3 Ways Events Impact A City Strategy

Events; City; Brand Strategy; Matt Lambert

Building a sense of place and reputation takes a well rounded and creative strategy. When thinking of possibilities to build a better perception, those responsible need to think about existing structures along with what could be. Many think about the arts, culture, and tourist offerings in drawing the attention of outsiders, or even awakening the imagination of locals. However, one area tends to be neglected: EVENTS, especially yearly, dependable events that leverage the strength of existing communities while also getting branded for outsiders as well.

Yearly conferences, gatherings of professionals, and meet ups capture the attention of both locals and travelers depending on their niche. Annual events play into the story and message of a place that needs to be communicated to a wider audience. Developing a place’s story can be enhanced by the use of annual events and conferences creating growth of businesses, brand, and determining future goals of the city or place.

Brand Development

Events feed the desired brand of the city (or country). When we speak of brands, we are talking more about the substance of a place. We are talking about its reputation and the reasons for taking the time to visit or possibly move there. A good example is Estonia in recent years. Their purpose was to become a frontrunner in tech and policy. In that pursuit, they created e-residency programs, explore blockchain for a variety of industries, and even considered creating a cryptocurrency for public use.

Events fit this type of mold. For a city looking to build a name in an industry or field, partnerships can be formed with existing businesses to create the type of event to build the city brand. A recent example is Sarajevo Unlimited. Sarajevo is wanting to create an identity of being a city for startups and entrepreneurship. Two years ago, they started Unlimited Sarajevo to help build this image and demonstrate their sincerity toward this goal.

Revenue Creation 

Nina Prebesen in The Value Of Events says “events are value creation entities affecting individuals, firms and society.” A strong yearly event draws business into the city. It is a clear win for the city to host an event that feeds into its brand strategy because of the amount of possible revenues for local businesses, and the city itself. Local tourism and hospitality industries are two examples of industries which tend to thrive over the course of a multi day conference.

One example is an extension of the tourist season. If you follow Lonely Planet, they tell you that May is the best month to visit Montenegro. (And I agree.) The crowds are thinner. Prices a bit lower. Weather is perfect especially along the coast. A growing conference in Budva, Spark.me helps to draw outsiders into this small Adriatic country and draw this early season traveler. A conference on innovation, marketing, and entrepreneurship helps promote the goals of the country in giving travelers another reason to visit in May.

Define Goals

The occurrence of yearly events and conferences solidifies comprehensive goals of the place. While not all events need to have direct connection with the stated goals of the city or its identity, all events need to clearly demonstrate how they play a part. Defining comprehensive goals help the city build a plan and determine priorities for the place.

Going back to the example of Spark in Budva, Montenegro, Spark is a business conference on the coast of Montenegro. Budva is not trying to become the center of business for the country, however, they share the purpose of developing a stronger identity of Montenegro for business and strengthening the extended tourist season. The regular and consistent occurrence of Spark should be a priority for the local government and national government because of its growth over the last 6 years.  The conference is able to leverage the natural resources of the country, and the local government should leverage the strength of a growing conference to build on its goals of tourism development.

Creating and promoting an annual event is not a passive task left alone to private businesses to complete. Governments should be actively seeking out existing events, supporting them, and helping them grow as they fit the goals of the place. The planning and coordination of events is a strategic task that all too often goes unnoticed. However, events can be powerful tools for countries and places in the process of redefining themselves or communicating their identity.

A well defined and curated event helps cities and countries build a sense of place for their people and travelers. They bring value to the people, businesses, and overall community. Left alone, they can be chaotic and lack purpose, but when all stakeholders come together to collaborate, events can be powerful tools to develop the city message and brand.

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