The hotel industry has had a tough time improving the painful process of selling event space and room blocks to meeting planners. Perhaps this deal is a sign the sector is finally ready to invest in meaningful change to help repair the ecosystem.
The event technology landscape has seen major consolidation in recent years, led by Cvent as it scales up to retain its position as the industry leader.
Global hotel chains, which have long-neglected an embrace of event space booking technology on their own terms, have made a new investment with major ramifications for meeting planners and hotel operators around the world.
Groups360, a booking engine for meeting space founded in 2014 by a few former Gaylord Entertainment executives, will receive a $50 million investment from Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Accor, and Hilton.
The company, originally known as Eventaglobal, took the Groups360 name after acquiring Group0Nomics in 2015. It has raised $5.5 million in two funding rounds since its inception, according to Crunchbase.
The new investment will help the company staff up from its current 30 employees, with a large emphasis on growing its engineering and sales teams.
“We need to staff up to continue to create a platform that meets the consumer’s need and is consumer-driven,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO of Groups360. “We need to be able to embrace the supplier inventory, rates, and data to continue to create the awareness that there is technology that helps meeting planners.”
The deal means the hotel chains will own a significant portion of the company, although executives wouldn’t detail the particulars of the company’s ownership structure or Groups360’s commercial model.
“They’ll have a significant ownership stake, each of the brands will have representation on our board,” said David Kloeppel, chairman of Groups360. “Obviously there’s significant investment and they have a significant economic interest in the future of the company. They saw the things we’ve been doing to improve the shopping experience for planners and lead generation experience on the supplier side.”
It’s an open secret in the meetings space that various hotel giants have worked together to develop a meetings booking engine that could operate seamlessly for the different companies, but past efforts never coalesced for a variety of reasons.
This investment seems to be a major commitment by the hotel companies to bring this vision to fruition and move away from platforms like Cvent that currently control the digital event space booking market.
“[This will be] a key point of the distribution strategy not only for [our investors] but the industry,” said Gallineau. “Another key factor [that our competitors’ technology] was created the way the seller wants to sell, not the way the consumer wants to consume. Our mission is to make it simple [for everyone from the first-time meeting planners to the experienced planner].”
While the company doesn’t offer instant booking for simple meetings yet, it is in the company’s technology roadmap as it expands. It’s interesting that these hotel giants would invest in technology to bring instant booking to their properties when it runs contrary to the established way meetings space is secured, through a long and onerous request for proposal system.
Big meetings represent big money for hotels and negotiation is a major element of any planner securing a coveted event space.
As Skift has documented on a near-constant basis, planners and hotels alike hate the current system which has been made even worse by the growth of technology platforms. Now that hotels are buying into the event technology ecosystem, perhaps change is finally on the horizon.
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Photo credit: Attendees at business conference in 2019. QnA Summit / Flickr