2021 Destination Competitive Index Offers Advanced Tools for Business Recovery


Global convention industry consulting firm, GainingEdge, has released its fourth annual Competitive Index of international convention destinations.  The 2021 edition ranks the world’s top cities in terms of key draw factors for meeting planners.

GainingEdge Analysis & Research (GEAR) Head, Milos Milovanovic, said the main purpose of the Destination Competitive Index is to develop methodologies and quantitative tools for destination comparison and which can help users speed up their post-COVID recovery.

“Our key focus this year was to provide market analysis that would help people identify strategies and activities they can use to recover faster. The Index provides quantitative indicators that can facilitate conversations between the meetings industry and policy makers, be they government or city authorities. If they have facts-based data their proposals for industry support and other recovery assistance are more likely to be successful.”

This year’s report continues to utilise two powerful benchmarking approaches, “fair share” analysis of a destination’s business levels and “ratio analysis” meant to help destinations focus in on their most important competitive issues based on the cities with which they are most frequently competing.  Additionally, the report looks at the impact of COVID-19 for 2021 and the years to come.

How to speed up recovery? 

GainingEdge CEO, Jon Sivertson, said the Index is a powerful tool for destination promoters and developers. 

“If a destination is below its fair share, it has a real opportunity to figure out why, to fix the problem and to generate more business for a faster recovery.  If it is above fair share, it needs to form strategies to maintain competitive advantage, because it has a down-side risk.  If they lose business to other up and coming cities then their recovery slows.”

Sivertson said the key for all destinations is to analyze their competitiveness, within the correct set of competing cities, in order to better understand their current challenges. Armed with that perspective, they can develop effective strategies to speed up their recovery from the pandemic.  The report identifies four key areas that all destinations should focus on:

  • Intellectual Engagement – Building relationships with local leaders and leveraging on their international reputation;
  • Flexible Approach – Providing more flexible product offerings and maintaining an agile market approach;
  • Technological Advancement – Embracing new technologies in meetings and events to cater for live and remote participants;
  • Regional Focus – Increasing short-term focus on national and regional markets which will provide more near-term yield.

Cities to Watch

Same as in 2020, Paris tops the list, with Singapore taking the Asia-Pacific crown and New York leading America.

This year the report selected six cities that best show what can be achieved by different combinations of product and a focus on the international meetings market.

Beijing – Beijing jumped from 7th to 4th place globally and took 2nd position in Asia. Its fast recovery, growing competitiveness and being in the global top 5 for available intellectual capital (per other GEAR research on Intellectual Capital) indicates great potential for further improvement in future years.

Istanbul – After a historical best in 2015, Istanbul’s position declined due
to political instability and related challenges. However, it boasts excellent destination products and jumped to 9th place globally (4th in Europe) in the Index. Since 2017, Istanbul has been on a path to recovery (albeit slowed by COVID-19) and this is expected to continue.

Moscow – Eastern European cities are relatively less competitive compared to Western European cities but Moscow is an exception as a global hub with excellent accessibility and infrastructure. Moscow has many local intellectual leaders who can help bring events, however the city has yet to leverage this competitive advantage well.

Budapest – Budapest is in ICCA’s Top 30 and sits at 61st place overall in the Index, and at 29th in Europe. Although meeting numbers have declined, Budapest still achieved results above its competitiveness score. It has a bright future if it can activate its competitiveness in a strategic way.

Florence – Best known as a beautiful city with a strong leisure segment, Florence improved its competitive position to 47th place globally (21st in Europe). Ranked 88th by ICCA this gap nonetheless indicates solid potential for growth if the city leverages its key competitive advantages.

Ghent – Well-known as a European university town, Ghent is relatively less competitive when compared to larger, capital cities. However, continuous good results show Ghent has strong collaboration with its local academic community and is very effective at harnessing its intellectual capital – the key source of its success.

For more information, please contact:
Jon Sivertson, CEO
Phone: +1 604 360 4633 (Canada)
Email: jon@gainingedge.com