Authenticity – The New Currency of Destinations

21.06.2022 | by Matthias Schultze, Managing Director, GCB

Why do we attend business events? It’s a key question that needs answering for our industry to enjoy continued relevance and success in the future. Post-Covid – or rather, with Covid – we see that people crave face-to-face encounters which opens up substantial opportunities for the events community to create experiences that matter for attendees.

Destinations play a key role in that. They are an integral part of events and can deliver considerable added value. In this context, we see authenticity as the new currency of destinations.

Know who you are

The term “authentic” is commonly associated with the quality of being genuine and the contents of something corresponding to the actual facts. For destinations this means that what they communicate about their identity needs to correspond to what visitors will actually experience when there, which includes the local population living and supporting this specific identity. It is therefore key for destinations to identify their strengths and weaknesses, to pinpoint what makes them unique and crucially, to include the people, who live and work there and essentially make that destination, in the conversation.

Create connections between attendees and destinations

A destination’s authentic character can be harnessed in different ways to enhance and boost the content of business events. Attendees can be connected with city life, time can be scheduled in for people to explore individually and opportunities can be created to meet the locals and/or changemakers in the respective destination. Tapping into the know-how of the local population, e.g., showcasing their insider tips and favourite places, also enables introducing attendees to the “real” city or region.

Make authenticity collaborative

However, activating the power of authenticity requires a careful and well thought-through approach which considers challenges and potential critical issues involved. When identifying a destination’s special characteristics as a first step to turning them into something that can be experienced, destinations will have to widen their network of partners and pursue an integrated approach which considers different groups, sectors and communities that are part of a destination. A collaborative and comprehensive approach is needed to activate everyone involved.

Partners might have to be educated about and convinced of the value of authenticity – and it is paramount that any new ideas are developed jointly with local partners to make sure that their needs and potential is always considered. Of course, this also applies to harnessing what locals can contribute to making a destination more attractive for business events: When people for example share their insider tips with others they don’t known, this needs to happen in the context of an open and participatory process, with boundaries being respected.

The competitive advantage of being authentic

Ultimately, in the changed ecosystem of business events, with digital and hybrid options having become the norm, real world experiences take on a whole new meaning. People long for them because they get something out of them which cannot be provided by other means. At the same time, they have heightened expectations, simply because there is so much now that they can get online. Integrating what makes a place authentic and unique can be a key success factor – and destinations who have a clear idea of what they are and what makes them special will therefore have a competitive advantage in the long run.

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