115 delegates participated in the ECM Autumn Meeting. The meeting was hosted by the city of Bilbao, Spain, from 16th to 19th November 2011 and the seminar topic focussed on best practice in city marketing approaches, methods, projects and processes that have proven themselves over time and can therefore serve as role models.
Garry White, Head of Global Network and Global Strategy at VisitBritain, provided a keynote address in which he drew on his global experience of destination marketing to review trends, problems and opportunities. He left delegates with the challenging question of how best to promote the Western European city tourism offer to BRIC and other emergent markets.
Taking a cue from what has become known as the Guggenheim effect, host city Bilbao showed how an iconic mega attraction can transform destination image, leading to a sustained expansion of business and leisure tourism which continues to have far-reaching economic, social and cultural impacts. Alfonso Vegara, President, Fundación Metrópoli, presented a vision of the ongoing physical and architectural transformation of Bilbao, emphasising the city region dimension. Alfonso Martinez Cearra, General Manager, Bilbao Metrópoli 30, examined the Guggenheim effect from an historical and social perspective, from the hugely popular floral dog sitting outside the Guggenheim Museum to the community linkages engendered by tram and subway developments.
The second half of the seminar shifted attention from flagship developments to marketing and visitor servicing best. First up was a demonstration of the impactful branding and communication activities of the Vienna Tourist Board, illustrated by an innovative Vertical London promotion recently undertaken in Trafalgar Square. The Chief Executive of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Scott Taylor, provided insights into the success of his organisation’s award winning convention department. His message throughout was on exceeding expectations through delegate, industry and client focus. The so-called Glasgow Model used convention subsidy to minimise risk to the client and maximise engagement. A final presentation showed how Stockholm had introduced a comprehensive and innovative range of visitor servicing arrangements, working through private providers of information services as well as partners such as the airport and congress and retail centres. Delegates were shown how the new, leading edge Stockholm Tourist Centre achieved an 85% customer satisfaction level, and how a collaboration with Arlanda airport had led to a jointly operated visitor reception facility and the celebrated Hall of Fame.
The next ECM meeting will take place in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 28th to 31st March 2012 where participants will have the opportunity to review and debate the future of Europe’s city tourist offices and convention bureaux.