Discover how the Event Impact Calculator supports Explore Edmonton's goals of showing their value to stakeholders and Edmontonians.
About the Destination
Edmonton is a vibrant urban center in the heart of the wilderness, the largest northernmost metropolis, and the capital of Alberta, Canada. Experience what 18 hours of sunlight a day feels like in the summer, or how the first snowfall transforms the river valley in winter. No matter the season, Edmonton is made for exploring.
Population size: 1.5 million in Edmonton, Alberta.
Destination Budget Size: 70 million CAD.
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Edmonton’s Approach to using the Event Impact Calculator (EIC)
Explore Edmonton Corporation is Edmonton’s destination management and marketing organization responsible for attracting events, and the management of two venues within the city, the Edmonton Convention Center, and the Edmonton EXPO Centre, for which all events are run through the event impact calculator.
As an organization that receives partner funding, we use economic impact as a key measure to demonstrate the benefits to the visitor economy of bringing events to the city. We were looking for a standardized approach in calculating economic impact, which would support our decision-making process while also being an industry recognized standard. Edmonton was the first destination in Canada to use the event impact calculator, and the sales output (economic impact) is now the consistent measure we utilize for every event that we bring into our city and/or host at our venues. The tool has become a grounding measure to understand if an event is worth pursuing and for highlighting the value to stakeholders. We run calculations for a wide variety of events, from major sporting and cultural events to business meetings and conventions, festivals, and local & public events. From consistent use of the tool, we can demonstrate the monetary value of events we bring to the city and compare ourselves not only to other destinations but year-over-year as well. The EIC is one of the tools used in our sales process to determine what incentives would be offered for an event to come to Edmonton. It is also used to identify the return-on-investment for our hotel partners based on the total estimated room demand from the calculator.
For the economic impact of our events, we have primarily focused our reporting on the direct impact but have begun working using the total economic impact, which includes induced spending. We have found that while some Canadian destinations are reporting on their direct economic impact, others report on total economic impact. This makes it hard to compare consistently and why we are looking at both direct and total economic impact.
An example; The JUNO Awards will be hosted by Edmonton this March, an event like the Grammy Awards in the United States. We needed to calculate the economic impact of this event and report back to stakeholders. Checking the historical data from cities that had hosted the event previously and doing some further investigating, we realized that total economic impact had been reported. Therefore, our numbers did not match as we were using direct, and they were using total.
One of the biggest learning experiences in the use of the calculator for us was the estimated room demand output. We have seen a shift in booking practices due to the cancellations and constant changes that were related to COVID-19, and we understood that room blocks are no longer always reflective of what is happening in the city. Therefore, we have moved away from only looking at room blocks but also evaluating the total estimated room demand output. We’ve found this output to be a better metric for assessing the room demand of a particular event.
Another learning experience for us has been the introduction of post-event calculations. We have always calculated economic impact at the various stages leading up to the definite stage, but now we are also doing a post event calculation. Some events were right on the mark, and others were higher or lower than we originally estimated. With the post -event calculations, we can now get a more accurate picture of the event that closely reflects the actualized numbers; it also allows us to compare the prior calculations to see how close, or not, they were. In addition, we have started including actual organizer spending on the post calculations, as opposed to using the default model calculation. We have this capability as two of the venues are part of our organization and our sales teams have strong relationships with the event organizers.
We started Economic Impact soft close meetings (concurrent with our financial soft close meetings) to do a data check on economic impact; what inputs were used in the calculator, what is the logic behind those inputs, and does the economic impact output align with what we would expect to see. Soft close meetings have changed how we think about the calculator and have enabled us to have checks and balances that make us more confident in our data. As a result of the soft close meetings, we can check the accuracy of our calculations in the presence of many team members who use the calculator allowing everyone to be on the same page.
Explore Edmonton has developed a solid process with rigor in place to feel confident in the calculations each of our teams are running. Each month, we review all calculations completed with the teams and flag anything that looks inaccurate. For large events, we spend additional time making sure all the inputs are accurate and will run post event calculations. We have confidence in our reporting, however, comparison to other destination organizations remains challenging because there is not always clarity around their inputs to the calculator and whether direct or total sales are being reported.
“We had previously undervalued the work we do and can really advocate for hosting events in our city now.” -
IC Output Goal
Our Event Impact Calculator goal is to show the return on investment for our shareholder and funding partners and our value to stakeholders and Edmontonians. Accurate calculations are vital to delivering on this goal and provide our teams with support and training not just in running calculations, but what economic impact is and how it is measured.
To gain city, provincial, and federal support for large events, being able to share the economic impact is vital as it demonstrates the net new money generated for the community. The ability to articulate an event’s value has been extremely helpful in gaining support.
How Can a Destination Organization Use the EIC to its Advantage?
Destinations can use the Event Impact Calculator with various support resources. For one, lean on Destinations International for support, ask lots of questions, and ensure staff are using these resources as well.
My final tip to build confidence using the calculator would be to run test calculations through the platform itself and not through an integrated CRM system. Run calculations repeatedly changing only small variables to see how the varying inputs change the outputs in the report. Compare and question the sources of input data frequently. We have worked a lot with our meeting planners and event producers to get reliable data so we can further improve our event impact calculations. Play around with it to see how things affect one another. Further, our soft close meetings have changed the way we look at the calculator, allowing the organization to be confident in our data. Even if a team member is new to running calculations, we do not worry as there are checks and balances in place allowing us to review everyone’s calculations for accuracy.