(After ‘El amor en los tiempos del colera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Fifty years, nine months, and four days. That is how long Florentino had to wait, after first declaring his love to Fermina, to finally marry her. The book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was written in a style called magical realism. The surrealistic novel that we all ended up in six months ago will hopefully not last that long. But by the end of our book, it looks like the world in which we now live will be different from the one in which we felt comfortable only half a year ago.
DMCs – the need for a new business model?
With the drastic reduction of international events, one of the questions we have been asking ourselves lately is whether the key roles of a DMC can retain meaning. Local logistics and production, creative events and even run of the mill activities such as transfers and dine arounds are not happening. Should we change our business model?
Digitalizing DMCs and Events
At the start of 2020 our company had just come out of the two most successful years of growth and profit in the history of the MCI group. There had been a plan, years ago, to move to digital – and our most recent version of this plan put even more emphasis on digital transformation. Given current circumstances, we may hit our target well ahead of time. However, until Covid19 hit, clients did not easily follow our recommendations into this digital revolution. Nowadays, they absolutely do, and it has been a complete pivot from live to virtual for many of the events we’ve managed over the past few months.
Most people agree that a virtual event cannot replace the Face2Face experience. A virtual meeting requires different planning and new assets. One also needs to upskill on online learning and engagement techniques; skills that a traditional meeting planner does not possess. The format is different, and one needs to safeguard the value proposition and experience for the participant. In terms of marketing, they are easier but different to promote, and more likely to reach much bigger audiences.
Hybrid – the golden opportunity
Hybrid events, I believe, are the trend for the future post Covid19. In hybrid events, the virtual part is basically an extension of the Face2Face. One mixes participants present in the destination, with those who are remote. In this scenario, DMCs can add to the flavour of the destination so that even those who are not present still get a taste and touch of it. A friend of mine has recently created a chocolate and wine tasting team event. The chocolate and wine are shipped to the virtual participants in advance. The event then takes place as a day filled with multiple sessions, followed by a Michelin-star pastry chef taking participants through the chocolate and wine pairing experience. This is a great example of improving engagement, virtually.
The Power of Virtual Connections
I believe that the innovation happening in terms of Virtual/Hybrid events is the new opportunity for DMCs to discover. Both in the way they manage their own business, as well as in the services they provide to clients. It starts with a virtual site inspection or fam trip. Here it is important, in my opinion, that all ‘incoming’ players play the game together. Selling and promoting a destination is a joint task for hoteliers, major venues, convention bureaus and DMCs. Sell your destination first remains the golden rule! As long as the RFP has not been sent out, we all have the obligation to work and partner together to promote our destination above others. One fine example of this was a short video I got in my emails last month, showcasing Slovenia. Another one was the virtual site inspections that the Faroe Islands did two months ago, and a live virtual venue showcase from Norway which focused on sustainability – including a DJ setting the mood, a walk on the beach and an incredible food display. Destination videos are of a prime importance now and I have seen that most DMOs have invested in this recently. Virtual site inspections are the next thing. With the right technology, a destination specialist can tour venues and hotels on behalf of their clients, even being directed by the client if they wish. However, the quality will not come from the technology alone. If you do not have a story to tell, it is not worth the investment.
“For virtual site inspections to replace an actual client visit, it is important not only to deliver your message and show places of interest, but to give the client a true sense of orientation. This includes distances, timings and a suggested flow of events, so the client can feel safe in their knowledge and can get answers to their questions in real time.” Heidi Legein at The MICE guru, our Ovation Strategic Partner for Norway
The crisis has forced companies (both agencies and DMCs) to become more efficient and agile. Virtual site inspections, done right, save all parties crucial time & money and are better for the environment. And, while face to face sales and marketing will always play an important part in the future of our profession, the budget for doing so today is unrealistic. A better balance between digital and in person sales will become inevitably crucial for the financial health of a DMC.
“The crisis has forced all of us to re-evaluate the need for large offices and such fixed overheads, instead investing in better yield projects like training & upskilling our employees, getting certified and updating technological abilities.” Eda Özden of MEP Destination Business Solutions