BestCities Global Forum 2022: Fresh Perspectives on Legacy Impacts!

16th Mar, 2023

The BestCities Global Alliance is a network of cities focused on leveraging positive impacts and paradigm shifting legacies through conferences. In turn, Destination Vancouver sought to reap the benefits of this knowledge capital for an audience of international associations, in yet another chapter of this rotating global meeting.

HQ editor, Manuel Fernandes reports...

When the BestCities annual meeting ended last year with the signing of the notorious Madrid Challenge, one was left with the exciting feeling that the commitment to legacy events would not stop there. This pledge introduced by BestCities at the Global Forum 2021 led representatives of destinations and associations present in the Spanish capital to collaborate closely, share knowledge and advocate for delivering value beyond tourism through their events for a more impact-driven industry. Even before, the Copenhagen Convention Bureau had unveiled at the 2019 forum its Legacy Lab: a strategic approach to create a long-term positive impact from international congresses with local stakeholders, business and scientific communities as major beneficiaries of this systematic development. Tough task?

This is what the BestCities Global Forum is helping to create within its mission-related goals linked to the sustainable future of the meetings industry, by supporting the essential axis of the partnership between destinations and international associations with new strategies and tools to crystallize the success of social legacies. This time, the forum moved to Vancouver for the 2022 chapter, where this conversation continued on the various internal projects towards principles such as sustainability (mainly) and other liaison programmes, following the incorporation of legacy into RFPs and assistance to associations for their international events on the ground. In an era of “relevance”, it is essential to convey the testimony of best practices and methods that allow us to provide sustainable and double-reach experiences, full of positive and lasting impacts that lead to a path of global success.

BestCities Global Forum 2021: Time to push legacy impacts forward!

Sustainability as an event compass

Vancouver has a long history of climate action leading a worldwide circular economy, and this has inspired much of the local experience in the journey between workshops, site inspections and thematic presentations. Venue for many of these, the Vancouver Convention Centre − a double LEED® Platinum certified facility located on the city’s waterfront − has managed to converge the latest green technologies with eco-friendly operating practices, attested to in its six-acre roof with over 400,000 indigenous plants, a sophisticated black water treatment plant and an innovative marine heating and cooling system for the building. The recognition as one of the most livable cities in the world is also due to the application of these changes and the general awareness of the community on policies as urgent as urban transport and energy transition.

One of the organisations working with the Vancouver City Council to implement these measures and certifications is Ocean Wise Seafood − a non-profit whose mission is to empower communities to take action to protect and restore our world’s oceans. In a series of coffee talks, we were able to reflect on a range of environmental threats, including overfishing, climate change and pollution, which this global conservation organisation advises on and tackles through its process of engagement, research, and education at corporate and public levels. Ocean Wise holds a seafood recommendation programme that helps to protect ocean life by certifying companies when sourcing products, educating audiences and helping customers make the right choice when stocking for an event − something associations will be able to capitalise on when delegating their catering, for example.

We often think that carrying out these sustainability projects is merely a matter of reputation, but without being backed up by facts and figures, it may be insufficient to unlock legislation and call for political decision-making. That was the tone that shaped the conversation with Destination Vancouver’s sustainability development manager Gwendal Castellan (check our interview here), where the operative phrase was “social procurement” − i.e. collateral changes for society and the environment that the procurement of goods and services can generate from an event’s legacy plan in a destination. Designing your Social Buying Journey in Vancouver means buying and selling with impact by leveraging existing purchasing power to simultaneously achieve economic growth and social outcomes to include conscious practices, real impact and community spirit. “We are just finishing our 2021 emissions report, and will be doing a comparison soon after to see how things have changed. Numbers are just the basis of records over time, so we need quality narratives to get people on board,” Castellan told us.

Legacy Impact Study: Where to begin?

Vancouver is a respected global destination for conferences and meeting events located midway between the Western and Asia-Pacific markets. In 2022, Vancouver hosted 18 citywide conferences that attracted 50,000 attendees from around the world. Considering the economic development and the support for key industries in the region, it was felt that the short and long-term impacts emerging from these events were not being studied in depth. The City then commissioned a Conference Legacy Impact Study to Capilano University which collected data from five face-to-face conferences held at the Vancouver Convention Centre to identify and measure conference legacies and outcomes. “When we talk about stories this isn't about the number of stories we get, it’s about the quality of the stories versus the data. It ranges from conference results, where the numbers really matter, to legacy stories, where conference depth is the most impactful component of data collection,” says Kara Walker, co-author of the study (check our interview here).

Perhaps the best example to retain of these synergies was that of the International Hepato Pancreato Biliary Association, who after participating in the 2021 forum in Madrid had an ongoing conversation about legacy in their RFP that led to the inclusion of this element in the strategic plan for their upcoming conferences in Cape Town, Singapore, and finally Vancouver − all members of the alliance − a clear example of how associations have so much to gain from participating in this global conversation on social, scientific and environmental impacts in a collaborative environment. “The impact that meetings have on local communities is invaluable, and encompasses knowledge exchange, talent acquisition, academic research, and new business opportunities,” said Lesley Williams, managing director of BestCities.

The next BestCities Global Forum will take place in Melbourne, Australia in next January under the theme of “Creating connections with purpose” and the outlook is great. The Australian city is looking forward to welcoming 60 events this year, including eleven large association events across the year. Let’s see what’s in store for us there!

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