Posted by: conferencebay | January 14, 2010

Conference Concierge: making life easier for corporate travellers.

It’s been a while since we last wrote on this blog and ironically the title of the last post related to the conference model being “broken and [needing] a rethink”. This, in all honesty, was also the case for our own business. Having started in 2007 with our website and having spent a good 2 years trying to get conference attendees coming to our website to name the price they would be willing to pay for a seat at one of these conferences, we realised that we needed to find more ways to get enough volume in order to get the best discounts. Understandably, conference organisers are not that eager to give a discount to one bidder but when several people make a bid, everything changes. Especially when that bid is reasonable and when a payment is made immediately upon acceptance by the organiser. Cash is King, also in the conference industry….

So we spent quite some time in 2009 thinking how we could get the volumes we knew we would need in order to succeed. And this is where the economic downturn actually helped us; most of the people we know who work for large multinationals always mention that a discount on conference tickets is not really what makes them interested. They are interested in our monthly overviews of what is happening in their industry and a more convenient and speedy registration process at conferences. However, we also know that many of the companies these people work for have made procurement of everything from copying paper and staplers to airline travel and hotel bookings central to their cost saving activities. And this is where the idea was born that we expect will radically change our business in 2010: we decided to go for the companies that large corporations use to book their hotel stays and air travel: Carlson Wagonlit Travel , American Express Travel and BCD Travel.

Basically it works like this: when you work for a multinational and you want to make a business trip you have to go through your corporate travel agency (the three mentioned above have about 80% of the multinationals market). They will book your flights and hotel and generally speaking get better deals for the company than if every employee would book him or herself. It’s also much more convenient for the corporate traveller; one phone call is enough and payment goes through a registered credit card or via the Finance department.

Since conference tickets cost on average between US$ 2,000 and US$ 4,000 we started wondering why large corporations did not book these centrally as well. In a company with 50,000 staff we (conservatively) estimate the annual cost of conference tickets to be US$30 million (based on 20% of staff attending one conference per year at an average cost of US$ 3,000). Not an amount to be sniffed at. Problem is: most companies have no idea how much they are spending on conferences because it is not booked centrally or even registered separately in the financial accounts.

So what is Conference Concierge? It is an extension of the service corporate travellers already enjoy. From now on they will be able to call their trusted travel agency and book a conference ticket, a hotel room and their flight, all in one go. Conference Bay will manage the conference ticket booking and the travel agent will do the hotel and flight booking. Payment will take place exactly the same way the traveller has always paid for his or her travel. The traveller can even mention a maximum price he is willing to pay for the conference seat, which of course is Conference Bay’s specialty.

We launched this service on January 1st with Carlson Wagonlit after signing the agreement with Martin Warner, Chief Operating Officer, Asia Pacific. So if you’re a corporate traveller and your company uses CWT, count yourself lucky. If you use one of the other travel agencies, let them or your travel procurement manager know about this new service! We’ll be on their case this year. Because the more tickets are booked through Conference Bay, the more everyone saves.

Conference Bay meets Carlson Wagonlit COO Martin Warner

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