by Michael Shapiro | June 01, 2004

Rod Marymor

“We’re experiencing a simultaneous clashing and blending of technologies,” says meetings tech expert Rodman Marymor, in reference to the online travel agencies’ foray into group business.

As more corporations reap the benefits of booking travel online, many are looking to the next frontier of automation. For some, that logical next step is to extend their web-based tools to meetings.
    “Companies right now are trying to get their arms around how much is actually being spent on meetings, because it’s so fragmented and decentralized,” says Susan Steinbrink, travel analyst for Stamford, Conn.-based PhoCusWright, a travel/hospitality research and consulting firm.
    “As corporate online booking tools and online travel agencies make headway into corporate travel, you’re going to see greater penetration of those services in meetings,” Steinbrink adds.
    According to the PhoCusWright/National Business Travel Association Technology Survey (released in July 2003), 73 percent of the 206 travel managers who responded planned to be using online meeting tools by 2005.
    “One of our priorities this year is to integrate booking technology into our meetings program,” says Tracey Wilt, supplier manager of travel, meetings and incentives at Rochester, N.Y.-based Xerox Corp. Wilt also is co-chair of NBTA’s Groups and Meetings Committee.
    This past spring, the committee released a white paper titled, “Framework for Success: Building a Strategic Meetings Management Program,” which specifically looks at harnessing meetings spend for possible inclusion in the corporate travel program. “We believe technology is an essential part of the process,” says Wilt.