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By Nancy Dahlberg

Member Spotlight | Meetings.com

Read Time 4 Minutes

Business: Meetings.com gives corporations the tools to easily and efficiently source meetings all over the world.

Parent company: West Palm Beach-based HotelPlanner.com

No. of employees: 20, plus shared staff with HotelPlanner

Management: Bas Lemmens, CEO; Bruce Rosenberg, COO

Business growth: 100 percent in 2018

In 2012, HotelPlanner.com purchased Meetings.com and it turned out to be a match made in event-planning heaven.

That’s because West Palm Beach-based HotelPlanner.com is mainly a consumer brand, allowing groups of people to book blocks of hotel rooms for occasions like weddings, reunions, school trips, etc. Organizations use HotelPlanner.com too, of course, but typically corporations prefer to have a booking platform geared completely to them, with a unique look and feel.

“Meetings.com is our business to business brand. It’s designed to work with larger companies and to perform event planning services for them,” said Bruce Rosenberg, Chief Operating Officer of HotelPlanner and Meetings.com.

Rosenberg explained that companies can source a meeting anywhere in the world on Meetings.com.

“If you want to book a meeting in Taiwan, we have local experts that cover that designation. Use the technology to find the right hotel offering for that particular event. Meetings.com can also build an ongoing event platform for that company. If a company had 40 departments, it can be set up so each department has its own entity.”

Meetings.com gave HotelPlanner an entry and a focus on corporate business. Its services include site search and selection, contract negotiations, and conference, housing and registration management for meetings and events large and small.

“We recognize there is business to consumer and business to business, and we wanted to have a brand, leadership, staff and technology that is driven toward the corporate market.  It’s built for ongoing management and relationships with repeat event planners,” said Rosenberg. “Often corporations have event planning staffs but they don’t have the tools. We say use our tools to source your meetings.”

Meetings.com has about 20 employees and shares tech staff and administrative functions with the larger HotelPlanner.  Both have offices in West Palm Beach. Traffic on the Meetings.com site is up about 1,000 percent year over year, Rosenberg said. The mobile-friendly software is available in 28 languages.

“Business will be up over 100 percent. Its sizable growth, and a lot of it is repeat buyers. Once they are in there they start building profiles. There is going to be a lot of stickiness to the site,” Rosenberg explains.

What makes the software better than competitors’ offerings?

Rosenberg says it’s the development team. The software is built in a modular manner that allows for a great deal of customization.

“We are winning business,” he said. “People say ‘we looked at other competing products but they can’t do what we need.’ Everyone wants customization. The way we built our software, we can provide a lot of customization.”

Meetings.com recently built new software specifically built for large events. Because corporations want to make sure to take care of their people, Meetings.com’s Book A Block software puts the right person in the right room for a specific event, Rosenberg said.

“If you are a CEO or board member or large investor, we want to make sure you are taken care of differently. We want to make sure each person gets a curated individualized hotel experience.”

With Meetings.com’s booking engine, once a room block is sold out, attendees can still book retail rates easily at the headquarters hotel or show hotels across the street, he said.

What’s next for the brand? With a strong base already in the U.S and Europe, Meetings.com plans to put more focus on expanding in Asia. Already Asia is the No. 3 market behind North America and Western Europe, but it is growing rapidly. “We are seeing a big uptick in Asia requests.”

Meetings.com is truly a global company; its CEO, Bas Lemmens was co-founder of Booking.com and is based in Amsterdam.  But HotelPlanner’s and Meetings.com’s corporate HQ will stay rooted in West Palm Beach.

“We are big fans of Palm Beach Tech,” Rosenberg said. “We think it has added vitality to the tech environment in West Palm Beach. We’ve been members from day 1.”

[READ ABOUT HOTELPLANNER.COM HERE]

By Nancy Dahlberg

Member Spotlight | HotelPlanner.com

Read Time 3 Minutes

 

HQ: West Palm Beach

Business: leading online platform for group travel bookings worldwide

Co-founders: Tim Hentschel and John Prince

Employees: 150

Website: Hotelplanner.com

 

HotelPlanner’s technology is cutting edge, but the co-founders grew the global leader for group travel bookings the old-fashioned way: through passion, perseverance and hard work.  

Tim Hentschel and John Prince started the hospitality-tech company in Prince’s San Diego apartment in 2003, after the dot-com bust. “He was customer service sitting on my couch, and I was the programmer,” said Prince, who back then had recently studied computer science at Northeastern graduating top of his class and was working full time as a software engineer.

Hentschel grew up in the hotel business (he’s a third generation hotelier), studied hospitality management at Cornell and was working at his mother’s travel company at the time. He saw how negotiations of group blocks were being done very manually and asked Prince to automate it online.

“When we looked into it, one in three hotel rooms was booked into a group block and there was no real online player at the time. This gigantic market was all fragmented offline and we built a system where hotels could bid and compete for a group block,” said Prince, recalling the early days and the reverse auction process.

“We both quit our jobs to start the company and raised a small amount of money from friends and family. We were paying ourselves about $1,000 a month and that is how we got started.”

Prince and Hentschel grew the team over the next five years in California, but decided the state wasn’t a fit for their big vision. For one thing, the time zone made it difficult to work internationally, and business-friendly Florida invited a look.

In 2010, they checked out several areas around Florida but settled on West Palm Beach because of the quality of life and easy access to the business community. It’s also a good place to raise a family, said Prince, who grew up in Maine and was once a commercial fisherman.

