If you list it, will they come?

I recently stumbled upon eVenues and sought out its president, David Jennings, to learn more about his product, which I feel has potential to help hotels’ untapped meetings revenue. For starters, please refer to a recent study by Maritz Research with significant implications for the future of meeting venues. 

David began this meeting space online booking system back in 2008, ostensibly as a test in the local Seattle area. The idea was simple enough: create a way for individuals to easily find and book small meeting space without the need of a meeting planner. The system David and his team produced echoes this clear-cut mantra: you select your city, choose a location from the hundreds shown (with prices and restrictions in full view) and then make your booking.

Interestingly, the original eVenues system was not RFP-based, although this is now an option for some venues. However, the renter is in complete control, being able to make a selection based upon location, attributes and price. Moreover, eVenues is location- and building-agnostic, covering everything from conference centers and boardrooms to schools, churches and hotels. In essence, any venue with meeting space is eligible to participate.

It costs nothing to advertise your property on eVenues, which generates its revenue exclusively from a 10% to 20% commission on confirmed bookings and pre-qualified leads it generates from the site. For this, there are two options: have eVenues send you pre-paid reservations for your meeting space that you can accept or reject, or have eVenues send you prospective customer leads for venue sales to work.

David Jennings notes, “We’ve listened to the requests from thousands of users, planners and venues to design our system. The recession of 2008 brought the need for a simpler approach to meeting space bookings. With costs being pared, executive assistants were being thrust into the role of meeting planner. eVenues offered the perfect solution, as you could choose anything at any price point, without any special knowledge or tools.”

For hoteliers, eVenues seems to be a logical extension to the meetings business slate by listing every space you offer using the “accept or reject” booking system. You can always decline the booking should there be a schedule conflict, insufficient accompanying F&B earnings or room revenue.

When it comes to short-term, last-minute bookings, eVenues really shines. It’s the Groupon of event venues. Here, you can place real inventory availability into the system, propelling your space to the top of the eVenues list. With the ability to select desired price by the hour or by the day, the choice is totally up to you and fully manageable through an easy-to-use interface.

eVenues is currently available in seven metropolises — Seattle; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Los Angeles; San Jose, California; New York; and Washington, D.C. — and no doubt organic expansion is imminent. eVenues’ SEO score has already placed it first for meeting spaces in several markets. In some locations, there are already more than 300 venues listed, most of these being hand-picked boutique hotel boardrooms, training facilities and other non-traditional meeting spaces.

As of yet, few chain hotels have taken advantage of this new booking method (read: first-mover advantage). However, eVenues has just signed a deal with Regus to promote its meeting space options in large markets, leaving the website poised for increased traffic and vender competition.

Many of us can recall the early days of online guestroom reservations programs and the skepticism many hoteliers expressed towards their efficacy. I even remember a noted hotel owner who laughed when I suggested that, one day, online bookings would become his property’s primary method of guestroom revenue.

Oh, how technology changes everything! eVenues is an expansion of online guestroom reservations into the meeting room arena — a logical evolutionary next step.