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Meetings technology firm Cvent anticipates releasing by the
second quarter of 2013 a module that would generate location-specific cost
estimates for proposed future meetings. Among other data sources, it would use negotiated
corporate hotel rates and airfares, responses to hotel requests for proposals
submitted through its supplier network and projected airfare data collected by
a third party.
The meeting cost estimator, which would be available to
Cvent customers for an as-yet-undetermined fee, initially would focus on the 50
largest U.S. metropolitan areas, said Cvent director of product management Jeannie
Users would input a desired metropolitan area and dates for
a proposed meeting, the departure points of all meeting attendees, the desired
number of hotel sleeping rooms and expected food and beverage requirements,
Griffin explained. The estimator would generate projected prices for a meeting
for the selected dates in that city, as well as the other 49 included in its
database. Users could input into the estimate their own projected costs not
included in Cvent's tool, including audiovisual needs and ground
transportation, she said.
The notion of a meeting cost estimator isn't new; in fact,
meetings technology companies for more than a decade have developed products
designed even to suggest specific properties for future meetings based on price
projections and attendee departure points. (Cvent's tool initially only will project
average prices for metropolitan areas, not individual properties, Griffin
said.) But Griffin, whose résumé includes stints with GetThere, BCD Meetings
& Incentives, Mirage Resorts and Las Vegas' Venetian hotel, has had a
close-up view of why those efforts never really caught on with meeting buyers.
"Over the past decade, when I was at different
establishments, we'd always begin to scope out a meetings estimator
product," Griffin said. "A lot of hiccups in what I was seeing in the
marketplace were things like only using historical data and not being able to
forecast and adjust to seasonality as it related to cost estimation.
"I didn't want to make this so comprehensive and
robust, because I've seen that fail, and I've worked on iterations of this at
other places where you cannot get all the data sources, or they're not
accurate," she continued. "If you go to market with that, people will
call you out on it because it's not accurate, and they won't use it. We want to
make sure we have the right data sets and allowed configurability for corporate
clients in the first iteration."
To that end, the estimator—in addition to using any
user-inputted corporate negotiated rates—will draw hotel sleeping room and food
and beverage pricing data from hotel responses to RFPs issued through the Cvent
Supplier Network. Such rates inherently take into account issues like
seasonality, Griffin noted. "I can see from an average weekly or monthly
rate, Chicago sees an uptick in June," she said, using a hypothetical. "You
can tell based on what has been presented in a proposal if there is a citywide [event]
or [something else] going on that could affect seasonality."
Noting that "seasonality and the airfare component have
been probably the two biggest points of pain in coming up with an accurate
estimator," Griffin said Cvent will contract for projected citypair-based U.S.
airfare data with a third party, which she declined to identify. The inclusion
of external data is part of the reason why Cvent has been noncommittal on a
release date, though Griffin said the estimator, or at least some aspects of
it, could debut as early as this year.
Once the estimator is available for client use, Griffin said
Cvent is considering possibilities for future iterations including projected
emissions-tracking calculations and prices for meeting alternatives like telepresence
or virtual events.
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