Expedia has revealed its intention to enter the marketplace for meetings and events in the UK by the quarter four this year.
The travel-focussed global tech giant is busy putting the final touches on its technology that it claims to be a “quantum leap” in efficiency for the sector which it says is worth $400billion a year globally and $25billion in the UK.
In a media briefing on Tuesday morning, Felix Undeutsch, Expedia’s head of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions), talked journalists through the search and booking tool – which will initially be rolled-out as a white label solution.
After explaining that he had the idea after finding it difficult to organise a meeting space during a trip to Amsterdam, he said: “Digital urgency is now expected in the offline world as well as the online world. I thought there had to be a way to make this process more efficient.”
At the moment, the MICE tool is focussing on hotels, which Expedia research found account for 61% of the MICE market. “This played to our strengths,” Undeutsch said. “It [MICE] is a fairly big chunk of the overall travel market and people didn’t have this on their radar.” Launch partners include Best Western and NH Hotels.
He said the majority of events were held at smaller hotels, with 39% catering for between 10 and 20 delegates and 28% for between 21 and 50 people.
Coming from a technology angle rather than a MICE background helped Expedia solve the problems, said Undeutsch, and claimed the tool can complete a task that traditionally takes an average of four days in a matter of “minutes”.
He said: “We view the problems from a different angle,” he said. “Which allows us to build solutions from a different perspective.”
The platform is already live in Germany with 500 hotels and Undeutsch said most partners so far were chain hotels but that he saw the tool having benefits for smaller properties in the future.
It allows event planners to search by destination, rooms, number of delegates, food and drink options, seating plans and amenities to find the space they want.
And it gives results in the same way Expedia searches for hotels and flights return them, with the aim of streamlining the process to make it as easy to use and efficient as possible. Hotels can choose to integrate their calendars with its Planner – or continue to use their own organisational methods if they prefer.
It also offers revenue management tools for properties to use, which Expedia says will boost occupancy – and overall revenue – even if some prices end up cheaper.
The firm is looking at adding flights and venues other than hotels in 2018 and said revenue targets will follow once Expedia has judged the uptake among the UK market.