bnetwork: “I foresee a hunt for quality rather than quantity of events”

During IBTM in Barcelona we had the opportunity to meet the CEO of bnetwork, Stéphane Teboul, and talk about the service experiences of this leading hosting management company
5th May, 2022

Associations are truly sensitive to local relationships. Typically, these partnerships are deeply connected to their own subject matter supported by their local committee when choosing a congress destination. And while everyone feels that events should be tailored to the needs of the event organiser, few think about the specific needs of delegate accommodation. During IBTM World in Barcelona we had the opportunity to meet the Co-CEO of bnetwork, Stéphane Teboul (pictured in the right), and discuss the projects and service experiences of this leading hosting management company.

When you stepped into the market, did you feel you were presenting something exclusive and unheard-of?

bnetwork is responding to a central issue that is not always clearly identified. Accommodation accounts for 35% of the overall expense of a major event. This is a crucial issue, and can put your event at risk if you don't address it properly. We are treading a joint path with convention bureaus as partners. As a private agent, we are authorized to negotiate on behalf of our clients. Therefore, booking conditions, both in terms of price and timing, are essential to the sustainability of an offer. We are the link between destinations and event organisers to offer a comprehensive, reliable and sustainable solution in the long term. When we look at the most prevalent businesses, they will have to be more agile, more creative, and more efficient under the concept of a must-go event. Therefore, it is very important to address the fundamentals of a long-term relationship from the beginning. How? By explaining to the hotels and the different stakeholders the reasons why the event has come to this destination.

Can you tell me right now the impact that digital offerings have on your market share and the hotel industry?

It’s really about seizing and replicating the right models. The digital space has helped us maintain a secure and sustainable customer environment, whether in Asia, South America or Europe. By developing a comprehensive and stable digital environment, we are able to generate a certain sense of security and trust. One of the fears of visitors when searching for a hotel online is the risk that there is no reliable actor. There are many fake agencies and scams that are destroying the online environment and customers’ trust by selling non-existent products. In many large events, there is a risk linked to pirate agencies selling products that are very appealing but do not correspond to reality, such as hotels that do not exist. Getting a secure provider to maintain a safe and smooth journey for your visitor is part of an event planner’s duty. You have to make sure that your client is not only getting value for money, but also the right expert behind it.

"In many large events, there is a risk linked to pirate agencies selling products that are very appealing but do not correspond to reality, such as hotels that do not exist."

When you had the idea to create bnetwork, did you have this in mind? Combining a quality agency service with technological offerings?

We made a point of identifying leads ahead of time by driving our business solutions with high-end technology. Our tech presence grew thanks to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in the early 2000s in Cannes. That was the origin of our story. The event had about 600 people (we’re talking about an event that in 2019 hosted 110,000 people). So, this was really the beginning of mobile technology. The exponential growth of the event forced us to adhere to the most efficient technology available to deal with such a large volume of people. We had to find some ways to handle that traffic without losing quality. Therefore, we had to come up with a business model and a set of tools to a traffic that was absolutely unexpected..., the congress forced you to streamline new ways of getting accommodation for those delegates as the event grew?

You have no idea to what extent! Now, it seems like an obvious choice to make but we’re talking about a time when Airbnb didn’t even exist. We had to aggregate a huge supply of apartments to meet that demand. We even had to include student residences and summer camps to find alternatives for different budgets, and travel a radius of 100 kms to accommodate everyone. The MWC moved from Cannes to Barcelona because it was facing a huge growth crisis, as they desperately needed a bigger stage. I can give you another example: we are currently collaborating with the Web Summit in Lisbon. The event is aimed at young engineers working in start-ups, and this audience has a great sensitivity to everything that is available online. We have to deliver something that addresses these desires from a hosting perspective, as they ask for a quick and easy overview for immediate comparison. We have to accept the open environment in which we operate where our customers are experienced and able to find the right answer to their needs.

Can you give some more details about the Destination Network Alliance, which is also a very interesting proposal for the association environment?

The DNA project is a joint venture between bnetwork and, so far, five DMCs and other event management entities to further improve the best solutions for our clients. It will help us bring solutions to meet both the technological needs of our clients in a secure environment, and to deepen a local intimacy with each destination selected by the associations. Behind this project lies a proper educational component, a real teamwork with local DMCs in order to nurture an alliance that avoids the risk of creating an artificial scenario. Our goal is to establish a real involvement of local partners not only to deliver, but also to deeply understand the products we are running − to promote themselves and this alliance at a local level and to address an audience that requires the right technology to deliver their events.

Have you given any thought to the long-term impact and positive results your work can leave on the destinations you are working with.

I foresee a hunt for quality rather than quantity of events. We want to position ourselves as an asset to increase the attractiveness of a destination. Our expertise is aimed at helping the destination optimise the performance of its housing aspect. That is definitely where we feel we are giving back here. We are grateful that all these destinations have invested a lot to bring offerings that are the basis of our services − we need them. We are working with a deep respect for these investments to ensure that in the long term we can join these players in successfully meeting the huge challenges ahead. That is our legacy, which is also a matter of loyalty.

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