The city values the congress market at over £84 million in economic return to the region and from 2012 to March 2013 attracted more than 179 conferences, including the European Conference on Underwater Acoustics and the European Real Estate Society Annual Conference.
The diverse subject matter of these conferences is indicative of the city’s key approach to winning bids for large-scale events. An army of professionals takes part in Edinburgh’s ambassador programme, receiving free advice from the Convention Bureau on travel, logistics and event venues, and support in both the planning stages of a congress and the actual delivery of the event.
Lesley Williams, head of business tourism at the convention body Marketing Edinburgh, says: “Ambassadors are an important catalyst in growing Edinburgh’s share of the convention market with over 70 per cent of international conferences won due to the role played by a key local contact in the field.”
The roster of events in 2013 includes a number won through the ambassador programme, such as the 5th European Symposium of Porcine Health Management, taking place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
2. ABU DHABI
The capital of the United Arab Emirates has launched a convention bureau in a bid to become one of the top-50 destinations for congresses within the next five years. As one of the dominant business hubs in the Middle East – and a destination keen to be taken more seriously than its perhaps glitzier neighbours – Abu Dhabi’s location makes it a viable option for many global congresses seeking to target delegates from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The new bureau will provide a range of services, including bid presentation advice, local stakeholder knowledge, destination information and government support co-ordination. Brainchild of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the bureau was launched as a result of an extensive economic impact study commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi that showed visitors spent £1,810 per event.
In 2010 the total economic impact of business events on Abu Dhabi was calculated to be £432 million. This is set to rise further as, in 2012, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre hosted its largest event to date with 10,000 delegates attending the World Ophthalmology Congress.
3. LAS VEGAS
Supporting nearly 57,000 jobs and bringing close to five million delegates to the United States, Las Vegas is the kingpin of the US trade show scene. Events are worth an estimated $6.7 billion to the local economy, making it the top US trade show destination for 19 years, according to Tarsus Group research. The convention season kicks off in January with the Consumer Electronics Show attracting 155,000 delegates.
It is their approach to delegate recruitment that really sets them apart, says Chris Meyer, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority vice president of sales. “We offer an attendance promotion package with 12 options on a menu to help stimulate attendance at events.
“We make phone calls to potential delegates too. We believe that nobody else does this to the scale that we do. This is not just a mailing list loan – we actually help to recruit and register delegates.”
The approach will prove invaluable in March 2014, when Vegas will host Conag, the construction fair, which will be the largest trade show in North America next year.
4. NEW YORK
With close on 2,000 members, NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation for the City of New York, can produce a rich and detailed bid document. At the heart of the bid comes a statistic that few event organisers can ignore. “When you hold your event in New York, you can expect a boost in delegate numbers – usually making it the record year for attendance,” says Paul Black, European meetings and events sales and marketing director, NYC & Company.
The organisation works as part of a local committee that bids to bring events to the Big Apple, such as this year’s WrestleMania 29.
“As part of the convention team and destination service, we help submit the bid, working with all the relevant hotels to get rooms blocked, we assist with permits via the Mayor’s Office and we work with the major events venues, such as the Javits Center.”
The value of the market is assessed from all angles, with the recent International Gift Fair bringing in around 35,000 attendees from more than 80 countries, which resulted in 21,000 room nights and $20.2 million in economic benefit.
The Olympics may have shone the spotlight on London’s event capabilities, but for the city’s official promotional organisation, delivering event bids is an ongoing commitment.
Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism and major events at London & Partners, outlines the body’s approach: “Since the launch of London & Partners, we have stopped working as just a tourist board and focused on being more about London as a business. We use the full assets of the city – not just the infrastructure. We now have the perfect combination of a body with connections across the DNA of London, so we can deliver the most detailed bids to win events.”
Central to this approach is a focus on the key sectors for London as a whole, which include technology, life sciences, financial and banking, green energies, and creative industries, covering everything from fashion through to architecture. “Any event in these spaces is on our radar,” says Ms Halliwell.
Recent successful bids led by London & Partners include the presentation to the European Society of Cardiology for the ESC Congress. In 2015, London will welcome 35,000 medics to the largest cardiology meeting in the world.