Two New Players "It happens every day: Hotels need to fill rooms, meeting planners need some space. Period. End of story," says Jim Etkin, president of the latest meeting auction site to hit the Internet, MpBid.com (www.mpbid.com). The site, launched in April, goes up against EventSource.com (www.eventsource.com) and StarCite.com (www.starcite.com), with auction capabilities among its meeting management services.

Essentially a site selection expeditor, MpBid.com, Pembroke Park, Fla., offers two blind auction options: Meeting planners can post their specs online, or hotels can put their room nights up for bid. Registered users on either side of the fence can post a general RFP to the MpBid.com site, which is then matched with specs posted by other registered users. Anyone with an RFP in MpBid.com's database is alerted to a match by e-mail--a function of MpBid.com's services--and has the choice whether or not to respond by entering a bid on the space or event.

MpBid.com auctions have two-, four-, and six-day expirations, versus those at its competitors that last just minutes or hours. The company's revenue comes from a 10 percent commission on offers that result in a hotel booking. Hotels can also post canceled room nights, but are charged a 50 percent commission. For information on the service, call (888) 941-9396.

Simplify, Simplify Designed for meeting planners on the run, 4GroupBiz.com (www.4groupbiz.com) is a new online hotel database and RFP site that focuses only on hot dates--and only at luxury properties that purchase a listing in its database. "We only populate our database with exceptional values or needles in the haystack, which means it's also perfect for the planner with date flexibility," says Brian LaPlante, CEO and director of the Bellevue, Wash.-based firm.

The site works like this: You need to plan a meeting in the Southeast or Mid- Atlantic in July for under 50 people. Check off the regions you're interested in, plug in the month and the number of people, and the database pops up with properties in those areas with perishable dates, including the percentage of savings off regular rates. The database information is fairly basic, including a photo and text. The RFP goes directly to the hotel in a chart form that is very similar to those many hotels use.

Hotels pay an introductory rate of $995 a year to be listed, but no commission is charged if a meeting is booked. Can meeting planners negotiate further off those rates? Anything is negotiable, says LaPlante, and a good planner will always ask.

The site is now live and functional although only a handful of hotels are in the database. LaPlante's goal is to have 200 hotels online by the end of this year and 2,000 by the end of 2001.