• John C. Dunn

If you host it, will they come?

Updated: May 20




For host cities, deciding to bid for a major event and the complex nature of financing along with public and private sector support can sometimes feel like being in a cornfield and hearing voices.

Once you take that leap of faith, the effort required to submit a winnable bid does not always include a plan to leverage the event and attract new visitors and business for the host city.

For instance, how will your city attract visitors to arrive early and stay after the event is over?

Over the past two decades, business events along with sport and event tourism have been recognized as a significant and growing travel motivator. This is evidenced by the investment in infrastructure and the increase in competition that has seen the financial guarantees required to secure these events grow.

With so much at stake, guessing and hoping can’t be part of the decision making process.

When Canada hosted the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Halifax and Québec City, the event was known to attract large numbers of travellers from Europe.

In order to increase the number of visitors and therefore the success of the event, the local organizers created the World Adult Rec Hockey Challenge.

This spinoff event engaged the host community by having local teams participate and provide them with a “big league” experience while attracting men’s recreational hockey teams from across Canada and Europe.

The results were that hotel rooms were booked, restaurants and bars were busy and everyone in the level of risk was reduced. This led to an overwhelming recognition of the event’s success.

In order to fully leverage events and maximize the attraction of new business including visitors, here are a few suggestions:

1) Identify the outcomes and key performance indicators (KPI) in your hosting strategy that will define your success and use consistent and reliable measurement.

2) Ensure there are resources available to activate when your win the bid to host so that you can identify the new business opportunities and go get them. Making major events part of a destination’s marketing mix will ensure consistent messaging and call to action.

3) Create communication channels with prospective customers who may be interested in your event, your destination and all of the experiences that they can take advantage of while in market. Once they arrive, have a plan to engage them and convert into repeat visitors.

4) Make the purchase process clear and easy, which will increase the return for the host market.

5) Develop an event culture in your market that provides event specific information to airport, taxi, hotel, restaurant and entertainment operators to help engage the customer and make them feel welcome. The most memorable event experiences often occur outside the conference room or field of play.

Host cities need to be aware that with increasing investments come higher expectations. Recognizing this before you bid will help you achieve more consistent levels of success.

Don’t assume that the hosting rights to a major event will automatically draw visitors to your city or region. They “may” come, if you give them a reason to.

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