How to attract association meetings, Riga takes a stand

4th Nov, 2016

Subvention – is it the New Black of the meeting industry or should one consider it as the very last option for the destination to win an association meeting?

Association meetings have been around for decades on now. But how did it change through the years and why it is getting harder for association planners and executives to raise funds, as well as for destinations to attract association meetings? If you look at what is easy to do, getting subventions or at least some kind of support from a destination is on top of the list.

It’s no secret. Many destinations offer subventions and support programmes to attract (should we say even lure?) associations. The latest research conducted by The Right Solutions Ltd indicates that subventions are playing, if not a large, but an important role when the associations make the decision as to where to take their next event. The 2016 BVEP Subvention Research shows that 50% of respondents acknowledge “significant influence in decision making” if there are offered subventions. The highest stake is direct (cash) subsidy – if you believe 75% from all respondents – followed by discounts on venues costs. Only 17% of the respondents admit that the possibility of a subvention doesn’t have an influence on the selection of a destination.

Latvian National OperaThen, instantly raised question: is it useful to make a comparison of the total costs involved in several destinations or should the association planners blindly choose the destination that offer subventions because, indeed, there are subventions? Shouldn’t it be wiser to base yourself on the general costs of your meeting(s)? Do, for instance, hotel rooms rates include breakfast, free WiFi and such, or the rates will be for the rooms only and there will be extra charges for other services? And if the Welcome Reception is “offered”, will it be as good as if you had organised it yourself?

In the end, how will subventions impact the delegates of the event? Can associations rely on subventions, while there could be a hidden, often political agenda, not in line with your association’s mission for instance?  

And if destinations don’t offer subventions, what could be done for them to still be competitive?

As Aigars Smiltans, Director of MEET RIGA, says: “When associations are looking for the next destination to hold their meetings to, I think subventions should be the last thing on their mind! First things to be checked would be if the destination can indeed host their event, what the total costs will be – it is that simple. What I mean by this is that planners should be able to look at the bigger picture, and not see everything through the prism of what it will cost to the association itself. Is transportation affordable? Is the destination easily accessible? What does an average meal or cab fare cost for instance? Because all this will have an influence on the decision of a participant to come… or not.”

What Riga & Latvia can offer: affordability vs. subventions

As a MEETings destination, Riga offers a rich, vibrant and multi-layered culture that reflects various historical periods. The destination’s main assets are affordable rates, combined with reliable, top-quality professional services and free WiFi at all hotels. Riga offers great value for money, plus there is newly upgraded meeting infrastructure with close to 100 hotels. In Riga and Latvia you can simply do more for less!

Additionally, Riga is a very walkable city: all the main conference hotels and venues are located close to one another. Delegates don’t need to waste time on long transfers and can easily walk from one place to the other, while leaving minimal carbon footprint on the destination.

Then there is the safety and the reliability of Riga. Politically stable and calm destinations are the next best thing, and can bring inner peace to your meetings. As a MEETings destination, Riga is safe and reliable – it hosted meetings of all sizes and formats during the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. There were indeed more than 200 official and political meetings along some 450 other conferences, corporate events and congresses… without one single safety or security breach.


Aigars Smiltans

Director, MEET RĪGA

T. + 371 2232 0416

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