BENCHMARKING MEETINGS SPEND
Why corporates need to benchmark, and how.
According to C&IT magazine, around 0.5% of all
corporate revenues is spent on meetings and
events. In the UK that equates to £19.9 billion a
year on meetings and conferences alone. It’s no
surprise that corporates want to know their money
is being spent effectively.
The discipline of Strategic Meetings Management
(SMM) is believed to realise savings of up to 25%
once introduced into an organisation. And with
30% of corporates citing budget as the main
barrier to holding more meetings, the pressure is
on planners and their suppliers to deliver more,
Agencies – both TMC and Meetings Management
Companies (MMC) – have a big part to play
because benchmarking is the ideal way to health-
check any SMM programme. Predicting rate
fluctuations and analysing the impact of those
changes on savings and compliance are essential
deliverables in any service level agreement.
The Global Business Travel Association predicts
that UK hotel prices will rise by 7% in 2017
despite the current boom in hotel developments.
PwC forecasts a marginal growth in Average
Daily Rate of 0.4% in 2017, taking ADR to £141
and £142 respectively. However there are no
equivalent predictions for the meetings sector.
Just how big a part a TMC or MMC plays depends
on the available expertise and data. In-depth
understanding of the issues facing meeting
planners and buyers on a national, regional and
international basis should be part of any agency’s
toolkit, but is not enough in itself to constitute
benchmarking. That requires the knowledge and
access to the necessary technology to compare
one client’s programme to another.
At the same time there’s no point comparing
different companies’ meetings spends if those
businesses have nothing in common. The most
relevant data set is that of any direct competitor
because that information can be used to improve
performance, of companies with similar meeting
spend profiles or simply organisations of a similar
size. There are lots of variables.
The problem is that the available data set rarely
goes beyond the confines of business transacted
by the agency concerned. In other words,
benchmarking is usually based on a fragment –
large or small - of the overall picture.
Benchmarking isn’t just about Day Delegate or 24
hour rates. It should encompass the aggregated
size of your meetings and transient travel spend,
including F&B, AV and meetings production. In the
longer term, video, audio, virtual and hybrid events
will all become elements of Strategic Meetings
Management that need to be covered in any
This demands a holistic approach to meetings
data combining sufficient data to provide an
accurate overall picture, enough sub-categories
to enable multiple comparisons and the analytical
expertise to extrapolate their meaning.
The ultimate objective of benchmarking is to
determine what and where improvements can
be made both in ad-hoc venue sourcing and in
Strategic Meetings Management Programmes.
The real question isn’t ‘why benchmark’, but
‘where do I start?’ The answer lies with a new
breed of intelligent, independent benchmarking
tools developed especially for the meetings
planner and buyer.
I manage our Strategic Meetings
I book venues for meetings,
conferences and events
I book venues for meetings only
I have no involvement in how my company
buys meetings’ venues or services
I manage travel but not
meetings for the company
One of my team/a colleague manages our
Strategic Meetings Management Programme
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Do you benchmark?
Often the key to the future lies in the present.
This paper is based on research undertaken
during July 2016 amongst a wide group of
travel and meetings managers. We wanted to
understand current benchmarking practices,
aspirations, objectives and attitudes.
We received over 150 replies. As Fig 1 shows,
62.5% of respondents manage their company’s
Strategic Meetings Management programme; a
further 25% book venues for corporate meetings
Whilst only a quarter of survey respondents
currently benchmark their meeting rates, 62.5%
are either planning or want to do so in the near
Benchmarking enables corporates to budget
meetings and events spend more effectively;
validate programme efficiency and compare
achieved DDR and 24 hour rates against
peer-set or industry-wide averages, improving
understanding of rate variations between
locations, period and venue type.
Private and public sector organisations alike
are now issuing RFPs that require responding
agencies to outline how they will benchmark the
clients’ meeting rates, and against what.
In our survey, we asked buyers and planners why
they benchmark and, of those who do not yet
benchmark their meeting programmes, why they
now wish to do so.
As Fig 2 shows, the three most popular reasons
that corporates benchmark are to ensure they
get the best price compared to market rate; to
identify opportunities to reduce expenditure, and
Benchmarking also benefits the supplier
community. Agents can cut out the need to
spend time reviewing multiple quotations for
each venue enquiry, as Michael Begley, MD of
“On behalf of our agent clients we currently
source 4.9 venue options for meetings of less
than 30 delegates and more for meetings with
more delegates. We can process enquiries much
more quickly if we can negate the need to source
multiple venue options” says Michael.
“Benchmarking gives corporates confidence they
are paying fair market prices” confirms Jim
Cockell from Revenue Management consultancy
“It provides access to true, rich data about
pricing, lead times and sector pressures,
minimising the back-and-forth between venues
and agents because respective expectations are
managed far more effectively.”
