GainingEdge Advisory Issue

What Meeting Planners Are Looking For Meeting and event planners, like much of the business events industry, are facing many challenges during the ongoing pandemic that does not seem to have an immediate end. Challenges According to the PCMA APAC COVID_19 Survey 2021 the two key areas of concern relate to safety and local support.… Continue reading GainingEdge Advisory Issue


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

Building a Better Business Case

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The ongoing impacts of COVID have really shown everyone, including governments, the importance of business events, and their direct and more long-term, indirect benefits to our communities, our cities and our countries.  COVID has also left many of us competing for funding with other competing priorities, be they health spend, income assistance programs, infrastructure programs, amongst others.  So, for us to compete in these tough times, we need to be better able to articulate the total benefits of business events to our stakeholders…including our funders.

Traditionally, the business case has been, at best, a calculation of the near-term economic impact benefits of an event.  Usually calculated by determining the spend of visitors and organisers via survey and interviews.  In many, but not all, countries there are then economic multipliers that can be used to estimate the near-term financial and employment benefit of a business event, usually via an input-output model. And these impacts can be estimated at the direct level (so changes that occur in the “front-end” businesses), indirect level (so changes in activity for suppliers of the “front-end” businesses) and the induced level (so spending on goods and services resulting from increases to the payroll of the directly and indirectly affected businesses).  Sounds simple right?  There are even various websites and calculators that will give you a supposed near-term impact calculation.

However, we find even this relatively simple part of the calculation is often done wrong.  Many economic impact calculators, and even many firms that do this, make simple mistakes that your stakeholders could see and then call into question your analysis.  Starting with the data capture: 1) it’s a common error to double count the spend of the organising Association with the registration fees paid by attendees; 2) another is the total event attendee and the  accompanying person spend is not captured properly, or only includes the spend during the event and not the spend pre and post event, which reduces the actual calculated event impact (not good!); 3) Airfares are often miscounted, with international airfares included when it should only be domestic flights – just a few examples.

Assuming we have the data captured correctly, there are still many other areas we see done incorrectly, especially in those destinations without agreed economic multipliers.  This impact analysis is not a one-size fits all. It needs to take account of local economic realities and if we don’t have robust multipliers then we need to look for similar markets as comparison and adjust those based on our local market understanding.  Without all of this, our analysis is, at best, inaccurate and, at worst, wrong.  And our ever more sophisticated stakeholders and funders will see right through this.

So that was the easy part, right? And that may have been all that was needed before.  But more and more we’re seeing destinations need a more robust, and convincing, business case that will also look at the long-term economic impacts, and the legacy impacts, of an event.  These types of impacts may only be realised years in the future.

The identification and quantification of long-term economic impacts is much more complicated and involves two types of economic factors:

  • The first type of factor consists of broad economic activities that occur because of the event. These activities may be wide in scope and may be tangible or intangible in nature, such as follow up meetings, new investment opportunities, new export routes opened, or new business partnerships. These activities are not economic impacts but are intermediaries that lead to the creation of long-term economic impacts. So, we need to identify and measure them to allow us to quantify the long-term economic impacts.
  • The second type of factor is the long-term economic impacts themselves. The most common measures used in quantifying long-term economic impacts are: 1) output (the total gross value of goods and services produced); 2) GDP, or value added, the additional value of a good or service over the cost of producing it; and 3) employment, the number of additional jobs created.

These are the factors that are going to get the attention of other parts of government, those looking at economic development, job creation, generally those areas of government with ultimate control of the purse strings and with bigger budgets…but as I’ve alluded to, estimating the long-term economic impact requires us to understand exactly WHICH economic activities will create the economic impact and be able to measure them.  And this has seldom been done for events.

