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Instant booking has become a top priority for companies in the events industry, as planners look to avoid the outdated, time-consuming meeting booking process of the past.
In Australia, a new merger between two very different companies — Spare Workspace, a booking platform for small meetings, and Venuemob, a booking platform for large event spaces — has created a huge meetings engine with the potential to transform the Australian events industry.
In 2020, the combined company plans to bring instant booking to its large spaces as well as its small spaces, something which is still notoriously hard to do. It plans to eventually expand into other areas of Asia Pacific as well.
“[Spare Workspace] really owned the small meetings part of the industry in Australia. And Venuemob really owned the selling and booking of large events,” said Jake Dimarco, CEO and founder of Spare Workspace. “Venuemob has been in the market now for seven years. They have over 4,000 venues on their platform. And so when you add it all together that actually equates to over 18,000 spaces on that platform. Now, for a relatively smaller market compared to, say, the U.S. or Europe, it’s exceptional.”
Spare Workspace, which launched in 2015, helps businesses to easily book on-demand meeting and training spaces online. Venuemob, meanwhile, has been around since 2012, becoming one of the dominant forces in the large events space. Dimarco believes the merger will make the company “Australia’s biggest one-stop shop for event, conference and meeting spaces,” currently serving over 5,000 businesses collectively.
Other companies around the world are similarly trying to bring instant booking to life, but running are into obstacles. Spacebase, a German meeting booking platform, recently acquired Okanda, Germany’s largest portal for hotel meeting room bookings. In Ireland, Meetingsbooker has operated for over a decade, working to make many smaller meeting spaces instantly bookable.
Bizly, an events technology platform in the U.S., has also been offering instant booking for small meeting spaces for years, though founder and CEO Ron shah believes that a true instant booking process will never be possible for larger events due to all of the different factors involved, including food and beverage choices, decorations, activities, as well as timing for breaks.
“The thing I think people are missing is that events are creative. People want to reflect their own style, their creativity, their company, their brand, their business objective. And these vary widely based on what event you’re doing,” Shah told Skift.
Plus, hotels often hold companies back from truly offering the inventory needed to provide a working booking platform. By controlling the meeting booking process, hotels are able to set rates, and many are afraid of releasing that control.
But in Australia, the landscape is starting to look encouraging. More and more hotels are opening up their meeting spaces to companies like Spare Workspace and Venuemob.
“A few years ago, it was really hard to even get a meeting with some of these hotels. And now, these hotel chains are coming to us saying “how do we work with you?” I think that’s a good indicator that times are changing, and it’s a really exciting time to be that intersection of meetings and technology. It’s very much here and it’s thriving. So it’s an exciting time for the industry,” Dimarco said.
The newly combined company believes eventually a one-click process for booking larger meetings may soon be available, and this will be the company’s main focus of 2020.
“In terms of the actual booking of the event space, that’s still quite a traditional process. And that is the venue themselves sending agreements, sending invoices. However, I will leave you with this, that is something that we are going to be overhauling in 2020. We’ve got a really exciting roadmap on automating that part because we do feel that part is very broken in the industry and could be improved drastically.”
“We’re thrilled to join Spare Workspace to create an even stronger presence around the country,” added Venuemob director Adrian Bunter. “This merger will only strengthen our success.”