Legacy stories may help solve meetings industry’s funding and talent issues

Meetings specialists at the International Destination Competitiveness Forum 2023, which opened this morning (August 24) in Goyang, South Korea, say communicating event legacy impacts can result in a wide range of benefits for the meetings industry, from improved government support to stronger local talent pipeline.

Amelia Roziman, CEO of Business Events (BE) Sarawak, who opened the Passion Drives Legacy panel at the one-day event, shared how a legacy focused strategy undertaken by her team was able to transform the government’s view of the meetings industry as an “insignificant” GDP contributor in 2019 into a far more supportive recognition, with Sarawak established in May this year as the first legacy capital for business events in Malaysia and Borneo by the premier of Sarawak.

Asian meetings industry players discuss the importance of tracking legacy impacts at the International Destination Competitiveness Forum 2023 in Goyang, South Korea

With the premier’s acknowledgement, BE Sarawak is now tasked with driving sustainable, purpose-driven business events and prioritising topics that fall within the government’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030 economic plan. To achieve these, the bureau was given a 60 per cent funding boost.

Charlie Bae, CEO of Daegu CVB, told TTGmice that the legacy story must also be communicated to the general public, as citizen sentiments around business events can influence how government structures funding for CVBs.

“Citizens do not understand business events unless they see their income or sales volume increase as a result of such gatherings, or have personal experience in attending a business event,” he said.

“(When citizens attach no value to) business events, the city government led by the mayor and city councillors will be reluctant to provide necessary funds to support our industry (and) the work of the CVB,” he said, adding that public understanding of business events is still too low in his city of almost 2.5 million people.

Bae also warned that weak public understanding of business events can result in a poorer talent pipeline.

“There are colleges in Daegu offering tourism courses, but business events is not tourism and there no specialised courses on just business events. It is a problem because we want to bring Daegu citizens into our industry but the schools (cannot facilitate this talent development pipeline yet),” he explained.

For now, Daegu CVB is plugging the knowledge gap with on-the-job training for its staff.

When asked what could be done to improve public sentiments, Jane Vong Holmes, senior manager at meetings industry consultancy GainingEdge, said there should be a public campaign by CVBs to communicate the longer term positive outcomes of business events.

She shared that Asian CVB clients are keen on the legacy concept and some are at the research stage now, working to understand meeting outcomes and how to measure legacy.

“Such data can help destination marketers craft better communications around impacts for the public, such as highlighting that more young people are going for STEM education after being inspired by a recent STEM conference in town,” she said.

To tell the legacy story right, cities need to change the way meetings are evaluated. Their value should be measured qualitatively instead of quantitatively, which would take tourism KPIs like attendee numbers and hotel room nights into account. This, Holmes said, is especially important to avoid underestimating events’ contribution to the host city when organisers adopt online or hybrid event formats.

“When online or hybrid event formats are adopted, destinations may see fewer business events visitors and hotel room nights. The move to measure legacy will allow stakeholders to see the deeper and longer term benefits brought in by business events,” she explained.

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