HRS Americas VP
Suzanne Neufang talks:
• Where Meetago’s
• Limiting the number
of venues for RFPs
• Meetago’s user
Hotel solutions 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 Suzanne Neufang.
WHAT SLICE OF THE MEETINGS MARKET IS MEETAGO
LOOKING TO SERVE?
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 [cer-tain 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.
MEETAGO 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?
The 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.
MEETAGO HAS AN INTERESTING APPROACH TO RFP
VOLUME THAT HAS WORKED WELL IN EUROPE: LIMIT-
ING RFPS TO FOUR PER MEETING. WHAT’S THE POINT
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
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?
The core team is at HRS headquarters in Cologne,
MEETINGS PURCHASES AND PACKAGE STRUCTURES
[Germany]. But we have a team of account man-
agers in the region behind the scenes to support
the tool. They also support specific meeting plan-
ning, 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.
DIFFER PER REGION. WHAT ADJUSTMENTS, OTHER
THAN LANGUAGE, HAVE BEEN KEY TO LAUNCHING IN
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.
INTEGRATED 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?
The 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
ARE YOU LOOKING AT OTHER PAYMENT PARTNERS?
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 management nightmare.
MEETAGO’S 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?
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 hood.
HRS Meetago’s Move
“We have about a 77 percent conversion rate from RFP to
into the Americas
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.”