Editor's Blog

Beware a destination for all seasons

AMI recently carried out a survey asking destinations to list the areas of local expertise (medical, IT, finance etc) they could realistically exploit to secure international association meetings.

We wanted to get a flavour of the key industries or knowledge sectors specific to each destination, and if - and how - they were using them in their marketing and bidding materials.

For several years now, the repositioning of destination marketing – away from ‘look at the size of our beach’ to ‘look at the size of our brains’ – has been gathering momentum.

But how are destinations going about this is? From our survey results, and my day-to-day experience as editor of AMI magazine, it would appear several different approaches are being taken.

Some destinations are taking a very rigorous line. They are limiting themselves to those industries for which they are truly well-known. Think Stuttgart, think automotive, for example. These cities have linked no more than half-a-dozen areas of expertise to their overall marketing strategy.

Other destinations are taking a more relaxed view, citing long-established industries alongside fledgling areas of growth. This may be genuinely strategic – they want to attract inward investment to newly emerging sectors – or they may simply be casting their net a little wider.

The problem comes with the third group of destinations, who appear to be going through the phone book and listing every industry therein as an intellectual capital. Their motto seems to be: ‘We can be anything that you want us to be’. You’re a medical association? Well, we have a hospital with an A&E department! You’re in the aeronautical sector? Behold our lovely blue skies!

This group is a problem because it potentially undermines the credibility of the whole enterprise. There are plenty ofreasons why the meetings industry should align itself more closely with business and academia rather than hotels and restaurants. But destinations who cynically position themselves as ‘all things to all associations’ will soon make cynics of us all. And then who gains?

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