Looking beyond the benefits of tourism

Association meetings leave a wide-ranging legacy for the host destination, but they are still viewed as a component of tourism

Associations hold events and related activities within their own country and in some cases, bid for or host international events for their affiliated overseas associations or federations.
Traditionally, the tourism authorities record these association events within the context of tourism, such as tourist arrivals, hotel room bookings, shopping and restaurant receipts, etc. However, current discussions in the association community are focusing on the “beyond tourism” aspects, which among others, consist of knowledge and technology transfer, sustainable development, and other related topics.

Such shift in thinking on the long-term contribution of association events to the local host destination is a good thing. For one, this increases the significance and benefits of association events to both the destination and to the organising association.

Secondly, this elevates the discussion and builds up the support system for the country’s policymakers to include – aside from the tourism portfolio – the education, investment, and economic portfolios. By expanding the support ecosystem for association events, these key stakeholders can reap the benefits that such events have long been contributing to the country’s economic development.

It has been a long-held belief that business meetings are a major source of revenue for the destination. Economic impact studies released have proven to governments that these events were indeed key revenue generators, citing amounts in the billions of dollars. However, these reports are still very much anchored on travel expenditures which still reinforce the concept that these meetings are primarily about tourism spending.

A scoping study on events that covered beyond tourism benefits was published by Business Events Sydney in May 2010. It cited the long-term economic and societal benefits and legacies of such events. The study mentioned, among others, collaborative learning, social interaction, workplace and industry policy improvement – all of which have provided a positive impact on the destination and its reputation.

I think it is high time for more associations to go beyond the traditional tourism-focused approach taken for their meetings and events, and hope that economic policymakers would soon have the same view.

Octavio B Peralta is the secretary general of Manila-based Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific. As an experienced professional association executive, he contributes his time and knowledge to furthering the profession. He founded of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, and initiated the formation of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations.