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Roundtable discussion reveals the real economic value of business events

Industry experts from the business events market, including Mark Taylor, chief executive of the QEII Centre and Fiona Macdonald, senior manager business events at VisitBritain, participated in a roundtable event to discuss the legacy of business events.  

The discussion, which was recently held at the QEII Centre, covered subjects such as the impact business events have on a global scale, the recognition they receive and how the true impact can be measured.

The roundtable event was organised following an economic impact study by Grant Thornton, which revealed gross expenditure associated with events held at the QEII Centre, have contributed £327.5m to the UK economy.

The other industry professionals at the event were Caroline Mackenzie, director of Global Association Partners; and Emma Cashmore, founder and director of Axis Travel Marketing. The roundtable was moderated by Natalie Blachford, senior account manager at Custard Communications; and James Bogle, marketing manager at the QEII Centre.

“Events drive economies – with the destinations I’ve worked with you see how the industry can aid infrastructure in terms of improved transport and accommodation,” said Cashmore.

“In Colombia for example, hosting the One Young World Global Summit last year has led to a substantial increase in five-star hotels which then benefit the tourism industry for years to come.”

Education was identified as another key long-term positive impact of events, albeit one that is harder to quantify.

“I work mainly with associations, and associations are the biggest formal educators across the globe,” said Mackenzie.

“Typically with an association event 20-25 per cent of attendees are local because it’s affordable to attend, and you are bringing world knowledge to them; being able to train and educate local workforce is one of the ‘hidden benefits’ through the collaborations, the ongoing research and the outreach.”

Macdonald added that identifying sector profiles and growth in destinations can help drive business events, using London Tech Week as an example as it not only generates economic value, but it helps to drive the image and reputation of London as a tech city.

“The reason Tech Week is important to London is because tech is a significant sector for the city, it isn’t only because of delegate spend,” added Macdonald.

Looking to the future, the participants in the roundtable agreed that measuring the full ROI of an event is key, taking into account that different stakeholders are looking for different returns as a measure of success.

Trade and investment were cited as “the missing piece” currently, but with initiatives such as JMIC’s Iceberg, the industry is striving to do better and prove the value that everyone working in it already knows to exist.