Tim Chudley from the Sundial Group provides
the venue operator’s perspective. “Meetings
spend has been identified as an important spend
category by most corporates with the consequent
involvement of procurement professionals.
This added discipline has enabled a more
structured approach to the ROI from meetings.
Benchmarking is rightly valued by procurement
professionals tasked with driving financial
efficiency and the sharing of management
“Benchmarking gives corporates
confidence they are paying fair
Can the benefits of benchmarking in this context
be quantified financially? Indirectly, says Jim
“Financially the savings will initially be marginal
but venues are much better at pricing and
costing meeting programmes than they were
10 years ago because their pricing is much better
forecast. Robust benchmarking will give venues
the information to be able to forecast even more
However Cockell still believes that benchmarking
can generate an immediate Return on Investment.
“Operationally the savings should be seen in time
taken to negotiate and convert bookings” he says.
It’s a view shared by Tim Chudley. “Recently the
balance of power seems to have swung back
towards the supplier in the current phase, allowing
suppliers to use benchmarking data to achieve
better yield management. Pricing is a two-way
For audit purposes
To see if my 3rd party suppliers are
achieving the best price
To inform travel budgets
To see if I can reduce my/our
To see if the price I am paying
is going up or down
0 20 40 60 80 100
To inform marketing budgets
To see if I am achieving the
best price vs market rate
As Fig 3 shows, benchmarking does not end with
delegate rates. Room hire is an area of interest
to three-quarters of meeting buyers, followed by
delegate rates, food & beverage, audio visual and
Group accommodation, achieved savings, car
parking and overall travel costs are also identified
as key benchmarking criteria by our survey
What to benchmark
Group accommodation rates
Car parking charges
Travel costs to/from meetings
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Food and beverage costs
Audio Visual equipment charges
For many years, the provision of three venue
options has been standard industry practice
for any agency response to a client planner.
Unsurprisingly this is also reflected in survey
respondents’ views on what to benchmark
against, with 87.5% believing the three option
metric to hold most value.
As Fig 4 shows, the previous year’s rate and
previous events staged by the client company
ranked second and third in the list of priorities,
followed by rates achieved by industry competitors
and corporates of a similar size or profile.
There is a broad range of opinion on how often
meeting rates should be benchmarked, ranging
from quarterly (44.4%) and monthly using a
random sample of data (33.3%) to every meeting
being benchmarked at the time of booking
What should you benchmark against, and how
Previous year benchmark rate
3 alternate venue options
Your own previous events
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Of course, if it was easy they’d all be doing it.
Meeting managers have been restricted to the
benchmarking provided by their appointed agency
or to doing their own mystery shopping.
Benchmarking is not new to the meetings
industry. Many have tried to benchmark properly
before. The Hotel Bookings Agents Association
began an initiative in the early 2000’s which
required HBAA members to submit a monthly
return, albeit manually, as venuedirectory.com’s
Michael Begley explains.
“Many agents didn’t have any real systems then.
They were faxing out to clients; there was no
consistency of format or even regularity, some
submitting data one month but not the next.
Technology has now moved on to enable that data
to be brought together because it’s easier to get
systems to talk to each other.”
Another challenge lies in comparing apples with
apples. “The meetings ‘product’ is so varied that
rating systems, brands and price products make
like-for-like comparisons very difficult” says Jim
Cockell. “The other challenge is being able to
collect the data in the most efficient way, the
more manual input required, the less adoption
Michael Begley agrees that confidentiality is
an issue; how secure the data is and who has
access. However he believes that a benchmarking
revolution is gaining momentum. “It is now
possible to aggregate the data in sufficient
volumes for the resulting analysis to have real
gravitas. The opportunity…is huge.”
Barriers to benchmarking
The poor range of benchmarking tools available to
meeting managers and planners is borne out by
Most buyers and planners rely on their TMC,
MMC or supplier venues to provide the information
they seek, although demand for more robust
benchmarking shows those needs are not
As Fig 5 shows, 57.14% of corporates rely entirely
on the management information provided by their
TMC or HBA and a further 28.57% drawing on
the MI provided by in-house finance departments.
15% benchmark manually using data drawn from
By contrast, venues use a number of tools to
benchmark transient bedroom rates, both for
corporate and leisure business, such as Future
Pace; Hotelligence 360; Hot Stats and STR.
All are subscription based.
MI provided by in-house Finance Department
Industry publication/white papers
Management information (MI) provided
by TMC, HBAA, or MMC
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
A benchmarking revolution
is gaining momentum...
There is a real sense that things need to change.
Over 62% of respondents said they would be ‘very
likely’ to use an on-line tool that could provide
benchmarking functionality for meetings.
