Online venue booking with credit card vs RFPs. Which do you prefer?

Hi all,

RFPs with a 1-3 day turnaround time still seems to be the main way of booking a venue. But online Airbnb-like booking with credit card payment is poised to make great inroads in 2017. What is your preference as an event planner? Or is the answer - it depends (nbr of people, budget, location, etc)?


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@mgentle I don’t know any venues with Airbnb-like booking - can you name a few so I can take a look? I would prefer to do things that way.

I know of at least four. Note that some of them are not yet fully credit-card operational for all venues, but this is just a question of time. They are (in alphabetical order) Asemblr, Get Your Desk (Switzerland), Ibookedin and

Clearly they are betting on assistants and event planners preferring the Airbnb style search-and-pay approach.

So watch this space!

Would hirespace and headbox come under this category?

I’ve just taken a look at those sites. I don’t have a problem finding meeting space, but I want to know how much it costs without having to wait for various quotes. If they become credit-card operational then that would be a game changer.

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I think that Meetingsbooker and Get Your Desk (Switzerland only) are already CC-operational. In any case that is the target for all of them, and yes I think that will be a game changer, as shown in this video.

I’ll come back to update my answer once they’re all CC-operational, as I’m following them all closely.

Why is it taking so long for venues to be bookable online, do you think? The website technology to do it is widely available and cheap.

I think it’s less to do with the website technology that is visible to the user and more to do with the underlying plumbing, which is invisible to the user. All the venues have to have their room availability online in real time, which many of them don’t today. And then they need to be able to communicate that to a GDS (Global Distribution System) through an API. And finally the venues won’t always want to put all their availability online; sometimes they might want to reserve certain periods because it makes better business sense. But I believe these issues will be overcome soon; the trend seems to be towards online booking.

Agree, it’s the backend that makes this difficult as opposed to AirBnB where the whole process is on one site. Still it’s surprising that this change isn’t happening quicker. Headbox allows CC payment, but at the final step it’s still a ‘request to book’ and I don’t think it shows availability in the calendar.

It seems this topic is more complex than I originally thought. I spoke yesterday to an event planner who was quite categoric in saying that not all types of venue requests can be booked online via CC. While this might be true for “small meetings” with less than 100 participants and non-complex requirements, it certainly is not the case for larger events with complex requirements, eg breakout rooms and other services. There are always options and possible solutions for the client but for this they need to speak to the hotel or meeting room provider. In short she says, larger events will still have to go via a quote and a callback. This reality is perhaps illustrated in, that has both options on its website: direct booking via CC for small meetings, and quotes for larger events.

Is it true that it’s not possible or is the industry not prepared to accommodate this yet? This argument could have been made about booking holidays in the 1990s

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It’s not that it isn’t possible - it is, since we already have online CC bookings available for “small meetings”. It’s just that it’s apparently not feasible for larger, more complex meetings (according to a professional who works for a big meetings procurement company).

Could it be because they want to be able to put together a bespoke package for you which given all individual costs would be quite a lot but if you are arranging a large event, they can negotiate the price for you?

I assume this option would be too tricky to do online so would rather talk to you about it.

Yes, I think that’s part of the answer. There’s also the sheer number of questions and requirements for larger events that simply cannot be reduced to a criteria form and that requires human interaction. A bit like a customised travel package in which you have to talk to a travel agent to get the best deal, as opposed to a more structured flight + hotel + car booking with clear and unambiguous criteria which can be done via an online booking tool.

I’m genuinely interested (I’m a newbie to the Event Management world), please can you give some examples of the types of questions and requirements that would require human interaction?

I’ll give you the example my meetings procurement contact gave me. Let’s say for a seminar for 200 people you need in addition to your plenary room, 6 breakout rooms. Let’s now imagine the hotel only has 5 but would be perfectly able to use the plenary room as a 6th breakout area, or sub-divide another area in order to make a 6th breakout room. It wouldn’t be able to mention this type flexibility on a booking website, so if it said it only had 5 breakout rooms available the booking engine wouldn’t pick up this venue, even though it would be perfectly capable of meeting the requirements. Having also organised meetings and seminars myself, I know that there are some for which I’d need to explain to a person what I’m looking for and get some options. For other simpler meetings however, I could do it easily on a website with a credit card.

Ah I see. Using the holiday/travel industry as an analogy, on Air BnB for example, the owner would say that they had 6 beds plus a sofa bed that could be used if necessary. Do you think that a booking engine could provide a “Miscellaneous” field, where each venue could describe their own particular quirks? Presumably their listing would be accompanied by photos and videos so that someone browsing their listing could get a feel for what was possible.

Hi all,

We from Agenda Open are developing a platform similar to those already existing in Europe and the US and we are also going to make some tests with our users regarding wether they prefere RFPs our Credit Card. From what we understand, for bigger events, such as conferences, a RFP would be more appropriate, and for smaller meetings and trainings, credit card would make life of event planners much easier.

Let’s see how things go here.