GetThere has introduced a corporate meetings tool, GetThere DirectMeetings, that is designed to fill a gap in the meetings market, a gap that represents a chance for corporations to trim spending on meetings that until now had been unmanaged travel that had slipped past all those carefully negotiated airfares and hotel rates.
Right now, many corporations estimate that 70% of their employees` travel is transient travel, that is, individuals making business trips. Another 30% are meetings.
“And some of our customers are telling us that more and more, most of that is unmanaged,” said Brian Ashton, GetThere’s vice president of meetings. “It’s rarely done in compliance with travel policy, they’re not using negotiated rates.”
That’s because GetThere estimates that 80% of such meetings are put together by administrative assistants and secretaries, not meeting planners. And those expenditures aren’t in the travel budget, they end up buried in sales or marketing or other non-travel related budgets, according to Ashton. That’s valuable travel spending data that is completely lost to companies. They can’t use that spending in negotiating with suppliers.
But, bringing that travel into the corporate travel fold represents a chance to save about 30% of those meeting costs, according to Ashton, as well as capturing the data for use in negotiations.
DirectMeetings is aimed at the administrative assistants and secretaries who plan those meetings. It is easy for them to access and use and, more importantly, familiar to them because they simply click on a link on GetThere DirectCorporate. They are already in the same familiar system they are already using to book transient travel for individual travelers.
After clicking on the link to DirectMeetings, meeting planners can search an unbiased source for meeting locations, book meeting facilities and manage attendee travel. They then invite attendees, thus encouraging them to book their travel early. Typically, according to Ashton, corporate travelers procrastinate on booking their travel to such meetings and then book at the last minute—a much more costly proposition. But with Direct Meetings, they are booking their meeting travel within the system they usually use.
DirectMeetings also has a site selection process that weighs the cost of airfare against that of hotels to determine what city is the most cost-effective location.
“They may think they want Atlanta, But Chicago might be better because of airfare costs, even though the hotel costs less in Atlanta,” Ashton said.
He added that GetThere used the system to plan a meeting a client originally had planned in San Francisco, and found that it could save as much as 50% on meeting costs by moving the meeting (scheduled in March) to somewhere in the Midwest, where cold weather makes such cities less desirable. By moving it to Las Vegas, the system still saved the company 30%.
The system drives savings because it means meeting attendees are getting the negotiated hotel and air rates. And the system tracks all the data, allowing travel managers to track that spending and use it in supplier negotiations.
The system has already been selected by more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies that represent nearly $1 billion in annual meeting spend, including Dunn & Bradstreet, Kimberly Clark Corporation, Nabisco, SBC, Scient Corporation and Steelcase Inc.