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And this brings us to what a Better Business Case can be, which is much more than only the Near-Term economic impacts. A Better Business Case will also look at, the long-term economic impacts…which are in fact part of what makes up the Legacy Impact(s) of an event. And a Better Business Case will also be further justifying the event via also looking at what are the desired meeting outcomes (which are Legacy Drivers), from which we are now able (through GE’s work on Legacy Impacts) to build a narrative around the additional long-term Legacy benefits, or impacts, of an event. Some of these are provided on this slide, and they can range from improved exports, to improved health outcomes, to improved social outcomes, to increased investment or talent attraction…. amongst many others. These are outcomes and legacy impacts that are far beyond the traditional for tourism and business events.  And these Legacies can be powerful motivators across a myriad of stakeholders and, importantly, open up new funding sources.

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Unlike the economic impact assessment where we have generally accepted models and principles, the approach to Legacy is much more varied because there are more variables around event types and sectors.  But there is now an accepted framework for how to categorise and measure. Each type of event can have environmental, political, obviously economic, sectoral and social legacies.  And these legacies can occur at four levels: 1) The more personal, around knowledge sharing; 2) the Professional Community; 3) at the Sectoral Level; and 4) what we call world changing legacies, such as of the type described by the UN SDGs.  The type of legacies, and the levels they attain, are bespoke to each event and so can be their measurement.  But if the work is done upfront in the business case, these can be identified, measured, and via this process their impact can even be increased.

Additionally, if the business case also provides for a system and means of measurement of economic and legacy impacts – we will then have additional retrospective data and justification for the event. And so therefore the next event proposed will then have an even stronger, better business case. So, this Better Business Case will not only serve as a rational justification of the event before it occurs, it will put in place a system and process to justify the event after the event has happened….and further the business cases of future events. And that, is a Better Business Case!



Jon Sivertson is GainingEdge’s CEO and oversees GainingEdge’s consultancies.

Jon has his roots deep in infrastructure development and financing, and project feasibility of convention and exhibition centres.

Prior to joining GainingEdge and bringing over 20 years of experience to our team, Jon has worked with PwC in Canada, New Zealand and Singapore and was instrumental in PwC’s infrastructure group achieving its status as a Centre of Excellence for the PwC network in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and China.

He is a specialist in Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects.

Email Jon

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #8.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

Legacies – the New Meetings Business Driver

We all have our eyes on what the meetings world will look like post-COVID, and we know for a while we’ll have “vaccine passports.”  A more lasting result of COVID will be the proliferation of hybrid events that are producing and distributing multi-channel content.  But, in my view there are four key transformative trends that are emerging that have been driven by the pandemic.   All four relate directly to the growing focus on meeting legacy:

  • Sustainability and UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)
  • A focus on attracting meetings that are strategically important to a community
  • Government engagement in the business of attracting and hosting meetings
  • Local community support and engagement in the convention industry

In a way, meeting legacy is both a means and an end.  That’s because being strategic and visionary about meeting legacies can create a “confluence of interest” between meeting industries, local host organisations, governments and broader communities.

Please click to view enlarged graphic

The matrix above offers a quick visual “benefits map” of the types of effects generated by hosting conventions.  It shows the range of beneficiaries which include governments and various parts of the local community.  It also shows how each of them is positively affected by the “beyond tourism” benefits of hosting meetings.  The yellow part at the bottom is our industry’s traditional value proposition, which was always about bringing in visitors so that their spending could help stimulate our economies.  As the matrix shows, the benefits of hosting meetings run much broader and deeper.  And those benefits directly relate to various types of legacies that meetings can provide.

In projects with MeetDenmark and BestCities, GainingEdge has done a lot of work exploring what we term the “strategic pathway” to legacy.  We have developed a model which is essentially the reverse of how legacy is approached by most meetings.  Most meetings focus on organising the meeting itself without really thinking a lot about legacy. Then people do a retroactive look at what outcomes the meeting may have generated.  Most are confusing meeting outcomes with meeting legacies, and most aren’t actually looking at true meeting legacies at all.   Here is a simple way to think about the difference between meeting outcomes and meeting legacies.  If a meeting helps to achieve a governmental policy change, that’s a meeting outcome.  The legacy is how that policy change actually achieves measurable social and economic benefits into the future.