As Fig 6 shows, the range of functionality sought
is broad, ranging from dashboard control to
comparing rates by venue type, segmenting
by location, meeting size and industry sector;
segmenting rate by room hire, AV, food &
beverage etc, and being able to view corporates’
0 3 6 9 12 15
Select comparisons by venue type -
eg 3 star hotel vs 4 star hotel vs
training centre vs non-residential venue
Display future rates as well as historic
Be able to see my own benchmark rates
Segment rates by 24 hours vs Day Delegate
Segment rate by room hire, F&B, AV etc
Segment by location (within UK)
Segment by location (outside UK)
Segment by industry sector (eg banking, retail etc)
Anonimity of company names
Meeting purpose eg training,
meeting, team building day etc
Dashboard control -
ability to select multiple reports
Data collected from multiple sources
Data provided to an independent organisation
Same content and functionality available
to TMC/HBAA/MMC consultant?
A new digital tool has been developed to meet the
needs outlined in this paper.
MeetingsBenchmark.com is a live application
that independently benchmarks DDR and 24
hour meeting rates for all types of venue in any
location. MeetingsBenchmark aggregates and
analyses data from hundreds of thousands of
meetings at all types of venue across Europe and
MeetingsBenchmark can be accessed from any
desktop or mobile device, 24/7, 365 days a year.
The dashboard displays real-time average day
delegate, 24 hour and group accommodation
rates for a given date range, showing the number
of meetings on which the results are based.
Searches can be refined further through filters
including location and venue classification, whilst
flexible reporting allows the results to be extracted
Data integrity is all-important. MeetingsBenchmark
has no vested interest in the results and will only
use the data collected for market intelligence and
future forecasting purposes.
Where does the data come from?
MeetingsBenchmark draws on data provided by
subscribing agents, venues and booking channels.
API integration enables mutual subscribers to
share data easily and securely. Data can also be
shared by way of csv upload ensuring anyone, and
everyone, can contribute their data. All data is
anonymised to remove any reference to a specific
provider, venue or client and only aggregated data
The data is tested to ensure no supplier trade
benefits are divulged and no results are returned
where the sample size may inadvertently expose
individual data sets.
Data security & confidentiality
Privacy is taken very seriously. The infrastructure
on which the platform runs has been certified
by national and international security standards
(ISO9001:2008, ISO27001, and SSAE16 / ISAE
3402). By implementing recommendations from
the Open Web Application Security Project, data is
protected and housed in EU-based servers which
are subject to rigorous penetration testing.
• Manage and budget meetings and events
spend more effectively
• Validate Strategic Meetings Management
• Benchmark achieved DDR and 24 hour rates
against peer-set or industry-wide averages
• Improve understanding of rate variations
between locations, period and venue type
• Eliminate the processing time & cost of
reviewing multiple quotations
• Save time and money by searching multiple
sources by providing one benchmarked rate
instead of three options
• Add value for clients by providing them with
industry trend and forecast data
• Demonstrate quantifiable negotiation skills
• Reduce investment in developing bespoke
• Aid clients in budget exercises without
performing the enquiry process
• Access robust, independent data to improve
revenues and yield management
• Benchmark competitor sets on meeting and
• Draw on real-time data for expansion and new
opening business cases
• Better forecast demand through understanding
of lead time & market share
• Set, validate and test pricing strategies in
specific markets and locations
85% of executives say that the greatest barriers
to achieving their growth objectives lie inside their
own corporate walls, according to research by
Bain & Company. In the largest companies, this
rises to 94% of executives who believe that their
most difficult challenges are internal.
Other than increasing attendance at meetings
(which is another report in itself), meeting
managers are concerned most with ever-
According to Cvent, top metrics used by
corporates to measure their ROI are revenue
from registration, sponsorships and number of
new leads. Another should be benchmarking
There is no debate that transparency of data is
essential to programme management, regardless
of the field. The complexity of meetings and the
variety of pricing models present in the market
makes accurate comparison difficult – but not
The market has tried to benchmark before, but
never quite got it right. The solution is one that
works for corporates, agents and venues alike,
rather than one of those audiences in isolation.
Technology has simplified previously manual
processes, so the opportunity to deliver a truly –
end to end’ solution has never been greater.
Benchmarking Meetings Spend was
written by Travel Intelligence Network for
Research by TIN and Conference Doctor
With special thanks to:
Michael Begley (venuedirectory.com)
Tim Chudley (The Sundial Group)
Jim Cockell (Rattray Milne).
Bain & Company, C&IT magazine, CTM, Cvent,
CWT, Eventbrite, GBTA, Inntel, PwC and The
Business Travel Magazine.
(Sourcing + Process + Policy + Compliance = Savings) + Benchmarking = MORE SAVINGS
Performance analysis for strategic meetings management
To discover more about MeetingsBenchmark, its features
and pricing, go to www.meetingsbenchmark.com