Love them or hate them, agents, third parties and intermediaries are here to stay, writes Andrew White.
The word ‘agent’ used to prompt a Marmite response from venues. Some owners and managers felt their heckles rise on the realisation that an agent was involved in a booking due to the fact that paying their commission was perceived as the equivalent of a monetary headlock! Fortunately, agents are now a widely accepted and important part of the business of events.
Agencies and venue finders (and a whole myriad of new descriptors) were founded about 40 years ago by Peter Rand. Peter’s company created the agency model, whereby his company would find corporate venues for free (a seriously time-consuming job for the corporate) and, in return, the hotel or venue would pay a commission. The agency model was born and has since gathered huge pace, adapting to a more stringent control by procurement departments.
Agents are now very much part of a corporate’s business process outsourcing. They are just as likely to be used by a corporate as a travel agent or a preferred stationery supplier, or any other area where cost savings and management control can be achieved. Add to the mix our reliance on the internet and agents crop up in many different places and under even more guises. Agents, third-parties and intermediaries are as important to venues as a direct booking, and commission – quite simply – must be a part of any venue’s budgeting. And most importantly rates should be ‘parity’ for a direct or third-party booking, i.e. the same if the booking came direct or via a third party.
We are all aware how the internet has spawned a raft of new businesses for finding holidays and leisure accommodation. Hotels.com, Expedia and even review site TripAdvisor are often go-to stops when looking for a weekend away. The venue finding market has mirrored this based on the fact that often a corporate event organiser will search for a venue based on location. Try searching your venue and see how many third parties it throws up. Venuefinder.com, venuescanner.com etc. are all up there along with many competitors who will have invested in SEO. What you will also notice is the volume of third-party wedding sites that show up such as Hitched, Forbetterforworse and Guidesforbrides.
Agents, intermediaries and third parties are clearly integral to venues. Add to the fact that caterers can often be the first point of call for a corporate. They too may well recommend a venue, as may an AV company, and hybrid conference organisers, a sector enjoying massive growth (Hopin has had the most stratospheric rise in popularity – the 27 year old founder is now worth $3bn!
If you search locally, you will find hybrid event organisers local to you with names you may recognise as formerly being venue finders. They have had to re-adapt their business models to cope with the demand for the huge growth in hybrid events. While these agents are now selling tech solutions, they also need a venue to host the delegates that are still scheduled and want to attend face-to-face.
Like Marmite, and its new ways of being included in peanut butter, rice cakes and crisps, agents have adapted and are part and parcel of events. For a venue, the third party supply chain is as important as direct business, and if you are wondering, yes – I love Marmite, in all of its forms!
About The Author
Andrew White is MD of Triggerfish Communications, a specialist in helping heritage venues and leisure attractions build awareness and market share in the business of events.