A more strategic approach is to begin with a creative process of establishing a “legacy vision.”  What legacies could be generated from hosting a given meeting?  Of course, to do this effectively would require engaging not just the local host organisation, but also interested local stakeholders including businesses, government and the broader community.

The next step is to decide what meeting outcomes would be required to drive the accomplishment of the legacy goals.  And, once those necessary outcomes are established to program specific meeting activities that will help to generate those outcomes.  This is actually a huge value-adding process, because a destination is then able to present a stronger bid that includes suggested program elements and legacy outcomes.  That creates a more compelling case for the destination, differentiating it in a powerful way with the people deciding where to take the convention.

This strategic legacy approach also ticks all four of the boxes above.  All event legacies relate to UN SDGs.  Focusing on legacy potential adds a strategic dimension to why the event is important to the community.  It provides a platform for meaningful engagement between convention bureaus, local hosts, governments and the local community. Best of all, it means that the legacies of hosting meetings will become stronger and more measurable, which over time will help to build momentum and broad support for growing a destination’s meetings industry.

Here’s a question that may help you to crystallise how meeting legacy is the business driver of the future.  Imagine that your community is seeking to develop a stronger renewable energy sector.  The government wants that, the local renewables industry wants that and ultimately the whole community benefits from that.  So, which of the following business cases would be more powerful in both motivating a local host and galvanising local support for a convention bid?

Business case 1: “If we host this meeting on photovoltaics, leaders from that industry from all over the world will come here and share their know-how and also see what we are doing in that science.  Leading corporations and investors will come too.  It’s our chance to tap into a global network, form relationships, partner in innovation, secure venture capital and attract new talent.  Hosting this meeting is a strategic way to stimulate our local photovoltaics industry which will help us to strengthen our renewable energy cluster.”

Business case 2: “If we host this meeting on photovoltaics, some international delegates will come here for a few days and spend some money.”

That’s a rhetorical question, of course.  Legacy is the rallying point, the true value proposition and the ultimate community benefit.  It is a powerful means as well as an end.



Gary Grimmer is Executive Chairman of GainingEdge. He is one of the original founders of AfSAE and GainingEdge provides ongoing pro bono strategic support to the organisation.

Email Gary

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #7.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

Destination Planning: Evolving the Role of CVBs

CVBs need to ensure they stay relevant in the rapidly changing world of business events, not only in the marketplace but in their own destination. For too long, CVBs have drawn an invisible circle around themselves and a few trusted allies. Not venturing outside the circle, or letting others in, they too often are only seen when requesting funding.

To be and stay relevant, CVBs need to understand the gaps and opportunities in the destinations they represent. The best way to acquire this knowledge is to speak with and listen to as wide an audience of local stakeholders as possible. And these conversations should not only occur with those who CVBs are most familiar with, but those from outside the industry. In other words, from sources beyond the invisible circle.

By casting a wider net, the CVB will be able to enhance its influence on matters of importance in their communities. Ultimately, being involved will help improve the products and experiences the CVB is promoting to the market. CVBs should be finding ways to engage in discussions around infrastructure development, capacity building, public policy, accessibility, and social, environmental, health and security matters. This does not mean diverting from the CVBs role to sell and market the destination but evolving to a broader mandate. Without such a perspective, the voice of the industry – and the customer – will not be heard when decisions are being contemplated which shape the future of the community (destination).

Destination planning is a tool which all CVBs should become familiar, as a way to widen influence and enhance relevancy. A relatively new field, destination planning is facilitated and encouraged by the CVB. Destination plans are long-term, have a broad engagement process, and outcomes which focus on the destination. Strategic plans, by comparison, focus on the CVB itself with outcomes directly influenced and controlled by them. The table below illustrates the key differences between these two types of planning.

Another key tool for CVBs is to carry out objective and quantitative-based assessments, designed to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the destination. For example, how does a destination stack up on hygiene factors, competitive advantages, and key differentiators? And based on these attributes how well should the destination be performing? Conducting such an assessment enables a CVB to be better equipped at pushing for ways to address shortcomings with the public- and private-sector.

