As the tourism industry navigates through the global pandemic, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are redefining their roles and how they deliver value to industry and community stakeholders. Beyond simply driving visitation interest from leisure travelers, DMOs are realizing that business events, conferences, and trade shows are key to long-term regional economic growth and development.

While the idea of a unified front between tourism, meetings, and economic development sectors becomes more widely adopted, Destination Canada has led with this strategy over the last three years.

At Skift Forum Europe 2020, Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, Executive Director of Destination Canada Business Events and Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director of Business Development, Economic Sectors, Destination Canada Business Events discussed why they’ve implemented this strategy, how the organization operates, and how DMOs around the world can become stewards for tourism growth and economic development in their respective regions.

Here are some takeaways for DMOs looking to elevate their role and become engines for economic growth:

Find unique regional strengths and economic sectors

Canada’s sector strategy approach to attracting business events is aligned with key priority economic sectors and Canadian values. “[Our objective is] to promote health and life sciences, climate change, technology for good, blue ocean economies, sustainability, and community strength and resilience. As such, our approach targets select global business events within life sciences, technology, advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and natural resources sectors,” said Sturk-Nadeau.

Focus on quality over quantity

It’s important to establish a criteria to determine what to prioritize to cut through the noise. As a starting point, consider what events will help your destination promote sector strengths to new audiences in new ways. “Our approach is less about quantity, and more about quality: does the event fall within one of our five sectors, is it aligned with Canadian priorities and values? If the answer is yes, then that’s where we’ll spend our energies. Events that don’t meet that criteria, will become a lower priority,” said Sturk-Nadeau.

Elevate local innovators and creators

Destinations should spotlight innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs and small and large businesses to showcase knowledge capital. This will help build anticipation about experiencing local culture and leveraging local expertise. “We will also grow global awareness of Canada’s knowledge capital through what we call our ‘glowing hearts’ stories of Canadian innovation … helping create an emotional connection with our audience that will help fuel the desire to meet in Canada,” said Sturk-Nadeau. “A thoughtful, community-based approach to tourism will lift up culture, art, community confidence and pride, and ultimately, innovation. It will also be a catalyst for economic recovery not just for Canada but for the countries of the global organizations that meet here.”

Don’t just be a tourism promoter. Be a change agent

Destinations that make sector-focused business development decisions will become a magnet for events in their industries and sub-sectors. Attracting such events will not only benefit the host organization, they benefit the community by drawing in people and investment, helping to grow regional economies.

“When destinations focus on their intellectual assets in a particular industry or sector sphere, they can aid local industry, accelerate ahead of other communities, and become leaders in their field,” said Sturk-Nadeau.

Educate local government, economic development agencies, and the community on the value of business events

“In Canada tourism falls within the portfolio of federal economic development. Aligning our business event attraction strategy with the federal economic development strategy has captured their attention, that’s for sure!” said De Visscher. “Events bring people to the country, focus on a certain topic in line with Canada’s economy and policy building. For example, medical events bring healthcare professionals to discuss and advance the latest technologies and discoveries that will shape the future of anything from new medical devices, to cures to infectious diseases to digital health policies.

“The legacies that they leave behind in the host country take various forms from talent attraction (healthcare professionals that decide to stay in Canada to continue their work), R&D partnerships to work on research between different international institutions, and potential trade and investment deals between corporations. This does not even start to take into account the multiple potential social impacts on the destination and its communities.”

To learn more about hosting meaningful meetings in Canada, and how Destination Canada’s business events team can assist with planning your next business event, visit their website.