Editor's Blog

Subventions: show me the legacy

Seoul’s convention bureau is promising to expand the criteria for financial help given to international association meetings. The bureau, a division of Seoul Tourism Organisation, wants to introduce an element of quid pro quo beyond the nitty-gritty of room nights and delegate numbers. When dishing out financial support it will now consider applications from associations who pledge to improve the environmental performance of their meetings, for example, or who promise to hire more local suppliers.

This is a positive step, which should be embraced by associations - not least because it adds legitimacy to the whole business of subvention. Lest we forget, the financial help associations receive to stage their meetings is public money: with it should come responsibility. Details of the new See You in Seoul special package are still being finalised, but it could be seen as a welcome corrective to the largesse of too many destinations and the complacency of too many associations.

Can this idea be taken further? Destinations vying for meetings business are busily repositioning themselves as knowledge or intellectual capitals. Increasingly they regard association events as a way of attracting inward investment and talent. Delegates are finally being seen as disseminators of knowledge, potential ambassadors for a city, not just people who spend a lot of money in hotels, restaurants and taxis. In making a more grown-up case for meetings, convention bureaux are desperate to show examples of legacy benefits to gain the support of their political leaders.

This is where the quid pro quo could be expanded. It is obviously much easier for associations to keep track of the outcomes of their meetings than the host destinations: where a member signs a lucrative deal on the back of an exhibition, for example, or when a White Paper unveiled at congress goes on to influence public policy. Therefore destinations could offer subventions on the proviso that associations promise to report back significant legacy outcomes of the meeting in question over a set period of time.

Not only would this help bureaux make a stronger case for meetings, it would also encourage associations themselves to investigate the lasting benefits of their events to show their members. In an age where face to face meetings are under constant attack from social media and open access publishing, real evidence of their worth, not just supposition, may well prove their saviour.

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  • Sally Greenhill 29/03/2017 Of: The Right Solution

    There are already destinations who look beyond the direct spend benefits in terms of synergy with their major industry sectors or areas of academic excellence and longer term benefits to their town/city (to health or welfare etc). The legacy evidence would definitely take it to the next level and is to be encouraged. There may of course be reluctance to be the first destinations to truly implement it, due to the risk of being non competitive.