Another tool is for CVBs to determine their role in key destination matters. Most CVBs are accountable and responsible for sales, marketing, and branding of the destination. It is important to be clear whether other organizations also might see themselves as having this responsibility. If so, how does this get addressed? And how about such issues as infrastructure, mobility, services, product experiences, policy and regulatory? The CVB should identify what role it would like to play. If not leading, the CVB should strive to be consulted or, in the least, be kept informed.

Being invited to the table where consequential decisions impacting a destination is something which is earned. CVBs will benefit by stepping out of their comfort zone, getting acquainted with community needs through broad engagement, and in turn bringing the perspectives of the industry and marketplace to the decision process. Tools such as destination planning, destination assessment, and role identification, help CVBs establish a meaningful contribution to these discussions.




Paul Vallee is Executive Consultant – Americas, with GainingEdge. He has extensive experience consulting on strategic and destination master planning, organization development, and industry capacity building. His assignments include providing advisory support in Canada, the U.S., Denmark, Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Panama, and Thailand.

Email Paul

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #6.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

Asphalt road and modern city

Building confidence with your stakeholders

From June 9-17, GainingEdge held individual advice clinics with 25 CVBs/DMOs in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Africa.  These clinics were complimentary and hosted by consultants from GainingEdge. We set out below a summary of the advice we provided during these sessions on how destinations can build confidence with stakeholders through effective, credible communications.

·  Confidence comes from open and transparent communication

It is critical to remember you have multiple audiences and they are all important. The key drive for your communications right now should be about building credibility through openness and transparency. There is only one kind of communication right now that can really bring you value – communication designed to build confidence in you among your stakeholders and MICE customers and buyers. 

Use this time to build credibility more than trying to build interest in your destination. Then when the situation improves, you can leverage the goodwill you have built and use it to immediate effect. 

What is credible communication? Short, radically transparent, spin-free and to the point information about COVID-19 and your destination.

Because you were transparent, your buyers will trust your information. Again, the trust you can build now could be one of the most positive things you can derive from this whole situation.

This downtime caused by COVID-19 is probably the most opportune time to get your stakeholders working more cooperatively. Leverage that sense of common purpose to build an even stronger and more united supplier community – another lasting positive outcome that you can take from this crisis.

· We would like to share a template with you

GainingEdge is pleased to share with you a template for your credible communications about COVID-19 and how it is impacting your destination from the business events point view. Click here to see a suggested table of contents with pointers on what could be included under each topic.

In closing

If you missed the opportunity to sign up for the complimentary advice clinics with us, please email Paul Vallee at He will follow up with you on what you are most interested in discussing, and make sure to connect you with the most appropriate consultant at GainingEdge.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #5.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

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Partnerships and collaboration: now even more essential

In February 2019, the BestCities Global Alliance, which is managed by GainingEdge, published a news article on the benefits of partnership. Just over a year later, the importance of working more closely together is even more pronounced as a strategic response to COVID-19. The following advice is based on some of the content from that article.

· Why are partnerships so important?

Partners enable an organization to be able to do things they would not necessarily be able to on their own. They expand skillsets and offerings, bringing new and different abilities and strengths to your organization, and can lead to value creation. The beauty of a partnership is working together to complement one another and to build something creative and fresh that one may not have otherwise been able to do themselves.  

As COVID has so deeply ravaged our industry, partnerships are a smart way to leverage financial and human resources between organizations. Forming solid partnerships now will also help when times are better. 

·  How can an organisation find the right partner for them?

Finding the right partner starts by understanding your organization’s needs and areas of strength and using that as a basis to define where the best fit lies. What is it that will make you as an organisation prosper? The best way to identify a suitable partner is to find those who are complementary to what it is that you are doing. It is often not the similarities, but the differences that can make the collaboration flourish – meaning that even the more unconventional pairings should not be ruled out when considering a partnership.

