With the entire country entering a total lockdown beginning June 2021, the Malaysian event industry has been thrown yet another curveball. If all meetings are to be held online for the foreseeable future, how should venue owners future-proof their businesses? Is there even a future for space bookings?
Adaptability is proving to be a key asset for the 21st century business. Those that outlast the circumstances will have been those most successful at adapting to new realities. For too long, event venues have been reliant on manual back-and-forth communication with interested parties.
While the events industry was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this has also proven an opportunity for event organizers to adapt and transform their business models. Mereka has identified approximately 15,000 underutilized resources, including centers and hubs, that can be looped into a smart and sustainable economy.
The solution? Digital platforms that bring a sharing economy model to space bookings.
The sharing economy has transformed space bookings
The sharing economy model has been particularly transformative for the event rental industry, which has been traditionally capital-intensive and unstable, particularly during VUCA times. As suggested by the World Economic Forum, “the sharing of underutilized assets can improve efficiency, sustainability and community contributions.”
New community-based online platforms help minimize the occasions in which an unused event space is left to collect dust. By linking venue owners to interested businesses and individual customers, online booking systems open up the event rental space to an ocean of qualified leads.
As part of the sharing economy, previously siloed spaces and users are now able to become part of a bigger community. This has particular significance for freelancers, small businesses and makers, who are able to tap into a common network of likeminded individuals, also part of the digital and creative economies.
The benefits arising from this are clear; as communities form around similar interests, opportunities for collaboration and co-innovation are abundant. The British Council has documented the presence of a few hundred creative hubs in Malaysia, most of which have been established in recent years.
With this in mind, the future of space bookings certainly looks to be collaborative.
Automation improves the booking experience for everyone
Traditional event booking requires everything from venue research, quotation requests, site access to checking for availability, repeated numerous times for each option being considered.
“No one wants to use RFPs for small meetings today; they are universally hated by both suppliers and buyers. Suppliers generally have less than one percent conversion, and buyers always have to wait endlessly to hear back from them. And then there’s all of this negotiation that has to be processed manually, either via email or phone or whatever. It just sucks for everyone.”
- Founder of event and hotel booking platform Bizly, Ron Shah, on the inconvenient ‘request for proposal’ (RFP) method
With the introduction of online space booking systems, the time-consuming process of research and comparison is streamlined into a few simple clicks. Software-as-a-service providers like Bizly, Skedda, and Mereka.io give users access to a handy directory of spaces, ready to be booked via a user-friendly mobile app.
The hands-off administrative process also benefits businesses looking to maximize the use of their spaces. Venue owners no longer have to manually tackle the complicated process of sales and resource management. Event booking software is now capable of handling the end-to-end sales process, including invoicing and payments, in one convenient system.
Streamlining resource management even further, the Mereka.io booking system also provides numerous functions for businesses to manage their customer relationships. The in-built chat function allows businesses to communicate with customers, while users can create profiles and even leave ratings and reviews.
Platforms like Mereka.io elevate space booking by providing venue owners the unique opportunity to turn their spaces into thriving community hubs. With an existing community of students, entrepreneurs, innovators and lifelong learners already on the platform, customers are incorporated into a lasting community of like-minded individuals.
Booking spaces during a pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the entire event industry into disarray. As event spaces are struggling to recover after each lockdown, they confront new realities.
First, a strong preference for online booking and sales. Under the constant reminders to restrict social activities, individuals are more likely to err on the side of caution. With face-to-face communications off the table, online booking systems are now the mainstream way for venue owners to stay connected with users.
Second, online and hybrid events are here to stay. Be it through providing video conferencing facilities, ensuring safe distancing measures, or even expanding into digital experiences, venue providers must make bold changes to their current services in order to survive.
Putting the focus on experiences
By reducing the hassle of logistics, space bookings become more about the experiences they offer. Event organizers are given freer, more flexible license over the creative and community aspects of their plans.
To match these interests, those in the space booking business will benefit from widening their value proposition – including features like community management, customer relations management, or even expanding to offer experiences themselves.
A closer look at popular events over past years will reveal a current leaning towards transience. Pop-up food courts, curated DJ sessions, cafes by day and cocktail bars by night, the most sought-after experiences by millennials and Gen Zs are no longer held in static venues.
The focus of these events are not the amenities, but the communities that they strengthen and attract.
Many of Kuala Lumpur’s thriving creative hubs have grown out of venues that no longer serve their original purpose: REXKL was reimagined out of the old Rex Cinema, built in 1947; Sentul Depot, built in 1905, was formerly one of the largest integrated engineering workshops in the world.
Urbanscapes, Malaysia’s longest running creative arts festival, encourages an exploration of Kuala Lumpur’s creative spaces for participants year-on-year. Its mix of exhibitions, performances and activities have taken form in venues like 2 Hang Kasturi and RUANG by Think City, both heritage buildings revived as community spaces.
Adding to the rich collection of experiences is the unpredictable excitement of where they might next take place. Looking into the crystal ball for space bookings, we see curated experiences and community building, through the ease of new sharing economy platforms.