Advanced destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are positioning themselves in the meetings market as gateways to their intellectual capital, versus just another city with a collection of convention centers, convention hotels and “unique local experiences.”

As we covered earlier this year following the IMEX Frankfurt meetings industry conference, DMOs are facing greater competition to attract conventions due to the rising number of emerging cities building convention centers and improved meetings infrastructure overall.

To differentiate themselves, cities are formalizing networks of local intellectual and business influencers to attract convention organizers operating in those influencers’ industry sectors. Basically, that base of knowledge expertise is now part of the meeting and convention product lineup in the destination.

DMO executives refer to this knowledge base as their city’s intellectual software to complement their existing infrastructure hardware.

Expanding on that analogy, Apple sells a lot of products because it creates what consumers feel is a better user experience in an industry where there’s a lot of similar product. DMOs feel they can do the same if they sell how planners can use a city — the urban user experience — versus just what’s in the city.

There’s never been a lot of data to prove that this is an attractive value proposition for meeting planners, however, especially in North America where this trend is less established than in places like Europe and Australia.

Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki is a destination marketing executive specializing in DMO strategy in the meetings and convention market, who heads up the empowerMINT.com meeting destination sourcing platform affiliated with Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI). After reading our IMEX Frankfurt post, she wondered if selling meeting expertise above and beyond selling meeting environment was really a significant business driver, or if it was merely a new marketing tactic.

“In terms of domestic planners, I don’t think this is as much on their radar as internationally,” she told Skift. “I was curious where this was landing in the U.S. mindset, because if this offers real business opportunities, I’d like to see more DMOs in the middle of that conversation.”

Shimasaki’s empowermint.com portal collaborates with Convene, the media platform for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), to produce the Convene eplanner surveys. This summer, Shimasaki developed a survey to test North American planners’ interest in destinations selling their expertise.

Convene just published the results this month (see below chart).

A majority of the 128 survey respondents replied positively that “industry knowledge clusters that align with your meetngs’ content and audience” is important to varying degrees.

While that’s obviously a small data set, it is at least a starting point for more indepth discussion in the industry.

“I think the survey results reveal an important shift in the meetings industry,” says Michelle Russell, editor in chief of Convene.” I think we will see this trend continue to grow as meeting organizers realize the benefit of collaborating with DMOs in order to tap into local experts as speakers. We’ve also spoken to meeting organizers who have built tours of institutes, business campuses, universities, laboratories and hospitals into the conference program as a way to enrich attendees’ learning experience.”

Shimasaki is meeting with DMAI’s advisory board in Philadelphia this month where they will discuss this further and develop next steps for wider industry education. She also says she plans to marry this data with the ongoing Decision to Attend research at The Experience Institute, which provides data about why association attendees choose to attend conventions based on location.

“I think our survey is really about the marriage between the clusters of industry intelligence that planners are looking for and that local element that attendees want,” Shimasaki told us. “There’s enough here for us to do a deeper dive now.”

Convene - September 2015

Photo Credit: Stuttgart Convention Bureau is leveraging its World of Energy Solutions Conference to attract meeting planners interested in engaging with leaders in electric mobility. World of Energy Solutions