When considering a partnership, you need to find a party that is willing to put in a similar, if not an equal, amount of effort – which takes shape in various forms, including funding, time, knowledge, and manpower. And, think about a new partner in the long-term, as it can take a fair amount of time to get things working the way they should.

· What are the key benefits of a partnership?

The key elements where partnerships can benefit an organisation are, like anything in business, improving the bottom line, whether its financial or otherwise, increasing sales and enhancing reputation. Those benefits can be reaped through:

  • Extending resources: rebuild business resources during times of scarcity, and combine forces to tackle marketplace opportunities
  • Reducing risk: address the great deal of uncertainty that exists by investing with others to spread out risk
  • Knowledge sharing: exchange practices, skillsets, and expertise across organizations to help address unprecedented challenges
  • Brand association: collaborate amongst previous competitors to present new and dynamic brands to potential clients

· What common challenges need to be overcome in partnerships?

Challenges often arise when establishing a partnership. One view to consider is that ‘no partner is more important that the other’. Regardless of the scale of the organisation, it is helpful to avoid a hierarchal partnership, as each organisation involved should be bringing equivalent value to the collaboration. Another potential challenge is being able to agree to a clear vision and goal of the collaboration. Tolerance, flexibility, and trust are critical, as is recognizing every partner has strengths and weaknesses – as well as understanding and overcoming cultural or operational differences.

Consider your expectations. One cannot expect the other partner to commit to doing something you would not do yourself. Finally, you must have champions within the leadership of your organization for the collaboration. Establishing a partnership adds another layer of complexity and the benefits of this should be communicated and shared.

In closing

The devastating impact of COVID on our industry means that every organization on the value chain, be it on the demand-side or supply-side, need to consider new ways of doing business including working with competitors or non-traditional partners. It is our contention that forming partnerships will help organizations build greater resiliency for now and the times ahead.  By sharing risk, knowledge and resources, the extensive disruption caused by COVID can be less intense. 

“Partnership is not a posture but a process – a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.”
―  John F. Kennedy

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #4.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

What to ask associations beyond ‘will you be rebooking’?

DMOs and CVBs (and) convention bureaus
are wired to be focused on generating business demand from the
marketplace.  As integral components of
the supply side, DMO/CVB value has long been measured by the ability to ensure
a steady flow of group business into the destination.  For the most part, DMOs/CVBs have
traditionally acted as supplier representatives in the relationship between
buyers and sellers. 

With business demand severely curtailed
because of COVID-19, destinations are scrambling to determine how best to
create value now and in the future.  We
suggest DMOs/CVBs need to ensure that in addition to lead generation and bid
development expertise, they also work to help associations deliver on their
purpose.  A good place to start is
understanding why an association exists in the first place and then building
your destination’s value proposition with that at the core.

Destinations that understand
associations from the ‘inside out’, rather than the ‘outside in’, will be in a
much stronger position to recover and rebound from this crisis.  In a risk adverse world, building strategic
relationships with associations will have a longer-term benefit than those that
are purely transactional.  Being a solid
partner builds trust and loyalty, which can lead to new and repeat business and
a strong brand reputation.

We are by no means suggesting DMOs/CVBs should not be finding out whether an association plans to book or rebook its event in the future.  What we are saying is that during these turbulent times, destinations should be sharpening their business development skills to ensure critical questions are also being asked of associations to help bridge the gap of knowledge that might otherwise exist.   The following are queries the DMO/CVB should ask to expand their insight into the association.

  • What is the vision and mission of your association? And how can we help you continue to progress towards your vision now and moving forward?

At the outset, a DMO/CVB should endeavor to find
out the essence of the association, why it exists and what the association
hopes to accomplish as a result of its activities.  Associations do not exist to meet; they are
created for an essential purpose. Conferences and meetings are not an end in
themselves, but a means to an end. Asking your client of the higher-level aim
of their association, and exploring ways to contribute to this goal, will
create a stronger sense of trust that the destination is not just out to sell
but is there to help.

  • How is the crisis impacting your industry/sector?

DMOs/CVBs should conduct research and inquire into the impact of COVID-19 on the industry or sector most relevant to the association. This background will provide context when speaking to the association of their issues and opportunities in the near to immediate term. Determining COVID-19 impacts on the broader sector will enable the destination to discuss implications on the association in an informed way.

  • How will the current crisis affect your business practices such as your meetings, exhibition, sponsorship or membership strategies in the short and long term?

The COVID-19 situation is forcing associations to
confront realities that will impact on fundamental operational matters now and
in the future.  DMOs/CVBs that try to get
a better understanding of the association’s situation, including not only their
events, will offer a closer glimpse into what matters most to the association
as it works its way through this crisis. 
One of the most important considerations will be whether associations
that once met globally will now be adjusting to more regional meetings.

  • Are you considering any adjustments to your events model and/or format to facilitate remote participation of attendees at your events?

As remote meetings take hold, deep discussions are being held
within and between associations on how best to bring their members and
stakeholders together for meetings in the future.  The earlier DMOs/CVBs have discussions with clients
about what that might look like will better prepare the destination to meet these
needs.  Destinations that offer solutions
to associations that facilitate engagement of remote, along with in-person,
will be better positioned to succeed.

  • How will your event programme be impacted by the crisis? e.g. change of content to respond to new market priorities as a result of the current crisis?

As connectors between the association and the destination, DMOs/CVBs are able to help client’s source local expertise and knowledge that enhance the content offerings of the event.  It is worth discussing how the current situation is shifting topics of interest with the association, so the destination can identify relevant people and organizations of interest in their community that will assist in being prepared for future opportunities.

In closing

Destinations and associations that find
a place where purpose and intent intersect will be better positioned to support
one another in achieving mutual results during and after COVID-19.  Clients will seek DMOs/CVBs that have a firm
grasp of their pain points and goals. Destinations are likely to retain and be
recommended by clients to whom they provide value, and hence will provide them a
competitive advantage.

DMOs/CVBs can help themselves by moving to a deeper understanding of the associations they are hoping to work with. It is our view that finding areas of commonality is the ‘sweet spot’ of success and should be given even more attention during these challenging times. Doing so will help to establish a trusting relationship between the parties, and lead to business opportunities down the road.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery. “
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #3.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

VANCOUVER, CANADA - Nov 13, 2019: A beautiful shot of the boats parked near the Coal Harbour in Vancouver

Putting Some Order to the Chaos

Our last newsletter discussed the
importance of engaging your local stakeholders to work together in developing
solutions. As our industry manoeuvres its way through these times, it is always
helpful to learn from and share with each other – we believe Vancouver,
Canada’s current effort is worth discussing. 

Getting organized as a destination is a
critical step in being able to effectively develop strategies to respond to the
situation now and looking to future recovery. 
Destinations need to put in place meaningful structures that are nimble,
responsive, and inclusive, to address the multi-faceted nature of this
challenge. Now is not the time to go inward as an organization but to reach out
to others in your community and take a leadership role where appropriate.

In Vancouver, under the leadership of
Tourism Vancouver (the Metro Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau), a
public- and private-sector Task Force has been formed.  Starting with 50 organizations – and growing
– representing multiple interests, the common element that binds all players is
that few industries are as dramatically affected by COVID-19 as tourism and
business events. The motivation is to have a powerful, united, and
action-oriented body to act in a coordinated way for the sector.

The Task Force’s work is being advanced
by four distinct working groups:

  • Impact Assessment
  • Government Relations
  • Issues Management and Communications, and
  • Sector Recovery Strategy

The working groups are mandated to
focus on their area by first developing core objectives and tactics.  The working groups meet remotely on a weekly
basis and report up to the main Task Force on progress made. Given the
extremely dynamic situation, each working groups is evolving its objectives and
tactics and making sure to adapt whenever they can or should.

