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ABC Global Services Launches Mtgs. Venture, to Debut Virtual Events Platform

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ABC Global Services and several of its travel and meetings and events units have restructured to create a new entity known as the Etherio Group, which soon plans to launch its own events platform, company president and CEO Eric Altschul told BTN. 

Etherio includes five divisions under the meetings umbrella—meetings and events, virtual meetings and events, incentives life sciences and associates (a sales division)—that will be serviced by ABC Global companies in the Etherio Group, such as Global Meetings & Incentives, MeetingAdvice and Matchstick Creative, which focuses on incentives. 

The meetings companies had been part of ABC Global Services, of which Altschul also is CEO. ABC Global Services, along with CCRA International—which ABC acquired last year—will operate as subsidiaries of Etherio Group. ABC Global focuses on corporate transient hotel programs. CCRA also has a corporate transient hotel program as well as an air program, an after-hours call center and an accreditation program for travel agencies.

The companies undertook the restructuring, which began in 2019 and was delayed because of the pandemic, so clients could better understand the combined breadth of the meeting and event services that they have to offer, Altschul said. 

With the pandemic’s devastating effect on in-person meetings, the company started a virtual events division and has “developed very close relationships with a number of online platforms for meetings,” Altschul said. Those platforms include Cvent, Intrado and Swapcard. But Etherio also has developed its own platform, named Connect Virtual, that as of Jan. 12 was in final demo mode and is expected to launch in the coming weeks, Altschul said, adding “it is more of a conference-type online offering, but at a lower cost.”

Altschul said Etherio had identified four different segments of online meetings and picked what it thought was the ideal platform in each of those areas. “We have preferred partners in each of those segments, and we don’t bias one over the other, including our own,” he said. “Whatever meets the client’s needs. We are really agnostic about the technology we use.”

The segments identified are smaller, less expensive virtual meetings; large meetings with streaming and other advanced technological requirements; social meetings, with a need for networking; and convention or exhibit-hall-type events.

Altschul concurred with conventional industry wisdom that hybrid events will provide an avenue for in-person meetings to begin to return. As for incentive travel, he said, some might return around the end of 2021, but more will take place in 2022. 

For 2021, Etherio’s focus is on clients’ senior leadership teams.

“We work with a number of Fortune 500 companies, and we are talking to clients now about how you reengage with senior leadership,” Altschul said, adding that these teams will want to get together as soon as possible once travel is safe and vaccines are more widely available. “We are promoting takeovers of small, exclusive venues and destinations where they won’t have to worry about other guests being there. It’s to get [people] to reconnect, to team-build, to focus on strategic planning. There’s a bonding aspect that’s been missing over the past year, and a big part also is picking a place where there are activities and opportunities to be together and make sure the team still has that connection.”

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