% of meetings booked on the platform included extras like coffee or lunches, and just over a quarter rented equipment for their event. It could be it’s simply easier to go out for lunch, or order in coffee from a local shop, than deal with the hassle and cost of doing it through a hotel or convention center.

Length of Meeting Booked

Full Day49%

Source: Meetingsbooker.com 

You can read the rest of the report below.

Download (PDF, 6.97MB)

Photo Credit: A hotel ballroom in Los Angeles. Meetings booked online generally involve fewer than 20 attendees and last a full day. Michael Chen / Flickr