In a May 25 webinar for Global Business Travel Association members, Kevin Iwamoto, vice president enterprise strategy at StarCite, explored emerging trends around the economic recovery and how they will affect meetings management. Iwamoto’s webinar was held on the same day as his company reported upbeat news at IMEX in Frankfurt. The number of electronic request for proposals for meetings coming through its online marketplace in Europe from January through April have increased 239 percent this year from the same period last year.

However, Iwamoto described the overall mood as “cautiously optimistic” because at the same time as these RFPs are picking up and bookings are on the rise, planning windows have shrunk, groups are smaller, and stays are shorter. Clearly, he said, the trend is reverting from a buyer’s to a seller’s market, with suppliers becoming more selective about the group business they choose.

As demand increases, air and hotel prices are also picking up (the AMEX Global Business Travel Forecast predicted an increase of 4.5 percent in 2011), which is where the need for spend reduction comes into play. Enter strategic meetings management and StarCite, a Web-based SMM tool.

Iwamoto used a couple of StarCite clients to illustrate the success of a strong SMMP, including a European bank that in its first year saved an average of 30 percent on its 1,000 events, and a food service company that saw 18 percent in negotiated savings and more than one million dollars in cost avoidance. In the end, he said, the average annual savings from having an SMMP in place ranges from 13.3 percent to 26.1 percent.

Gathering data on what is being spent companywide on meetings is a crucial first step. “Whatever fits in with your corporate culture and internal processes should be the path you choose, but not having a designated payment process is the worst-case scenario,” said Iwamoto. Using a tool like StarCite to register meetings creates visibility into the company’s meetings activities and centralizes all the meetings data, he added.

For more, MeetingsNet’s SMM portal features a software guide and articles on meeting cards, as well as on data collection and reporting. Also learn more about StarCite’s tool and sign up for Kevin Iwamoto’s blog.

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