Christine Shimasaki, CDME, CMP, is the managing director of empowerMINT.com and the Event Impact Calculator for Destination Marketing Association International. She previously served as executive vice president and chief strategy officer for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, as well as a distinguished career in sales with Marriott.
According to a study released by the Convention Industry Council last year, meetings in the United States generate $263 billion in spending, $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue and support 1.7 million jobs annually. But what about YOUR meeting? What impact does your meeting have on the meeting destination in terms of spending by your attendees, exhibitors and organization, by the number of local jobs supported and by the amount of local taxes generated?
Those values have been difficult to ascertain and, until now, have been estimates at best. However, our industry has evolved, and so has the methodology used to place a value on our events. In these days of economic awareness, government spending accountability and social conscience, having the ability to bring your meeting’s value to the local community that supports it is not only good business but creates good public relations.
In September 2011 Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), the trade association for convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), launched a breakthrough tool that can accurately project the economic value of an event to a specific destination, and since that time, CVBs have calculated more than 7,000 events. The Event Impact Calculator (EIC), developed by Tourism Economics, a subsidiary of Oxford Economics, enables subscribing CVBs to accurately measure how your meeting or convention will contribute financially to the host community, both in direct and indirect spending. By providing CVBs with a nationwide standardized platform that is locally customized according to per diem costs unique to their destinations, the online calculator delineates the economic value of your event in terms of sales, jobs, wages and taxes; and comparing the total value of the event to the hosting costs borne by the community — such as incentives and concessions — reveals the destination’s return on investment (ROI). Since its introduction, more than 100 convention and visitors bureaus have become annual subscribers to the online data-centric tool.
Here’s how it works: The calculator is programmed to be city-specific because it has downloaded data on costs by sector from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each CVB is assigned a unique user name and password, which provide access to the model for their destination. The CVB professional who is creating the report enters the type of event (business meeting, conference, trade show), duration and year that the event will be held as well as information on attendance, event costs and contract values. The resulting report summarizes the economic impact of the event, and the destination’s ROI. The economic impact is broken down into these categories: amount of direct spending; indirect and induced spending (the ripple effect from direct spend dollars); amount generated in state and local taxes; number of local jobs directly supported by your meeting.
Obviously, the EIC is invaluable to the CVBs, but it also has great value to the meeting planner. For the CVB, the calculator validates the value of their marketing efforts, substantiating the funding they receive from their local government and stakeholders, and allows them to compare the benefits of booking one meeting over another. But for meeting planners, the calculator confirms the value of their meeting, adding to negotiation power, and provides a positive message that supports the value their meeting has for the local economy.
Most organizations are very concerned with social responsibility and are searching for ways to support SR initiatives on a local, national and global basis. In their year-end sustainability report, the American Chemical Society (ACS)used the EIC report figures from their spring 2011 241st National Meeting and Exposition in Anaheim, CA, to show members that the convention generated $26.81 million in economic value, and supported 5,433 area jobs; the fall 2011 242nd National Meeting and Exposition in Denver, CO produced $20.75 million in economic value and supported 4, 782 jobs. The EIC was an irreplaceable tool in producing this data and allowing the society to substantiate one of the ways in which the organization practices social responsibility. Your meeting may not be on the scale of the ACS conventions, but even the smallest event garners surprising benefits for the community.
It should be noted that as essential as it is, the EIC in no way minimizes the importance of maintaining historical data, which shows trending over the years for your meeting and is a necessary part of your RFP. DMAI‘s empowerMINT database maintains a thriving, robust, constantly updated collection of meeting and convention histories, input by the CVBs where your meetings took place. These post-event reports are especially important in your individual facility negotiations, and may be accessed at empowerMINT.com.
The best first step when you begin planning your meeting has always been the convention and visitors bureau, the destination expert. When you begin researching your next potential meeting location, ask whether the CVB is one of the more than 100 that subscribes to the EIC. If they do, ask them to create your report. As your partners in meeting planning, the CVBs will be happy to work with you in articulating and leveraging the value of your event. AC&F