Impact Assessment

Focus is on estimating the impact of
COVID-19 on the industry, and to develop scenarios. They work with other
industry organizations that are also assessing impacts and customize where
necessary for the destination. Information is fed to the other working groups
to help inform their effort.

Government Relations

Focus is on keeping abreast of
government initiatives that may impact the sector, and to liaise with
government on the Task Force’s actions while advocating for the industry.
Government representatives also participate on the Task Force, helping expedite
information flow.

Issues Management and

Helps to inform all stakeholders of the
progress of the Task Force, while keeping abreast of local, regional and
national information. An important role of this group is to ensure issues are
identified and communicated quickly to those audiences relevant to the Task
Force, and across the working groups themselves.

Sector Recovery Strategy

A resource
where stakeholders can connect and collaborate and be ready for when recovery
begins. The group is be an information repository for industry as recovery
programs are being developed and will begin developing a business readiness
toolkit for industry operators.

We hope Vancouver’s example is helpful
as you develop your own structures to deal with the situation. You might want
to form a task force with no committees, or a task force with different
committees. The important advice here is to determine what areas need to be
addressed and divide up the work so that it does not become overwhelming to any
person or organization. Another important consideration is to have a structure
in place that provides for openness and transparency, while jointly holding
each accountable for actions to be undertaken. 
 To that end, it is essential that
task force members communicate the updates and findings of the effort to their
own stakeholders on an ongoing basis.  

We would like to thank Tourism
Vancouver and all their partners for sharing their approach with you. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
African Proverb

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Advice: COVID-19 for destinations and convention bureaus Issue #2.


GainingEdge Advisory Issue

Entrepreneur using video call conference on laptop to talk to colleague in startup office. Business man attending online teleconference meeting with person to discuss project and strategy.

COVID-19 and Destination Promoters

What do you do when the whole world is in crisis mode?

As COVID-19 is an officially declared pandemic, nowhere is immune. Our hearts go out for those that are suffering the worst, the people and the countries. At times like these, despair and resignation are understandable and normal human responses. Is it possible that, even out of something this bad, there could still be opportunity in adversity?

In our view, there is always opportunity in adversity, it is all about the response. Our advice is that there are ways that you can actually wrestle this situation into some positives:

  1. Win back the business you are going to lose
  2. Gain more credibility in the market
  3. Build a more united supplier community
  4. Improve your market intelligence
  5. Add to your sales pipeline through increased research
  6. Engineer more efficient processes
  7. Strengthen your esprit de corps
  8. Achieve faster business growth in the future
  9. Generate more local community understanding and support
  10. Bring your government on board like never before

Here is some perspective and advice we hope will be helpful to you in trying to achieve these things.

Time to Communicate – Really Well

At times like these it’s important to remember that you have multiple audiences and that they are all important. Your staff, board, business partners, local industry, government and the broader community as well as your customers need to be engaged.

When it comes to the local stakeholders, they will all want to feel consulted and listened to, kept up-todate and to be able to contribute to solutions moving forward. If you become communications central and the epicentre of the response planning then you are in a position to lead your team and your community towards achievement of the outcomes listed above.

What you should be saying to customers
The key drive for your communications right now should be about building credibility.

No amount of destination promotion is going to calm the fear. Saying that any destination is safe just isn’t credible. The assumption is the whole world is exposed and that the pandemic could spring up anywhere and everywhere. So, if your destination is currently safe, the real question on peoples’ minds will be, “for how long?”

Our advice is that there’s only one kind of communication right now that can really bring you value – communication designed to build your credibility among potential customers. Credibility is power. Use this time to build credibility more than trying to build interest in your destination. Then when the situation improves, you can leverage the credibility you’ve built and use it to immediate effect. Customers will be more predisposed to you because you’ve built more trust with them.

What is credible communication? Short, radically transparent, spin-free and to the point, such as:

  • What’s the COVD-19 situation in your destination and country?
  • What groups are cancelling?
  • What’s happening to visitor numbers and hotel occupancy rates?
  • How are flights being affected?
  • How is your government responding?

