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HRS Americas VP
Suzanne Neufang talks:
company HRS launched its small meetings product Meetago in North America in July
and will begin to add South American markets this month. The tool has been live
in Europe for seven years, two-and-a-half of those with HRS as Meetago's
primary investor. BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West spoke to HRS Americas VP
slice of the meetings market is Meetago looking to serve?
Neufang: For the
most part, we are staying away from the large events. We are about smaller
meetings for corporate offices with more ad hoc meetings. Our sweet spot is 10
to 30 sleeping rooms. Also, the business model is different. Meetago is not an
advertising platform. We are not stacking [certain suppliers] at the top
because they pay to be stacked there. I can respect that model, but it's not
ours. Meetago [operates] around the parameters the organizer sets up, and the
tool delivers the options to choose.
facilitates a pretty traditional meetings RFP process. It is not offering an "instant"
book option straight from the GDS or hotel property management system, correct?
beauty of HRS is that we tap into GDS content sources and direct connects for
our partners. We have a multi-source engine so we can deliver the content, but
you are correct: When we are booking a group through Meetago or HRS behind
Meetago, we manage that offline. We have the manifest. We are not booking
directly off the GDS or PMS. We are booking through someone at the hotel.
has an interesting approach to RFP volume that has worked well in Europe:
limiting RFPs to four per meeting. What's the point of that?
Neufang: There is
a default that should guide meeting organizers in how they source a small
meeting. Answering RFPs is labor intensive, and hotels are strapped for time.
Users can add more RFPs, but it may reduce the value of the tool. Right now, we
have about a 77 percent conversion rate from RFP to actual meeting. That's
really valuable for the hotel side. They know they are not wasting their time,
so the RFP response rate is high. That's good for the meeting organizer.
BTN: When you
describe the launch of Meetago, you talk not only about the tool but also about
the team behind it. Who's the team and what are they doing?
Neufang: The core
team is at HRS headquarters in Cologne, [Germany]. But we have a team of
account managers in the region behind the scenes to support the tool. They also
support specific meeting planning, getting hotels to respond to the RFPs and
also negotiating the terms and conditions if they are not at first accepted. We
have additional staff in Milan, Poland, Paris, London and in the U.S. and,
along with that, some people in Shanghai.
We have about a 77 percent conversion rate from RFP to actual meeting. That's really valuable for the hotel side. They know they are not wasting their time, so the RFP response rate is high. That's good for the meeting organizer."
purchases and package structures differ per region. What adjustments, other
than language, have been key to launching in new markets?
Neufang: That is
where the finesse of Meetago and what HRS is doing with it is really important.
In Europe, it's quite common to have a daily delegate rate, where a continental
breakfast is included and everything else is a la carte or everything could be
included in that rate. The terminology and other things are different in the
United States. We continue to make those localized changes. It makes the
organizer and the hotel respondent feel more comfortable that it's local.
payment has been a great feature of Meetago for European clients. Has your
launch pattern or progress depended on the readiness of partners in payment or
others that can facilitate an end-to-end experience?
launch pattern is not dependent on partnerships. Our partnership with AirPlus is
behind the paperless payment product in Europe. AirPlus is expanding the
A.I.D.A. [virtual card] product in the U.S.; [at that time] paperless payment
[will become] an add-on feature. But Meetago can stand on its own, and it's
very useful for what it does already.
BTN: Are you
looking at other payment partners?
Neufang: We will
expand beyond AirPlus. There will be more news to come on that. Today, Meetago
works with lodge cards or P-cards, but we want to give greater transparency and
less exposure to fraud. We want to make payment a management dream and not a
user interface is less consumer friendly than the small meetings apps I've seen
recently. There are a lot of drop-down menus and it looks more complex. Do you
worry that could hamper adoption as you roll out in new markets?
Neufang: It's totally a fair question. Meetago is
undergoing a redesign as we speak. The first clients will move to the
redesigned product as early as the fourth quarter. Meetago is a German company
with German process orientation. If you think of SAP in the early days with
intense process software development, it's an engineering feat. The fine-tuning
and [user interface] came in later. The beauty of what is already in Meetago
means that it can be beautified with all the necessary complexity under the
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