Frederik Schipper, Managing Director at VenueHub.hk tells us how to book the perfect venue for a corporate or party event for free.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Frederik Schipper: It’s certainly unprecedented times, and being based in Hong Kong with all of my immediate family based in the Netherlands, makes things tough. Fortunately enough, I have my girlfriend and a number of close friends here in HK, which helps. On top of that, we’ve been rather fortunate in HK that we have not had any strict lockdowns (even though daily life certainly has been affected). However, I’m very much looking forward to the day that I can travel again and see my family.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded VenueHub.
Frederik Schipper: I initially came to HK as an exchange student and later returned to complete a Master’s Degree at HKBU. I then got involved in Tech Startups in 2011 as a Founding Member of Localiiz. After spending 4 years there, I moved on to other Tech Startups, and in 2018, I was approached to join the VenueHub team as Managing Director overseeing all daily operations. Having been aware of the platform for a number of years prior, I jumped at this opportunity and the rest, as they say, is history.
How does VenueHub innovate?
Frederik Schipper: Venue booking platforms such as VenueHub have revolutionized how event spaces are sourced and booked. Event organizers can easily find suitable venues for their event and send an inquiry in a matter of minutes, after which they can get in touch with the venue manager directly to get a quotation or ask questions. It has made the venue sourcing and booking process far quicker and streamlined than in the past.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Frederik Schipper: Being that a large number of our customers are bars and restaurants that are heavily affected by the pandemic, our revenue has been affected too. Some venues had to permanently shut while others had to cut their marketing budgets. However, we have long-term relationships with the most well-known venues in HK, and fortunately enough, this has resulted in us being able to maintain a healthy financial outlook. The overall number of venues listed on our platform has dropped by about 10% in the past year since the pandemic started, but we still have close to 1,200 listings left. We have actually seen a slight increase again in the last couple of months, with the news of vaccine roll-outs proving that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Frederik Schipper: Being a small team, one of our main concerns was to make sure our staff was looked after. I’m very pleased that we have been fortunate enough to keep our core team intact and haven’t had to resort to pay-cuts or unpaid leave.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Frederik Schipper: VenueHub offers event organizers a wide range of event spaces to choose from, and each listing contains essential information that is specifically required for planning events.
Instead of only simply looking at photos, bookers can take a virtual tour of the venue. This has a number of benefits/ Perhaps the most obvious is that it allows you to explore a venue without having to go anywhere, especially during a pandemic.
And sometimes, scheduling can be problematic. Also, venue booking platforms allow organizers to share the venue information and images with others who may not have been able to go on a physical site visit with them but who are still invested in what the venue looks like. Having issues finding the right venue for an upcoming event? Bookers can easily get in touch with our bespoke concierge service online, over the phone, or via email. We are also very close to launching a new iteration of our platform, which will further enhance the customer experience both for the venue bookers as well as the venue owners.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Frederik Schipper: We were fortunate to receive a rental concession as part of the Anti-epidemic Fund launched by the Government to help SMEs tackle the challenges arising from the current epidemic.
In addition, The Employment Support Scheme (ESS) provided financial support in the form of wage subsidies to employers for a period of 6 months.
Your final thoughts?
Frederik Schipper: One of the main questions is how the events industry will look after the pandemic will be a thing of the past. When looking at the future of events and the role that event venues play in this, a clear distinction must be made between private events such as weddings, birthdays, and other parties on the one hand and business events on the other. In my opinion, private events will always be in person as that is what it’s all about. Even more so, there will be a strong rebound as there will be a feeling of making up for lost time and getting together with those who we haven’t seen during COVID. When looking at business events, the trend of virtual events will continue to play a prominent part, but the real future of business events might very well be in hybrid events.
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