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don’t go to shows, they said, and group sales were still declining. “Convention delegates don’t come on a bus. And they pick up retail, not group, tickets,” Tirone said. “There is nothing that identifies them as conventioneers. So, we did a survey that determined convention delegates do go see shows. Of course they do! We have data to support that they go to see two or three shows, especially if they have free nights.” The survey showed that meeting and convention attend-


ees contribute nearly $16 million annually to the local econ- omy, and that 25 percent of them spend money at attractions and businesses outside the convention-center area. Last year, the center booked nearly 100 more event days than expected, Tirone said, and is “two to three good corporate-type meet- ings or conventions away from breaking even” — two to five years ahead of schedule. A focus on image is also paramount for Nashville,


another destination famous for its entertainment roots. By


strengthening the “Music City” brand, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau helped win support for the Music City Center, a new, 1.2-million-square-foot convention facility opening next year. “It’s a long pro- cess; you have to hone your message and be consistent,” said Nashville CVB President Butch Spyridon. “We


have been shot at from every side by opponents, but we never changed our message. We hammered in the brand and said this center will elevate our game.” Even as critics took aim at the Music City Center, Spyri-


don said, city leaders were strongly supportive of efforts to increase meetings and events in Nashville. “Today, there’s the most incredible level of support — the most I’ve seen in 30 years,” Spyridon said. “Our elected leaders really get the brand. We don’t let up, and we take nothing for granted.” Because even when you’re talking about intangibles that


are beyond dollar-based value, in the end you’re still talking about money. A positive image attracts some serious capital


What Price Knowledge?


Since moving to Boston in 2010, the PAX East gaming conference has become the second-biggest convention the city hosts. And this past February, PAX East extended its contract with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (mcca) through 2023, which will keep the conference at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for at least 11 more years. Even a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation — multiply-


PAX East is a good fit for Boston


Halo Effect PAX East (above) is helping buff Boston’s high-tech image.


in more ways than just room-night capacity. The Boston area, home to premier academic institutions including Harvard University and MIT, is known for intel- lect and innovation. “If you look at the industries that we do most of our business in,” Rooney said, “it’s the


knowledge-based industries.” The $65-billion global video-


game industry fits that description,


ing PAX East’s annual 70,000 attendees, times two to three room-nights per year, times 11 years — shows that the con- tract will bring millions of dollars, if not billions, to Boston’s meetings and hospitality industry. Organizers project that PAX East attendance will reach 100,000 over the next decade, making the deal even sweeter. But the traditional way of measuring the impact of an


event — in terms of its economic effect on the hospitality industry — just “gets at the tip of the iceberg,” said James Rooney, mcca’s executive director. The impact of an event like PAX East, he said, is much broader, not just in terms of commerce, but in the transfer of knowledge between confer- ence participants and the community. Hosting events such as PAX East can and should be part of a larger economic- development strategy.


52 PCMA CONVENE MAY 2012


attracting technology companies, game developers, and ven- ture capitalists, as well as gaming enthusiasts. PAX East’s long-term commitment helps to secure Bos-


ton’s reputation as a hotbed for video-game innovation, Rooney said. And in what appears to be an industry first, the contract made the tie between the gaming conference and Boston’s knowledge base explicit, by including an annual $25,000 donation from PAX East to the Massachusetts Digi- tal Games Institute (MassDIGI), based at Becker College. With its investment in MassDIGI, an academic and entre- preneurial center, “PAX East won’t just be coming to town for three days every year,” Rooney said, “but will have a year- round presence.” This kind of long-term partnership, which directly connects events to local business and academic com- munities, he said, “should be the way of the future.” — Barbara Palmer


PCMA.ORG


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