Maximizing Destination Tools for Real Impact

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<span>Maximizing Destination Tools for Real Impact</span>
Bottom Line:

How Raleigh, NC used the Event Impact Calculator (EIC) in strategic plan implementation and partner engagement efforts.

Raleigh is a blossoming Southern metropolis and a welcoming destination for conventions, meetings, and other events. The urban revival that accompanied the 2008 development of a new convention campus in downtown Raleigh is still going strong; this revitalizing energy is something that meeting and event attendees and even sports participants will feel.  

Our smart and savvy locals head top-tier technology, education, and life science institutions; our artists create a bevy of cultural and culinary touchstones; and our storytellers proudly carry on the collective heritage of a rich, historic capital city. Groups can invigorate their senses by sampling the many flavors of cutting-edge Southern cuisine enhanced by artisan craft brews and spirits. They will get their toes tapping to the sounds of emerging music and bands, as well as rollicking bluegrass festivals and more. They will discover gifts and treasures from local boutiques, including many handmade and custom designs by local makers, and can broaden their horizons through an array of visual and performing arts exhibitions... and all this conceived and created by the bright minds of area residents and enjoyed by 17+ million visitors each year.

Where It All Began

Visit Raleigh, or the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau (GRCVB), is one of the earliest adopters of the Destinations International Event Impact Calculator (EIC) Meetings and Sports modules. Additionally, GRCVB staff participated in the development of the EIC Festivals & Cultural Events Module in 2016. With this strong foundation and trust in the EIC, the EIC is an integral component of economic impact service.

In 2017, GRCVB commissioned a Destination Strategic Plan (DSP), to develop a platform through which its destination partners can work together seamlessly to strengthen the area’s destination product and increase overnight visitation over ten years (to the year 2028).

The CVB facilitated a yearlong, countywide master-planning effort in partnership with an external consulting company. This work culminated in the September 2018 release of the DSP final report and presentation of specific plans to each of Wake County’s twelve municipalities. One key recommendation was for GRCVB to be the trusted source for event measurement and reporting, with the use of an economic impact analyst to work with area partners to gather and consistently report data from events. With the direction of the analyst on staff, an increasing number of area event planners and venues would be required to provide raw data to GRCVB and in turn utilize CVB-determined criteria to grow their events sustainably (or to receive county incentive funding, for example). The aim was to aggregate knowledge of the impacts of major events driving the destination’s growth and put limited destination resources to their highest and best use.

Using the Event Impact Calculator (EIC) as part of an Economic Impact Analysis Offering

One suggestion from the DSP initiative was to offer an Economic Impact Analysis service to provide information to planners and stakeholders at city and county levels as well as venue and individual event levels. Economic Impact Analysis allows a data-informed look at the economic value of an event.

The Economic Impact Analysis Process 

Utilizing the Economic Impact Analysis service is straightforward for clients and partners. Event planners initiate the process by contacting us with the request to determine the economic impact of an event or venue.  

  1. First, we work with them to identify the required timeline and the specific data that needs to be collected for input. Much of the data will be submitted using an online form.
  2. Once we have the data, we perform further analysis and run the EIC. We have access to third-party data that shows visitor movement to and from certain locations for certain timeframes. We can utilize that data as part of the analysis, if it is available and relevant.
  3. We can also take bulk data that we receive from a planner or venue (such as ticket sales information) and perform further analysis utilizing Destinations International’s Overnight Room Demand Analyzer (ORDA) to quantify the geographic composition of attendees. 
  4. We then feed that data into the EIC and provide the resulting report to the partner.
  5. This is all documented with our customer relationship management (CRM) system to log all communications and final reports for later reference. 

The Economic Impact Analysis service provides the following reporting points, utilizing a combination of Event Impact Calculator (EIC), Overnight Room Demand Analyzer (ORDA), and third-party data:

  • Estimated new dollars that circulated through the county-level economy due to event visitation (EIC).
  • Number of hotel rooms likely booked (EIC).
  • Local tax revenues generated (occupancy, food & beverage and sales) (EIC).
  • Number of hospitality jobs that were partly supported by the event (EIC).
  • Overnight visitors’ average length of stay (utilizing third-party data).
  • Origins of visitors by state (utilizing ORDA).
  • Other points of interest that visiting attendees saw while in the area (utilizing third-party data).

Reporting can then be used for decision making when deciding how to allocate limited funding sources for client-business development or for capital improvements. Using an industry standard calculator with specific inputs allows a “like to like” comparison between events and venues to optimize decision making. Quantifying the economic impact from an event or venue enables the evaluation of visitor impact by clearly showing how the public benefits from the event or venue.

Situations for Using the Economic Impact Analysis  

  • Pre-Event: To generate sponsorships for an event or when considering offering business development funds for an event, we conduct the Economic Impact Analysis before the event takes place. When running the analysis before events, we may use estimated numbers, past data and trends and data from similar events.
  • Post-Event: After an event, we gather actual numbers to determine the economic impact or confirm the pre-event estimates. If there are scheduled reports for stakeholders, economic impact can be provided as information to quantify the value of an event or venue.
  • Facility Improvements: The output of an Economic Impact Analysis is especially helpful if a facility is considering expansion, enhancements, or renovations. The output of the report on their past events could indicate whether the project would be justified for support with local funding. 

