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May 15, 2008

Michael Hirst: The pay-off for municipal investment in events

Meetings and events have a major impact on so many aspects of a City’s prosperity. Of course, they attract visitors, many returning with family and friends for further visits. But they do so much more.

Rich in value and spend, strong in yield and high in quality, meetings are resilient, sustainable, and regenerative. Increasing trade for local businesses; encouraging inward investment and by using innovative communication and marketing experiences to motivate, entertain and educate, they grow creative enterprise and provide year-round employment for a highly trained workforce.

Add to this the heightened profile achieved through the visibility and awareness of showcasing a country or a city, through festivals, cultural events and sporting occasions, then you can clearly see how meetings and events are an integral part of a destination and its destiny.

The value of public investment
These are testing times. There’s more global and national competition than ever before, vying for discretionary travel expenditures. So value, high-quality facilities and services, and promotional support are crucial for success, and active endorsement by national governments and local municipalities is seen as decisive in winning business.

Public investment in the sector does pay off. This was a key finding by destinations, which properly resource their convention bureaus and venues. And there’s even greater pay back when meetings and events strategies are linked to local economic policies.

Destinations that engender good working relationships with their local politicians and develop a strong dynamic framework of support and promotion, within an integrated municipal plan, are those that are destined to be the most successful.

And there’s even a greater pay back when local meetings and events strategies are linked to local and regional economic, social and environmental policies.

The resilience of meetings and events
Despite the global economic slowdown, the industry is generally confident of its future. Meetings and events have always proven resilient to past downturns. While individual business and leisure travel may well be affected by the current trading environment, people are more likely to continue to travel to pre-planned meetings and events.

Events are the 21st century drivers of visitor traffic, national and regional economic performance, physical and social regeneration and cultural and educational development. Whether they are international congresses or major exhibitions, sporting occasions or cultural festivals, they all have the power to attract large volumes and fill destinations regardless of seasonality.

I’ve no doubt we’ll see many more destinations developing event strategies and more people planning their travel around such programmes.

Michael Hirst is chairman of the Business Tourism Partnership

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