BestCities Global Alliance: 21 Years and Growing

The first and longest running global meetings alliance has a secret to share. By Lesley Williams, Managing Director, BestCities Global Alliance

“Collaboration” and “community” are the buzzwords of 2021, and I could not be happier – after all, teamwork has always been my comfort zone. Today, on the 21st anniversary of BestCities, I’m mindful that establishing connections has become more important than ever as we tackle pandemic challenges with minimal to no in-person contact with our colleagues and peers.

Collaboration has always been a cornerstone of BestCities. Indeed, it wouldn’t have existed without the collaboration of five CEO’s from five destinations who, over drinks 21 years ago, formulated the concept of an alliance between convention bureaus across the globe.  

From the get-go, BestCities has focused on elevating standards. When we were founded in 2000, there was no uniformity among bureaus or the services they offered. Some were fantastic, some not so much – but none were joined together with a mutual goal of hosting better meetings.

Our five pioneers saw an opportunity to work collaboratively to raise standards and improve consistency in the services their clients experienced. For the first time, clients were guaranteed the same level of service in every BestCities destination, and our partners strived to have standards higher than clients could find anywhere else.

Over the years, bureaus caught up and standards became less of a differentiator. While an exceptional quality of service remains a key pillar of BestCities, our focus has evolved. Today, we champion community, legacy and sustainability, and advocate for the “beyond business tourism” value of conferences and events. One example is our study “Advancing Event Legacies through Impact Measurement,” that explores how destinations and associations can measure legacy and track progress towards organizational goals.

Whether elevating standards or integrating legacy and sustainability into everything we do, collaboration is the beating heart of BestCities. Yes, our cities compete for business, but they also recognise the value they can contribute to clients, industry and the world at large by supporting each other and working in partnership.

Associations like collaboration. The role of convention bureaus is to unite key stakeholders to position their city as an attractive destination for a particular meeting, working in synergy to identify and deliver positive impact for all parties involved. Meeting trends and formats change, but underscoring everything is alignment between the association and host city. 

Is collaboration our best-kept secret? I would argue yes. 

– Lesley Williams, Managing Director, BestCities

There is a huge amount of trust among the destinations in our alliance. Each of us understands that sharing information is in everybody’s best interests. This willingness to collaborate has enabled us to build a global community whose quality and reach, along with our open knowledge exchange, facilitates outstanding events that leave a positive impact and lasting legacy. Our international network of cities are well placed to execute hybrid and multi-hub events, which makes pandemic hosting significantly easier for our clients.

Over the past 18 months, I have seen and read about many new alliances being formed. I admire the individuals and businesses that have dedicated their time to set up and run these alliances. It’s hard when it is based on volunteer effort as we found out in the early years of BestCities. Nowadays we are not reliant on volunteer time having a dedicated management team – something I feel is a key factor in our success and longevity.

In the past, BestCities has been the target of criticism with people (incorrectly) viewing us as an exclusive club. “What makes you the ‘best’ cities?” critics would demand. 

The answer is, we never settle when it comes to business events. We continuously push for better. And, most importantly, we are eager and willing to welcome destinations into our circle. After all, the more partners that join our alliance, the more value we can provide to clients. 

Our world prospers when people collaborate and share resources… and that’s exactly the spirit in which BestCities was founded, and will always continue to operate. Cheers to 21 more years of global community, connection and knock-it-out-of-the-park meetings!

Interested in becoming a BestCities Global Alliance member? Please give me a shout.

Lesley Williams
Managing Director
BestCities Global Alliance
[email protected]