It’s easy to get stuck in a groove when deciding on the location for your event, whether it’s a business meeting, incentive programme or conference. There’s a tendency to revisit those destinations that have already proved to be popular with your audience, whether they are high-performing staff, partner businesses, such as resellers, or top-spending clients. After all, why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got more pressing issues to think about, such as the programme content, logistics and more.
However, pulling yourself out of your comfort zone can often feel exhilarating and inspirational. The same goes for events. In fact, an exciting, original location can be the catalyst for an amazing programme. And there are more and more emerging events destinations to choose from that offer more than simply the exotic appeal of somewhere new.
“You often have more potential to personalise and customise experiences when working with smaller, emerging destinations, greater accessibility to unique venues, unusual itineraries with activities that are indigenous to that area, and the availability of key local personalities like the mayor, a minister and key academic or opinion leaders, all of whom offer increased prestige to the event without any cost,” says Patrick Delaney, managing partner at SoolNua. “Another major advantage is the perception of greater safety with the likelihood of terrorism not being an issue due to their low profile.”
According to Guy Bigwood, group sustainability director at MCI, emerging destinations are usually cheaper and generally more agile. “They have the ability to gather stakeholders together and make much more collective progress on an issue,” he says. “This is especially relevant when it comes down to sustainability or there is another crucial factor to take into account.”
On the cost side, Mr Bigwood also points out that you can often get more funding for your events, as there are usually less legacy structures to navigate around.
“As an organiser, we are also normally trying to build a community feeling between attendees at our events,” he adds. “It’s normally much easier to have stronger team togetherness in a smaller city which does not have many events, and where we are the most important event and our delegates are visible everywhere, versus being one of 15 conferences in town. This also gives delegates that all-important feeling of being special.”
Things to consider
Although smaller and emerging destinations can be safer, they do carry more business risk for organisers than their more established counterparts, cautions Emma Cashmore, managing director at Axis Destination Marketing. “By their nature, emerging destinations lack the track record and experience in delivering major international events, making it even more imperative that event organisers and planners carry out comprehensive due diligence to ensure the destination has the ability to fulfil the conference objectives and meet the needs of the attendees,” she says.
The destinations themselves can also do a lot to reassure organisers, learning from the established players and making sure they capitalise on the two billion-plus outbound travellers there are predicted to be by 2030.
“The internal infrastructure is key,” says Ms Cashmore. “Getting around should be easy. There should be good food and beverage outlets, and accommodation and venues of a high standard.”
Furthermore, focusing on key specialisms in terms of business and academia, such as technology or life sciences, and targeting those sectors for events business can help convince organisers. “This can also help drive internal economic development, as hosting meetings and events can be the catalyst in introducing a destination’s export business interests to key influencers, business stakeholders, entrepreneurs and investors from around the world,” she adds.
It’s normally much easier to have stronger team togetherness in a smaller city which does not have many events
So much for the benefits emerging destinations can bring business events organisers, but where are the current rising stars for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE)?
“Some of the more undiscovered parts of Canada are really becoming a big draw, such as those located along the Atlantic coast with its short flight time to the UK,” says Ms Cashmore. “South America, Colombia and Chile are growing in popularity, with the latter’s capital Santiago being home to a burgeoning technology market. Key attractions here include improved air lift, perceived good value for money and the desire to explore somewhere new.”
SoolNua’s Mr Delaney, meanwhile, cites Belfast, Liverpool, Bratislava, Nashville, Portland, Cebu, Lima, Hanoi and countries including Slovenia, Estonia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Rwanda. “These are new destinations that have not been in the marketplace previously but, due to new access options or improved infrastructure, have now become viable,” he says.
Highlighting those destinations with a strong commitment to sustainability, Mr Bigwood sites Iguassu, Quito and Medellín in South America, Gothenburg, Reykjavik and Valencia in Europe, and Austin and Portland in North America.
“My pick of the bunch would be Reykjavik,” he says. “Visitors have risen over 300 per cent since 2010, according to tourism arrivals. The figure used to be under 500,000 a year; now it’s 1.5 million. Iceland is hot with hipsters, nature seekers, Game of Thrones fans and, yes, increasingly MICE.”