Using our CRM to Streamline Communications 

We needed to find a way to manage confidential data gathering for EIC components (and a dashboard for partners to view them), communication with partners and year-over-year (YOY) EIC reporting. Having the EIC API integrated into our CRM under a lead in our sales module gives us the ability to use the EIC for calculating the impact of sports, festivals, and convention events. With this in mind, we created a duplicate “empty” sales module to manage partner accounts that would seek EIC for events (as if each request were a lead evaluation). 

As we work with many partners to gather requirements for each Economic Impact Analysis, one of the biggest challenges was tracking communications with partners and making progress visible to key staff stakeholders. To centralize this, we used the CRM to send out communications and a CRM Outlook plugin to sync email communication through trace management. This solved the issue for centralizing communication data and gathering needed EIC input fields, such as: event type, overnight visitors, and room rate. 

Reporting with the existing API EIC integration into our CRM made it easy for the economic impact analyst to quickly produce reports for direct and indirect details and the event return on investment. This certainly helped to educate the partner on the EIC process. 

Giving partners access to EIC data on the fly was another concern. As this was created as a duplicate sales module in the CRM, then via our extranet, each partner can view lead level and EIC event analysis data for each analysis requested and can compare events YOY for attendance and direct and indirect data. Based on the EIC data gathered in the CRM over time, a dedicated venue dashboard can be populated with YOY data for the partner to view all events and high level direct and indirect impact. Working with the stakeholder one-on-one and educating them on the EIC process really helped provide metrics for performance with their events. 

Learning Experience 

Partner Education: With the use of an economic impact analyst to work with partners directly to gather source data from events, we learned that it was important to first educate our partners in what EIC has to offer. Also, with each partner requesting assistance on analysis, we had to educate them on the required criteria determined by the GRCVB. Based on what we learned, we would continue to educate our partners on the need for event measurement metrics to help grow events sustainably YOY. 

CRM for Streamlining Communication: Another challenge was tracking communications with partners and making progress visible to key staff stakeholders. To centralize this, we used the CRM to send out communications and a CRM Outlook plugin to sync email communication through trace management. This solved the issue for centralizing communication data and gathering needed EIC input fields, such as: event type, overnight visitors, and room rate. 

Staff Education: Internally, key staff overseeing the different EIC event types would be involved in the communication process and validation of the key data in case of turnover. Through our process to help our partners understand their event impact, it was also important to make sure there was alignment with key staff members overseeing each of the Festival, Sports and Convention event types. 

How can a destination organization use the EIC to its advantage? 

Destinations should consider advocating for a dedicated analyst to assist partners in their measurement needs. The economic impact analyst (or at some CVBs, research manager) could become an important role in helping publicly funded event facilities and new proposed facilities look at the ROI model for events. In Raleigh, this approach enabled GRCVB to be the official go-to for Economic Impact Analysis as our DSP recommended.  

This also gave us the opportunity to educate the public sector to embrace the model of event analysis to help in partner engagement and community advocacy for tourism-related economic development. More information on this can be found here and here

Key Takeaways 

The master-planning research recommended that Visit Raleigh be the trusted source for event measurement and reporting in our community and the EIC is an integral tool in this process. 

It is important to get ‘good’ data and back it up with your own sources. This includes working with local partners as well as maximizing the many tools that Destinations International has to offer provides real impact to local members and partners, augments engagement efforts with clients and other customers of the destination organization and positions the organization as the official resource for event impact analysis within a destination. 

These industry standard tools also give destination organizations the opportunity to summarize a wealth of diverse, aggregated knowledge of the impacts from tourism that stakeholders then can use for event growth and sustainability.  

What brings it all together (beyond a potential analyst role within the destination organization) is the quick communication and visibility provided by the technology pre- and post-events.  

Using a CRM extranet, with its communication management and two-way reporting, allowed for internal staff stakeholders as well as each partner to view an event analysis and (via new report visuals) year-over-year event comparisons for strategic development pertaining to major events.  

Destinations International’s leadership in this space, since the 2011 launch of its EIC especially, is making a real impact with destination marketing/management overall, and all association members should take note of these event-related best practices.  

About the Author

Vimal Vyas, CDME

Vice President of Data, Security and Digital Innovation, Greater Raleigh CVB

Vimal Vyas is Vice President of Data, Security and Digital Innovation for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. As data and digital innovation VP, he is responsible for leading the Bureau's strategic data and technology innovation programs as well as integrated digital efforts, including digital product (web/mobile) development, data integration, cloud-based software solutions, infrastructure, content/Internet marketing technologies and business analytics/intelligence.

In 2023 Vyas earned Destinations International's Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) credential, which signals the destination marketing industry's highest educational achievement. 

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