Opinion

Destinations do matter… by Jove… he's got it!

By Linda Pereira, CPL Meetings & Events

I attend a lot of congresses and trade shows. I speak at even more of them. Constantly we discuss destinations, how to choose them, why we choose them and of course the difference that destination choice makes on the outcomes and objectives of meetings and events. Then of course there is the fact that I both buy and sell destinations to clients so I get to analyse the arguments from both sides.

Selecting the right destination for your event is critical, it is without a doubt your insurance policy, and should be decided on its business merits and founded on a business rationale. When the decision is being made by an association it becomes even more important. The right decision will protect the association, contribute to the reduction of costs, mitigate risk and fulfill all stakeholder expectations. And when the destination is not only appealing, accessible and affordable, your delegate numbers will be guaranteed to increase. And as Congress Organizers we are only too well aware that successful management of a conference ultimately depends on the positive feedback received from all stakeholders, whether they are organizing committees, delegates, exhibitors, sponsors, accompanying persons or speakers.

So of course when I became the Secretary General of my own destination’s Ambassador Club, it was time to really think about what my destination could truly offer the world of meetings and its many complexities and requirements. It was time to discover whether my destination could really walk the talk. Do we have a united, strong local supplier chain? Do our local politicians truly understand the value of the Meetings Industry and all its potential? Do we truly have a competitive game plan in place? Yes, the destination ticks all the boxes as regards infrastructure and breathtaking landscapes. Flanked by the Atlantic Ocean at its feet, and the mountains covered in lush greenery and topped by palaces and convents of ages-gone-by proudly lording it over the modern-day sprawling summer houses. But beauty in itself does not win the race and we are fortunate enough to have the amazing professionals who turn ideas into reality, productive business solutions and ROI-delivering projects. However, no matter what the private sector does, we all know only too well that without the support of the local government leaders a lot falls by the wayside. But we also have a local government with a vision and this is our safety net. Cascais has a vision, to become the best place to live for a day or for a lifetime! Now what promise could be better than that? To be the most welcoming destination, no matter how long you stay, is not only ambitious but also a guarantee that Cascais will be the perfect stage for any event...and a home from home for all.

All those who come to Cascais and the Estoril Coast, arrive as strangers but leave as friends. It has always been that way. It explains why so many of those noble families or refugees from tyranny during World War II who came here hoping to journey on by sea to other continents, opted in the end to remain here and today, their descendants are an integral part of Cascais. It explains why we have a Museum called “In Memory of Exile”. When you arrive in Cascais it feels familiar, welcoming, and comfortable. You just fit. You easily make friends, adapt to the rhythm, and intuitively know how to orient yourself. Cascais feels like a village but has the comfort of a city. It is cosmopolitan and modern but safe and people-friendly. It has five star hotels, a fabulous state-of-the-art congress centre but also shops that bake bread, dressmakers, cobblers and fishermen, the Michelin star restaurant and the local tavern. You immediately have a local café, a local bar, a local bakery, a local shop...in the space of 24 hours...you are a local yourself. Cascais is very human in a modern world.

Cascais is the very essence of what a meeting or event itself should be. I often say that I do not organize events; I work with the knowledge economy.

After every event no matter what sector, or field or theme is being discussed, the world always gets a little better. If it is music, people are happier, if it is medical, then medicine advances, if it is science then the world develops just a little more... Cascais offers the stage for that possibility to occur by its mere nature. Cascais has the potential to become a knowledge hub, a meeting point of cultures, an axis of knowledge exchange a catalyst for local solutions to global problems.

The singular appeal of Cascais goes beyond its proximity to the capital city. It captivates with history, charm and elegance. It is also both soulful and affordable and there is no better place to enjoy old-world glamour — but at a commoner’s price.

We have in the past been really bad marketers…we have failed to understand the value of what our destination truly has to offer and so we have not been able to transmit it clearly to others. We have failed to pass on the message that Cascais is the perfect networking destination. This week as I sat back and listened to the Deputy Mayor of Cascais, Miguel Pinto Luz, describe the strategy for the future as regards the destination, the business plan and the ambition of making it the place to be...I thought thank God somebody has finally understood the message and I felt the same excitement as Professor Higgins1, as he suddenly realized that all his work had not been in vain...he’s got it, by Jove he’s got it!

 

Tags: Competition, Destination

18-05-2015