Local ambassadors’ associations on the meetings market integrate specialists and organisations looking forward to bringing business meetings and events to a selected destination. The Edinburgh case proves these circles can be also a strong support in the convention bureau’s legitimisation process.
Policy issues in running convention bureaux
The support of city authorities, characteristic to many convention bureaux, make the organisations dependent on the political influences. In result, their legitimacy could be easily questioned. The issue has been raised recently by the destination marketing organisations in the USA, while in Europe, Marketing Edinburgh and Convention Edinburgh have faced the risk of ceasing.
At the beginning of the year, the Scotland’s capital’s city council gave the Edinburgh development strategy for 2019-2023 for a public consultation. The project aimed to provide a budget saving of £41 million, and one of the planned steps to undertake included the reduction of subsidies for the city’s DMO by 89% (£ 790,000) until 2021. The local congress ambassadors have criticised the idea severely.
The Edinburgh ambassadors’ demur
The association of local ambassadors has been established in 1998. Since then, thanks to its members initiatives, 1,348 conferences have been won for the city, which have gathered over 528 thousand participants and are estimated to have contributed £900 million to local GDP. A letter of opposition to decrease the public financial support for Marketing Edinburgh was signed by 75 ambassadors and 25 organisations. The disapproval was justified by the following concerns: the convention bureau’s closure, destroying the current mechanisms of support in bidding for the international events, putting in jeopardy the Edinburgh’s position as a renowned scientific centre and the top-notch conference destination. According to the ambassadors, the city without convention bureau acts amateur and is not able to perform as a reliable partner on the meetings market.
Felicity Mehendale, honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, commented:
“Winning bids for prestigious international congresses brings significant business to Edinburgh and many repeat visitors. However, bidding is now extremely competitive, and we simply cannot rely solely upon the academic reputation of Edinburgh – we absolutely need an organisation like Marketing Edinburgh to help with the many aspects of conference bidding which is beyond our remit as academics.”
Brian Corcoran, CEO, Turing Festival added:
“Turing Fest brings many business visitors into Edinburgh every year. Our mission is to take that number – of investors, entrepreneurs, start-ups, global tech companies, technical talent, customers – up to 10,000 over the next few years, which will help establish Edinburgh internationally as one of Europe’s best tech hubs. Marketing Edinburgh has been a great support to us in our journey so far – helping source venues and hotels and creating synergies by connecting us to other operators in the city”.
Results: DMO structures to be reinvented
After closing the public consultations, the city authorities obliged Marketing Edinburgh to introduce a new business model of the local tourism organisation. The planned reduction of co-financing was temporarily diminished to £300,000. Eventually, however, the DMO is expected to operate without any public funding.
AMI Magazine, Conference ambassadors: the art of persuasion, 12.04.2019.
AMI Magazine, Academics voice anger as 89% cuts threaten bureau, 11.02.2019.
Conference & Meetings World, Edinburgh’s academic leaders condemn proposed Convention Bureau budget cuts by City Council, 12.02.2019.
Daily Business, Outrage over plans to slash Marketing Edinburgh budget, 30.01.2019.
Stand Out Magazine, Marketing Edinburgh appeals to sector after council plans to cull £790k funding, 02.2019.
Pic.: Marketing Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland.