Destination recovery insights

Advice for convention bureaus from GainingEdge

Jon Sivertson, CEO, GainingEdge: "There is an opportunity for Asian destinations, although stiff competitors, to collaborate and restore confidence in the region as a centre for business events." Credit: GainingEdge

ASIA - Whilst the transformation and innovation of the meetings and conventions industry play a key role in the region's recovery, having strong alliances with partners who share the same vision and work load is vital to success, said GainingEdge CEO, Mr Jon Sivertson.

In the mid-term, the meetings industry will be under pressure to demonstrate to governments their need for recovery funds. This is especially true as there will be many other industries jostling for limited government support available.  

Said Mr Sivertson: "In the longer term, destinations may not recover lost business or regain travellers' confidence as travel has been severely curtailed and may remain so for a long time."

He cited statistics from the World Trade Organisation which estimates that international tourism arrivals could fall by 20-30% in 2020 while noting that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%, while the 2003 SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4%.

Said Mr Sivertson: "There is an opportunity for Asian destinations, although stiff competitors, to collaborate and restore confidence in the region as a centre for business events.

"Bureaus may find it more challenging to secure the financial support of an industry and government in recovery mode so there is probably no better time or opportunity for the bureaus to find common ground and pool their resources together.

"This level of cooperation is still lacking although the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which offers a platform for cooperation, already exists.

"We also have the Asian Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaux (AACVB) which should be the natural lead for co-operative marketing among Asian destinations. However, we have not seen much historical evidence of such cooperation.

"A good case study on how fiercely competitive cities in the meetings arena can also work together is the BestCities Global Alliance. These 12 global cities from around the world collaborate and pool their resources for the mutual benefit of partner bureaus. Established in 2000, this alliance has stood the test of time and proves that if there is a will, there is a way.  

"With the right strategic direction and shared commitment, such an alliance, where a group of destinations can achieve more together than as an individual destination, could make the Asian or the ASEAN region a formidable business events destination competing with the traditional leader Europe.

The benefit of sharing: convention bureaus can find common ground and pool limited resources. Credit: Getty images

Mr Sivertson further recommends the following:

Advice for CVBs
•    Going forward, convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) must keep communication channels open with their stakeholders. They should leverage the sense of common purpose to build an even stronger and more united supplier community.  

•    Approach the government for recovery funds supported by a solid case of the value of lost businesses - not just in economic terms but also in legacy or social impact.

•    If the pandemic situation is prolonged, there will be more cancellations. The supplier community will need to adopt a customer-centric cancellation policy and assist with alternative solutions to win trust and gratitude.

•    How a destination handles its buyers or organisers now will influence its future business potential. The business events industry also needs to review and adjust their existing sales channels and be open to new opportunities this crisis may create.  

•    Bureaus must also revisit the way they do business to adapt to a rapidly changing global marketplace. The recovery phase is likely to see pent up demand as well as a cramped events and promotional calendar.

•    Find new ways of sales and marketing, embracing the digital age but not lose site of the importance of building one to one relationships with clientele. Now is a good time to review and reinvigorate their market approach.   

•    The 'low hanging fruit' markets for CVBs are most certainly within their own shores, or in the region.

•    Gain credibility in the market and develop trust so your destination will be top-of-mind when the crisis is over.

•    Build a more united supplier community through partnership and cooperative marketing programmes.

•    Improve your market intelligence and add to your sales pipeline through increased research for a wider customer base.  

•    Engineer more efficient processes because it is likely CVBs will have reduced resources available due to limited funds.

•    Generate more government and local community understanding and support for the business events industry. Conventions and meetings can transform destinations and their communities because of the broader value (beyond tourism ROI) they bring.

•    Calculate opportunities lost from cancelled events, prepare your business plan for recovery funding with an ROI analysis. A strong case, substantiated with robust data, will better help convince your government.

•    Plan new creative approaches for how your team is going to do things faster, better and more successfully, be it using traditional approaches or new platforms.

New trends
•    Convention bureaus may have to revisit their operating models due to reduced funding and possibly also fewer human resources.  

•    Organisers will demand better value as they are also strapped for cash. More than ever, event support, subvention and better price offers, and more-for-less will be required.  

•    All convention destinations will be hungry for business as they try to recoup their losses and bounce back. The marketplace will be crowded and competitive.

•    Disruptors like 5G technology and virtual meetings can offer tempting solutions although these are not the same as face-to-face meetings. In any case, bureaus and industry will need to be more technologically savvy than ever before. To be on the ball, venue suppliers and event managers will need to re-conceptualise to meet potential future demands.  

Since the company's establishment in 2004, GainingEdge has worked with destinations around the world. It has projects with Japan Tourism Agency, Japan National Tourism Organization, Macao Trade and Investment Promotion and Sarawak Convention Bureau and Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (BestCities Global Alliance) and BEXCO Busan.