The destination of a congress is paramount to its success and can often make or break your event. It can underpin and influence all of your key metrics: attendance, engagement, ROI – the list goes on. Indeed, whilst a good destination can enhance and add value to your congress, a poorly chosen destination can result in complete disaster.
Whilst the venue is important, it is also important to look at the bigger picture. City, region or country can all impact your destination decision and play an important part in the success of your congress. We’ve outlined ten important areas to consider when facing the destination dilemma:
1 – Does your destination fit your budget?
It may seem basic, but different destinations will represent a different level of financial investment. In some cities things simply cost more, so it is important to work out what your budget is at an early stage, and then plan how this can be best used to support the numerous costs involved in creating your congress.
2 – Will the destination appeal to your delegates?
Each city is unique in its appeal and can offer vastly different attractions and experiences for delegates. You know your delegates so make sure you match up what will appeal to them with what your destination can offer. For example, if you are organising a congress with an archaeological focus, maybe consider Rome? Or if your delegates are interested in multiculturalism, how about London or Paris?
3 – What else is there to do?
Your delegates will most likely have some spare time during your congress. The destination choice should make them look forward to this rather than dread it. Ask yourself, what else is there to do in and around the destination? For large cities the attractions are obvious, but for more remote destinations, there is always the risk of delegates getting bored, especially if your event is ‘off-season’.
4 – Is the timing right?
You need to be aware of any major events taking place at a potential destination as these can have a significant impact on your ability to successfully run your congress. Hotel rooms are finite, as are spaces on flights. For example, in recent years, London as a destination would have been affected by the 2012 Olympics, Royal Weddings, Tube strikes and riots (the latter being less easy to predict).
5 – Is the destination stable and secure?
Just watching the news will give you a good idea of the countries and regions to avoid, but you need to do more research than this. Resources like the Foreign Office offer excellent advice on local conditions around the world. It’s not just about avoiding war zones. You need to do your homework to really understand your destination before making any firm commitments.
6 – Does the city have good transport links?
A robust and comprehensive transport system of sufficient quality and breadth to allow your delegates safe and comfortable travel is a must have. If you’re expecting international delegates, what are the air links like? Is it simple to get to and from the airport and what are subsequent connections like? For mostly domestic travellers, rail links and parking availability will be more important. Without these provisions in place you could be facing a chaotic start to your congress with some less than happy delegates.
7 – Can you make use of the local convention bureau?
The local convention bureau will be a fountain of local knowledge and will have valuable experience and understanding of what makes a successful congress in their destination. They may even be able to give tips for boosting delegate numbers, such as regionalised giveaways, and it might be worth discussing regional branding throughout the city too.
The convention bureau should also be able to help with accommodation booking and favourable rates, along with organising welcome parties at transport hubs.
8 – Are there any government resources or funding available?
If relevant, this is well worth exploring for each destination you are considering. Certain governments may have funding and resources available for events that support a particular message or initiative. In many areas, for example, if you can prove your congress will generate economic benefits for the city and improve its reputation as a conference destination then you may be eligible for support via subvention funds.
9 – Are there local businesses you can utilise?
Examine partnerships with local restaurants, shops and attractions to add value to the delegate package. For example, offering discounted entry into local attractions or favourable rates at local restaurants will help make the cost of travel and entry to the congress more justifiable.
10 – Can you speak to other associations that have held congresses in the city?
Recommendations from those with first-hand experience can be hugely valuable. Dip into your own contact book or see if the convention bureau will put you in touch with associations that have held congresses in each of the destinations you’re considering. They’re much more likely to speak candidly and relate to your situation.
We’ve only just started to cover the basics here but you can already see just how many factors need to be considered in the decision-making process. Asking yourself these questions will help you begin to narrow down your search, but the amount of time required to source the perfect destination shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s a lengthy task, but ultimately rewarding when you get it right!