Rod Cameron, AIPC executive director, AIPC, on 10 reasons cities need more meetings
As tourism numbers continue to grow and local resistance to the resulting impacts becomes more of a factor in many destinations, thoughts turn to how best to high-grade the visitor traffic in order to get the most benefit with the least pain. This is where meetings, conventions and exhibitions – collectively known as the Meetings Industry – may offer the best option for cities looking to optimise the revenue benefits while at the same time looking to their broader economic and social policy aspirations for the betterment of the local community.
Here are 10 good reasons why these events are worth pursuing as a priority for your city:
1. Delegates spend more: It’s simple; if it’s about optimising economic returns, there’s little question about which travellers spend more. A variety of studies over many years have consistently shown that delegates outspend visitor averages, and for some very obvious reasons: they are more likely to be business or professional people than the average visitor; many are on expenses or being paid by employers, and this is reflected in where they stay and how much they are prepared to spend.
2. They’re more likely to use established accommodation: In a time when there are growing (and often worrisome) alternatives for visitor accommodation, including the online rental of private lodging, delegates are much more likely to opt for traditional venues such as hotels than many other visitors, in order to be closer to the action.
3. Their benefits are widespread – and impact much more than just one sector: when it comes to convention-related revenues, it’s not just about the hospitality sector as many claim. Recent economic studies have shown that over half of the revenues to a community arise from things like staging, organisation, technology and event organisation – areas far beyond what would traditionally be thought of as visitor services.
4. They bring new knowledge, experiences and expertise: When it comes to community benefits as a whole, the best of all is why delegates are there in the first place: they are attending in order to share and enhance experiences and expertise, which generally rubs off on the local community.
5. They are more consistent with the concerns (and aspirations) of local residents: Few people like to see ‘their’ city seen as simply a playground for non-resident partiers, but that’s the unfortunate reputation a few heavily visited cities have secured for themselves.
6. They enhance city exposure and image: Major events attract global attention – whether within a specialised audience or when the world as a whole is watching what’s going on. This raises city profile and prestige.
7. They help spread the hospitality season: Visitors tend to ‘clump’ into the high season, intensifying the disruptions and not helping support infrastructure when they need it the most.
Meetings, conventions and conferences, on the other hand, have much more flexibility and often seek out ‘off’ seasons specifically to get better deals on accommodation and to avoid the chaos of peak periods.
8. They generate future tourism: Delegates are people who might otherwise never have come to a conference destination – and thus a whole new market for future visits. Many studies have shown that the experience they have while attending their event can and does result in repeat visits, often with the family in tow, not to mention the pre – and post – conference travel that accompanies many conventions themselves.
9. They can be used to support economic policy in priority areas: Conferences and conventions focus global attention on the host community and associate it with the topics being addressed. When those areas are related to local priorities for economic and social development, the host city has an opportunity to position itself and its related industries and institutions on a global stage – and to make a statement about its own commitments and intentions in key sectors to an audience of potential supporters and investors.
10. They are a valuable source of new talent: Many savvy cities are realising that a major conference can be one of the best available tools for attracting and accessing the global expertise that represent the future of key sectors – and an opportunity to encourage them to relocate to that community. This can be one of the most effective ways of reinforcing economic initiatives.
The ‘more is better’ approach to the visitor economy is being questioned in many quarters these days, and with good reason.
When it comes to securing benefit from any given category of visitor, event delegates have a lot to recommend them – and smart cites are figuring that out and using it to their advantage.