At this point HotelPlanner.com, then about 15 employees, began to take off.

HotelPlanner made a big push into the corporate travel world and acquired Meetings.com, a leading corporate meetings brand, in 2012. Around the same time, HotelPlanner opened satellite offices in Hong Kong, London and Las Vegas. Hentschel. the CEO, moved his family to London to run the international operations. And the company ultimately leased 15,000 square feet of space in the downtown West Palm’s PNC Building, overlooking the intercoastal, for its new headquarters.

Now the company is 150 employees strong, with about 75 in the West Palm headquarters. Last year, HotelPlanner added about 25 people.

The company services 3,000 to 4,000 new groups a day all over the world booking blocks ranging from 10 to 500 rooms a night. “We power the group bookings for all the major travel sites,” Prince said.

That includes wedding blocks, teen travel, college groups, professional sports travel, corporate and government meetings and family reunions. HotelPlanner booked about $600 million in hotel reservations last year, growing about 30 percent, and expects another 40 percent growth this year, Prince said.

And it did all this without raising institutional financing, a rare feat in the world of travel-tech. “We are 100 percent employee owned,” Prince said. “It’s great because we have complete control but it definitely puts a strain on cash flow. At the same time we don’t have a private equity or VC company breathing down our neck. We figured we would grow the company the old-fashioned way — with blood, sweat and tears.”

Growing a company in Palm Beach County has its upsides, beyond the sun and fun.

“If we were running the company in San Francisco or New York, we would probably be just another interesting tech company. Being in Palm Beach, I feel like the area really appreciates and supports us and I feel like we get access to a lot of the best tech talent. There are benefits to being a big fish in a small pond.”

What’s the secret sauce? Working hard and smart, said Prince.

“We are all into this for the long term and building something great. The time we put into this is unparalleled.

“We didn’t do this overnight. It’s been 15 years of excruciatingly hard work.”

By Joe Russo

HotelPlanner.com and SuperShuttle Partner Together to Provide Exclusive Travel Services

Read Time 2 Minutes

West Palm Beach, FL (September 28, 2016) HotelPlanner.com, the leading online provider of group hotel sales and SuperShuttle, the worldwide transportation company announced a new partnership today that will offer exclusive travel services.

SuperShuttle will now be offering travel services powered by HotelPlanner through a dedicated link: http://travel.supershuttle.com/. The service will provide competitive rates in both hotel accommodations and shuttle transportation to over nine million customers per year.  As the first automated group reservation system online, HotelPlanner.com’s technology provides unmatched customer service, the best pricing, and an overall easier hotel booking experience.

 “We are very proud to be in partnership with SuperShuttle and a part of their newest travel services,” said Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner. “With solid partnerships among high quality travel service providers, HotelPlanner.com hopes to better facilitate specially negotiated hotel rates and provide a more convenient, simple, and faster process for their growing clientele and all of their travel needs.”

 Starting in 1983, SuperShuttle has helped fulfill ground transportation needs by consistently providing passengers with an affordable, reliable, and safe travel experience which has propelled their reputation and has since become the leading airport shuttle service in the U.S.

 “We are very excited to partner with HotelPlanner.com to provide our customers high-quality travel services,” said Ken Testani, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing & Partnerships for SuperShuttle. “This partnership with allow our customers to access better hotel rates when making their travel plans with us. It’s a seamless and convenient way to meet their travel needs through one dynamic portal.”

 For more information, visit travel.supershuttle.com or contact Melissa Le’ppin at 800-898-1347 x230.

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SuperShuttle International

Based in Phoenix, Ariz., is a division of Transdev On Demand, Inc. SuperShuttle serves over 40 airports, carrying more than nine million passengers a year. SuperShuttle also provides ExecuCar sedan service at all airports served by SuperShuttle, including some of the largest in the country: Los Angeles, New York, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.  SuperShuttle is also available in Paris, France, Cancun and Los Cabos, Mexico, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. ExecuCar is available in over 80 airports.

 Transdev On Demand, Inc.

A division of Transdev based in Phoenix, includes SuperShuttle International, ExecuCar and zTrip nationwide.  Transdev On Demand, Inc. serves over 80 airports with its multiple service offerings in the on demand service space.It boasts some of the most fuel-efficient fleets utilizing propane and compressed natural gas, as well as partnerships with many leading airlines and travel wholesalers.

 HotelPlanner

HotelPlanner.com provides group hotel booking services to 3,000 groups per day representing $3.2 billion a year in RFP’s within the $192 billion global group travel market. The company’s group hotel booking service ensures the lowest rates by allowing customers to receive quotes online directly from hotel group sales managers. HotelPlanner allows customers to book hotels for business meetings, conferences, conventions, family reunions, weddings, extended stays, tours, military reunions, church events, and group travels. The company also provides mobile applications for booking group hotel reservations. The company owns and operates Meetings.com, a site that provides information, planning and booking services for group, meeting, and individual hotel stays for the corporate, associations and business to business enterprises. With a mission statement geared towards, “Bringing People Together,” HotelPlanner & Meetings.com are the global experts for hotel sourcing, providing direct clients and market leading affiliates with unmatched group and event discounted room rates plus localized service levels not available at other travel companies. Founded in 2002, the company has offices in London, England, (European Headquarters), Hong Kong (Asia Headquarters), West Palm Beach, FL (USA Headquarters), and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Member Spotlight | Meetings.com
Member Spotlight | HotelPlanner.com
HotelPlanner.com and SuperShuttle Partner Together to Provide Exclusive Travel Services