A survey of 134 convention bureaus in 33 European countries, by Dr Rob Davidson of MICE Knowledge, showed that 1 in 4 of these destination marketing organisations have had reductions in staff levels, and 1 in 3 have suffered cuts in their public sector funding since the beginning of the pandemic. 75% of convention bureaus depending on financial support from their partners or members have had reductions in funding from those sources. But, despite all this, a clear majority (3 in 4) of the convention bureaus are optimistic or very optimistic about their future, according to the report, ‘The Impacts of the Pandemic on Convention Bureaus in Europe’.
Responses to the survey show that many convention bureaus have suspended one or more of their marketing activities, such as bidding and advertising, but others have switched over to digitalised forms, from virtual fam trips and digital awards ceremonies for ambassadors, to participation in online exhibitions.
Many have used the past year to focus on making improvements to their services, resulting, for example, in more effective websites, bid books, and use of the social media. Various European convention bureaus have also increased their education and training activities, improving their own skills and knowledge as well as those of their stakeholders.
In terms of the convention bureaus’ predictions for the future, there is widespread expectation that the digitalisation of meetings will continue into the post-pandemic world; there will be more focus on local and national markets; health, hygiene and safety of destinations will be paramount; sustainability, wellness and the social legacy of meetings will become more relevant; and in-person meetings will be generally smaller and shorter but will have to offer participants more genuine value.
Rob Davidson says: “This survey indicates that European convention bureaus are working hard to support their destinations by innovating and adapting to the immense challenges now facing them, including continuing uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic. It provides evidence that when the recovery comes, the bureaus will be ready and willing to play their part in restoring prosperity, travel and animation in their destinations”.
The 48-page report, ‘The Impacts of the Pandemic on Convention Bureaus in Europe’ is available here.