If the situation is bad, don’t attempt to hide or spin the facts. Share the facts. As a destination promoter, you’ll gain credibility when you do. And, in the current environment there’s really not much you can lose.

Then when things start improving give the same type of information. Groups are booking, visitor numbers and occupancies are going up, flights are returning. Because you were transparent, your customers will trust your information. Again, the trust you can build could be one of the most positive things you can derive from this whole situation.

Your Greatest Strategic Focus should be on Recovery

There are two fundamental principles of crisis management, mitigation and recovery.

Mitigation is what you do during the crisis to make things better. This should be thoroughly explored, but in the current reality there are limits to what you can do. For example, if groups are cancelling dates you won’t be able to convince them otherwise. The focus should be on getting them to reschedule. Turn a cancellation into a postponement or a rebooking when you can.

You should be working with your industry to develop a city-wide response to clients wanting to cancel or postpone their events. It’s in your destination’s interests to minimise the pain and to keep clients on side and more favourably disposed when in recovery mode.

Your industry can also provide you with data on business lost or affected. This will help you communicate effectively and also to develop a strong business case to government for crisis support.

While the mitigation phase is not likely to afford any short-term selling opportunities, it is a time when you can focus on building stronger client relationships for the future. Think of ways that you and your team can connect with current and potential clients in a way that is more personal and less business orientated.

Resist any pressure to make staff reductions, your team is your backbone. You are going to need all of them to help you manage your communications and stakeholder engagement efforts and to effectively plan for and then implement the recovery phase.

Rebound Strategy
Rebound is what you do once the crisis is over to recover what you’ve lost as quickly as possible. Your rebound strategy should be developed around restoring your business levels and recouping your losses. Here’s the calculation:

  1. What was our business trend line before the crisis?
  2. How has the crisis impacted that trend line and how much business did we lose?
  3. How much business will we need to secure to both restore our trend line and recover what we lost?

Keep in mind, many of your competitors will be doing the same thing. So, what do you do to stay ahead of the pack?

Engage your local stakeholders
When everyone else is panicking, true leaders emerge. If you are leading your destination, you need to get your stakeholders in a room and help them to work with you to find solutions. They should be part of your
brainstorming on your communications, mitigation and rebound strategies.

A crisis is probably the most opportune time to get your stakeholders working more cooperatively. Leverage that sense of common purpose to build an even stronger and more united supplier community – another lasting positive outcome that you can take from this crisis.

Refocus your team’s energies to best effect
You and your team will likely be spending less time servicing and selling these days. As an example, we all recently lost the opportunity to promote our destinations at IMEX. So, what do we do instead? Think about it, just traveling and participating in a show like IMEX is effectively a week of time, or more. How many people did you have going and how many people-weeks can you now reinvest?

During the depths of this disruption, you may find that customers are less interested in talking, even if you are focusing on events that are years or more into the future. So, what can salespeople do when they aren’t selling? They can be preparing themselves better to sell more efficiently when things improve.

Now is a good time to strengthen and build your client database. Research and prioritise accounts. You could also take a pause and have your team get creative on engineering a better future. When the time comes and markets start to move again, have a plan and new creative approaches for how your team is going to do things faster, better and more successfully.

Address your resource needs
COVID-19 is a wake-up call for policy makers. They too are human, and they take things for granted until times get tough. Most destinations are losing business, and that becomes news the policy makers notice. Our industry is front of mind right now and they are feeling our pain. Your rebound strategy should be developed into a business case for one-off “recovery funds” that you request. Governments typically shun requests for new recurring funding, but are often more open to requests for special, non-recurring funding. They are looking to provide funding that tells the story of them addressing the business loss from this crisis. Their pocketbooks will be open and you need to give them a plan soon with numbers and an ROI analysis.

Hopefully, the world will get past this soon. In the meantime, you can use this difficult time to focus on getting stronger, a focus which will pay dividends far into the future.

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What do you when the whole world is in crisis mode?