"Another day, another dot-com press conference." So Tom Flanagan quipped in April at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York. Flanagan, vice president of marketing for Philadelphia-based StarCite (www.starcite.com), a fast-evolving meeting Web site, then announced StarCite's latest offering: customized sites for suppliers. But wait, there's more. StarCite is handling the biggest practical problem with online RFP use--that many hotels are not equipped to receive and respond to RFPs electronically--by giving free computers and free ISP service to hotels that sign up for marketing agreements.
"We're focused on both sides of the equation, as a market-maker should be," explained John Lavin, StarCite president and COO. The supplier Web sites will allow hotel salespeople to better manage RFPs coming from StarCite's planner users. Benefits for planners: faster turnaround and no need to retype RFP responses to compare offers. Benefits for hotels: happier customers, and a way to track RFPs--by salesperson, customer segment, brand, whatever--and identify patterns.
The computer giveaway is part of a partnership with computer-maker Dell, which will ship notebooks pre-loaded with a StarCite icon, Flanagan said. Depending on which marketing agreement it chooses, a supplier gets at least one free machine. ("Suppliers" come from 40 categories--from hotels to florists.)
StarCite also had news for planner users. A site redesign allows planners to track negotiated savings or "cost avoidance." That means you can point to a number as your company'sin you. Also new are three specialized RFPs in addition to the standard hotel RFP: forms for airlines, cruise ships, and CVBs.
The Millennium Broadway is one of 10 properties in the Millennium Hotels & Resorts portfolio that have purchased StarCite marketing agreements. Aldo Marsili, the hotel group's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said StarCite's partnerships with heavy-hitters like McGettigan and Maritz convinced him of the company's value and future prospects.
EventSource: Site Selection Plus Another meeting management Web site on the move is Event Source (www.eventsource.com), which at press time was about to announce a partnership with "a major travel company" that would, among other things, enable meeting attendees to book their own air travel online.
EventSource has taken the third-party site-selection model and put it online. The company's revenue comes primarily from the 10 percent commission it gets from hotels on meetings booked through its site. Unlike StarCite, which has made partners of third parties like HelmsBriscoe, EventSource is in direct competition with those companies.
Among EventSource's unique features is a forum for planner reviews of meeting properties. Some 500 reviews already have been posted, says President & CEO Ed Sarraille, who notes that hotels are allowed to post responses to those reviews.
The company has several other partnerships: with CommerceOne, for an auction-enabling product, Commerce Bid; with Extensity, for a "business-to-employee" platform, enabling planners to track meeting spending; and, most recently, with Event411, for an online meeting registration interface. (Event Source and Event411 will share the per-attendee fee that will be charged for the registration service.) Sarraille says that EventSource intends to partner with a housing provider as well.