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Venues hold all the aces as industry becomes a seller's market

Venues, not event planners, are now calling the shots when it comes to booking meeting and conference spaces, and are even turning away business because of the supply-demand split.

Venue finding companies warned event professionals at The Meetings Show this week that the industry had become a “seller’s market” in large cities like London, which was meetings saturated.

HelmsBriscoe MD Carole McKellar said the shift in the balance of power led to a greater emphasis on venue finding services, who could carefully deal with negotiations and venue finding.

“It’s very much a seller’s market … more and more it’s the property and the venue that’s in control of driving through the negotiations and whether they’re going to accept the business or not,” she said

“What venues finders do is really to educate the client on whether their meeting is a good piece of business … how to create more value in the meeting that might make it more attractive to the venue.

“I think (venue finding companies need to) help the client understand it from the venue’s perspective as well.”

McKellar added that venues were realising their pulling power and would not deal with difficult agencies: “I’ve heard horror stories about agencies being threatening, bullying, and being rude.”

The Sundial Group’s Tim Chudley said the lead time in booking venues had markedly reduced over the last six months.

“People’s expectations, trying to book in shorter notice periods, they’re going to learn the availability just isn’t there,” he said.

“Having said that … technology helps speed the process up. It enables people to have that expectation of getting an answer today.”

Chudley said venues were frustrated to have their meeting spaces on hold while agencies showed it as an option to the client, only to have it cancelled later on. He added that Sundial Group was “unconventional” because it wouldn’t negotiate on price.

“Unless you’re the number one choice there’s no point getting into a price negotiation,” he said.

One audience member, a buyer, said it was “scary” to hear how the industry had shifted: “We don’t want the market to drive that way. At the moment we think we do a favour to a venue of filling a space there, not the other way around.”

McKellar said venue finders had become problem solvers: “(We are) true consultants, someone who understands your meeting objective … who will work as an extension of your team and come back with a range of options.”