Why there is the need to question and evaluate your destination on a regular basis.
“Let’s say I’m talking about Madrid” is a song of love and hate for this city, as described by its author, Joaquin Sabina. Knowing the good, but specially the not so good sides of your destination might help you reconsider or rediscover your USP.
While working on one of our consulting projects, concerning the development of a very engaged and exciting, emerging European destination, we were also asked to develop for the client a comprehensive list of business standards, both general as well as those more relevant to the development of their destination, in order to be attractive for International business events. I did not think much of it first, but as we were working on the content, it made me consider how strongly they wanted to be part of the top destinations in Europe. Only when you know what you are missing, you can do something about it.
Many of the well stablished European meeting destinations have the needed infrastructure for different size meetings, in terms of accommodation, congress centres, cultural and gastronomic offer as well as easy accessibility.
Clearly the number of rooms they have, or how many people they can fit in the plenary room of their congress venues will be relevant only when it comes to certain size meetings, making your destination “necessary”, but not unique.
Small and medium size meetings happen in much larger numbers than those so-called city wide and are also the backbone of the meeting industry. For these kind of events, there is a much greater number of destinations able to tend to their needs. The questions is, how are these destinations going to market themselves in the future? What is going to be their USP, for not been easily exchangeable?
It is pretty clear that, any emerging destination in Europe faces hard competition, when it comes to attract International business to their shores. But is also true, those are coming into the picture with a new mind set. By engaging experts to help them to develop the right assets and standards, and going through a serious self-assessment to find out their “haves and have-nots”, they will have the chance to start a new “destination” from scratch, fulfilling the actual client needs and demands. And they have the advantage of being new, fresh and to be discovered.
So I think is about time that many of those established destination stop following their perception of market demands, and start listening what the client is really looking for. Start by taking a real and deeper look into your city, discover its true assets, and open your ears when a client is telling you what you have and not what you think you have. Provide feedback to all your local partners about what they need to change or adjust, to become again a more competitive destination.
Some large business events might be forced to pick a destination out of necessity, but the meeting industry moves a lot more than that.
Getting some extra set of eyes & ears, from the outside, does help to take a better and realistic look at your destination.
You might find out that, it might not help to have an amazing public transport system, if that system is not able to understand the specific needs and to facilitate the travelling of 3.000 delegates to and from the congress venue during the four days of the event. Their trains might run every day like a Swiss clock, but that’s irrelevant for the event organiser.
And it goes beyond what the client expects and likes in a destination. It is about that special “thing” that makes your destination unique. That’s what the client really needs today, and what makes her/him choose you instead of other.
So be well-prepared when the client will ask you next time, what your true USP is and what sets you apart from all the other. Failing to do that will make you just another destination, easy to be replaced or exchanged the next time around.