VBs and DMOs regularly tout convention room night numbers and estimated economic impact (EEI) to prove how valuable such events are to the economic vitality of their communities. But, in the current funding quagmire faced by many destination marketing organisations, the need for convention marketing and operations dollars seems to be falling on deaf ears. As some state governments around the US slash financial support for travel and tourism, it seems that the old way of proving relevance simply isn’t convincing lawmakers of the power of the convention industry.
Thinking Beyond Dollars
Now, 11 forward thinking domestic and international destinations have come together as the BestCities Global Alliance, and they’re going well beyond just booking conventions. They’ve taken on the role of association developers, and their partnership speaks to a broader vision of both group and destination success. “We’re providing in-depth insight into association planners’ needs, concerns and industry trends impacting the way congresses should be planned and run,” Jonas Wilstrup, Convention Director of Wonderful Copenhagen Convention Bureau, and new BestCities Board Chair, says. “We guarantee our clients receive well-informed strategic guidance and practical support, delivering lasting legacies, way beyond clocking good delegate numbers and well-known speakers.”
When Wilstrup talks about the importance of leaving a legacy, BestCities partner city, Singapore, is a perfect example. The 2015 World Congress of Physical Therapy (WCPT) in Singapore provided valuable education and networking for some 3,500 delegates from around the world. But in its wake, the Singapore Physiotherapy Association (SPA) was so inspired to promote their own profession, they worked with WCPT planners and the Ministry of Health, to introduce a formalised four-year Bachelor of Science with Honors program in physiotherapy at the Singapore Institute of Technology. In the future, the increased number of physical therapists will help Singapore cope with an ageing population.
Knowledge Sharing A Key To Success
The BestCities alliance sets its destinations apart by offering extraordinary service practices. They’re also committed to pushing business to each other, making a planner’s job easier and the promise of results more attainable. “Having hosted three consecutive events in BestCities destinations and looking at a fourth, I know first-hand that the Alliance’s multi-city bid approach brings huge benefits for clients,” Michelle Holm, Meetings & Membership Manager for the International Society of Quality of Life Research, says. “The internal knowledge sharing between previous and future host cities, ensures that the next destination hits the ground running. Key learnings from past events are carried forward, simplifying the process for the client, and building a legacy of success.”
A Future Legacy Unfolds
That kind of success story will unfold in Edinburgh, Scotland this October when the 2016 Rehabilitation International Congress meets in the city. “It was key to the bid that our accessibility credentials reached the standards expected by the organisers and the specific requirements of the event,” Marshall Dallas, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, says. The true conference legacy stands to be much greater than the meeting itself, as the standards developed for the conference will become a vital part of VisitScotland’s overall accessible tourism program for the next two to three years.
BestCities partners proudly cite examples of legacies from association conferences: next-gen education programs running concurrently with conferences, capacity building in developing countries and reducing social stigmas attached to diseases through public education. In an industry historically defined by the dollars exchanged during a conference, the alliance’s innovative approach is answering a more important question: how do all those dollars stretch further once everyone returns home?
Written by Jeanna Hofmeister, on behalf of BestCities and PCMA www.pcma.org