A convention and visitors bureau just launched a new app to help meeting planners find the ideal venue in their area.
The question is: will sports commissions follow suit?
Ultimately, that depends upon the success of the original, which is modeled after the dating app, Tinder.
Meet Puerto Rico, which currently has the app, is hoping for success with it. According to an article in Successful Meetings, Meet Puerto Rico launched Meeting Matchmaker, an app that attempts to match meeting planners with their perfect Puerto Rican meeting venue.
On the surface, it looks to be a great idea. Not every meeting planner has the time to do a preliminary site inspection on an island in the Caribbean – or anywhere else for that matter. (No matter how nice or inviting a site visit might be, it’s a better use of time if the selection process is getting down to the wire and a decision will depend on a specific facility). And anyway, what better way to narrow the field than electronically?
Like Tinder, Meeting Matchmaker shows users a plethora of potential matches that they can accept or reject. Instead of mates, however, potential matches are venues that may match up to various meeting formats, such as large group, beach, casino, adventure, etc. Each "match" is linked to a selection of venues based on the amenities, products, or services they offer.
"Meet Puerto Rico tries to stay ahead of and on top of the trends, and we offer what our planners need before they ask," said Milton Segarra, president and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico. "Meeting Matchmaker is a time-saver and a good way to showcase our destination in an easy and fun way."
Whether or not a search or matchmaking app will work (in any city) for sports facilities depends on a number of factors. These include the following, which will have to be considered in the design phase of an app.
More Than One Venue Is Needed: Sports event planners are typically seeking multiple venues in close proximity, since they will need to provide sports space and lodging. This could differ from a meeting planner who, depending upon the complexity of the meeting, is able to use a hotel (or a convention center with an attached hotel) as a one-stop-shop. The app will need to be sophisticated enough to show lodging that is near given venues and whether or not it is reachable by foot or by driving, as well as the amenities and accessories that lodging offers.
Whether or Not an App Will Note Venue Specifications: Does the running track conform to NFHS regulations? Is the lacrosse field suitable for NCAA play? All these questions will have to be answered. And in the case of very large tournaments, it will need to show what other venues in the area can be pressed into service – and whether these will accommodate play at the necessary level.
Are Restaurants/Shopping/Entertainment Within Walking Distance? Youth sports and organizations that attract families will need information on access to all these things.
Already, says Successful Meetings, apps are in play for the event planning world, although they are not necessarily helping planners to pick venues. One app, called Braindater, connects attendees for spontaneous "brain dates" -- one-on-one meetups based on what they are looking to learn or share. The app, designed by Montreal-based E-180 Inc., is "similar to Tinder, but for knowledge," its creator explains.
Braindater uses matchmaking technology to match "Offers" for knowledge with "Requests" for knowledge in real time. A user looking for that knowledge can send up to three anonymous "brain date" invites to fellow users. If one of them accepts the invitation, the app prompts both parties to meet at the event's "Brain Dating" lounge.
Although it is not presently marketed or set up as such, Braindater might be another option for sports planners who want to share information about various venues in given cities.
Ultimately, no app can take the place of an actual discussion, nor of an in-person visit to a potential city or venue. But if technology can help narrow the field, it’s a worthwhile investment of time which is, after all, one of the most valuable commodities these days. And (bonus) if the app is free, it’s even more valuable to planners.