Changes in the role and function of the Convention Bureau
Business tourism, in constant evolution
Like holiday or leisure tourism, business tourism has become a highly dynamic, changeable, and increasingly competitive and demanding industry.
Disruptive changes have been caused mainly by technology, by the new needs of participants in meetings (who want more participative, digital, and sustainable events), and by the meeting organisers’ need to hold increasingly more effective events that achieve the goals set and maximise participants’ satisfaction.
The evolution of the industry has led to a change in the role and functioning of most companies and professionals involved in business tourism. Destinations must also adapt to this new scenario, through their DMO, Convention Bureau, or specialised department.
For a Convention Bureau to be successful nowadays, it must have in-depth knowledge of the needs and goals of meeting organisers (be they associations, large companies, or agencies specialised in the organisation of meetings and events). Marketing and services should be added to their specific needs.
In recent years, the meetings and events (MICE) segment has become globalised and experienced a boom, with an increase in the number of destinations and venues (which are increasingly modern, spectacular, and multi-use). This increase in competition forces business destinations to achieve a better national and international positioning revolving around their most singular attractions and added value, which help them to stand out from their competitors.
For many years, the role and functions of many Convention Bureaus focused mainly on providing logistic and institutional support to entities and associations that contacted them to hold a conference or meeting in the destination. It was usually associations (through a local doctor or scientist) or the Cultural Project Office that sought the Convention Bureau’s support. Their role was not very proactive.
Given the potential of this segment and the economic impact that it has for towns and cities, many Convention Bureaus have become more professional, increasing their budgets, human resources, and promotional activities to attract large meetings and events.
Recent changes in the industry have led to a change in the functions of Convention Bureaus, as they have had to go beyond their role as entities promoting the destination and supporting the organisation of conferences. Convention Bureaus must play a new role and become a basic tool to drive local economic growth and empower the local scientific, medical, business, and social communities.
Structure and operation trends
1.- Changes in the role of the Convention Bureau
The Convention Bureau must cease to be a merely promotional entity and become a professional intelligence centre in the destination, as well as a more commercial entity, playing a key role in the creation of the destination’s brand and in the economic and social development of the local community.
The Convention Bureau must also become a key tool in the international positioning of a destination. Not only as a tourist destination, but also as a destination for investment and to attract talent and trade.
2.- Leading the local industry
The Convention Bureau must be a leader that brings together and coordinates all the MICE offering in the destination. It must facilitate the connection between offer and demand, creating a hallmark that generates pride of belonging among the local tourist industry. It must unify the entire industry around a strategic vision of the destination as a location for meetings and events.
In addition, it must promote the development of technological tools and effective communication channels that facilitate access to the markets and help to attract more meetings.
Finally, the destination must encourage the generation of knowledge and business among the associate companies. The Convention Bureau can play a new role in the local tourist industry, providing ongoing training and generating (offline and online) networking spaces that encourage synergies and commercial opportunities among the community. This generates a greater sense of belonging in the destination, which must be regarded as useful and beneficial.
3.- More selective
Convention Bureaus are currently much more selective when choosing candidates to attract conferences. The strategy should be carefully planned and the conferences and meetings regarded as strategic for the destination must be well defined.
A meeting can be regarded as strategic for several reasons:
- The number of participants and its economic impact on the destination.
- The benefit which it may entail for professionals in local industries.
- The importance of the topic under discussion and its media impact.
- The organiser’s reputation.
- The profile of the participants.