Business events and conferences must have an impact beyond traditional economic metrics. Through the 2022 BestCities Global Forum held in Vancouver, Destination Vancouver helped guide the discussion on how international business events can further create - and measure - their transformational impacts. 

Comprised of a network of 12 global destinations, including Vancouver, the BestCities Global Alliance (BCGA) focuses on encouraging positive impacts through conference and meeting events.  Driving change through economic, environmental, political, social, and sectoral factors, BCGA forges partnerships with conference organizers looking to achieve impact beyond pure economic means at their meeting destinations. The network focuses on generating legacy in order to sustain the international events industry: meetings need to go beyond economic considerations. 

While conferences have a substantial financial impact on host destinations, conference benefits extend far beyond attendance numbers, beds, space, and consumption of convention services. However, limited research has been completed to measure the extent of short and long-term outcomes derived from conferences. 

Hosted by Destination Vancouver, the 2022 BestCities Global Forum brought together industry leaders to discuss the impacts of international conferences and to explore core findings from research conducted in Vancouver.  


Identifying Legacy: Capilano University Conference Legacy Impact Study 

Building upon the concept of legacy, Destination Vancouver engaged Capilano University’s Center for Tourism Research to produce the Capilano University Conference Legacy Impact Study

To help qualify and justify the value of conferences, Capilano University’s Center for Tourism Research set out to study the impacts of Vancouver conferences.  

Throughout this study, the Capilano University team focused on identifying and measuring conference legacies and outcomes. For the purpose of the report, outcomes were defined as the short-term actions that conference attendees perform following a business event. The accomplishment of short-term outcomes ultimately contributes to the achievement of long-term legacies. Both outcomes and legacies are diverse in that they contribute to economic, environmental, political, sectoral, and social factors.   

From March to October 2022, Capilano University’s Center for Tourism Research collected data from five in-person conferences hosted at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Data was collected under the premise to:  

  • Identify short-and-long-term legacies of Vancouver conferences 
  • Compare the outcomes of returning and globally rotating conferences in Vancouver
  • Develop a methodological approach to guide similar studies in Vancouver and other destinations 
  • Identify general outcomes for destinations and associations to empower them to undertake studies and host impactful conferences 

Presented at the 2022 BestCities Global Forum, survey results further confirmed that conferences in Vancouver are impactful. Using a pragmatic approach to collect data, the five Vancouver-hosted conferences were found to produce 47 short-term outcomes. These outcomes ultimately contribute towards 17 long-term legacies. While further research and an expanded scope is required to measure the long-term legacies identified within the survey, Capilano University’s Conference Legacy Impact Study built a strong foundation to guide the study and measurement of conference legacies and outcomes. 


Creating Change Through Social Procurement  

Illustrating a practice that can bring positive change within conferences is the idea of social procurement. Understanding that every purchase has a greater impact – from economic, social, cultural, and environmental implications – social procurement aims to bring positive change from the sale of goods and services.  This practice emphasizes the potential for conferences to drive long-term legacies.  

Conferences can contribute to social procurement by partnering with local organizations and engaging small businesses for conference items. In intentionally acting for positive social value through the procurement of goods and services, organizations can contribute positively to their local community.   

An example of social procurement, The Binners’ Project assists in managing waste generated from event venues, such as the Vancouver Convention Centre. In working to divert recyclable materials from the landfill, the project helps provide economic opportunities to waste-pickers. This waste-sorting program facilitates social inclusion by connecting the community and benefits economic development by providing a reliable and fair income to binners.   

Gwendal Castellan, Manager, Sustainable Destination Development at Destination Vancouver, brought to light the importance and feasibility of social procurement at the Global Forum. Conference stakeholders can find more actionable steps to link positive change to their conference procurement process through Buy Social Canada’s Guide to Social Procurement in Tourism, Hospitality and Events, supported by Destination Vancouver.  

The 2022 Best Cities Global Forum was integral to furthering the discussion on legacies within international conferences. In hosting conferences, destinations can – and do – create transformational impacts beyond purely economic means.  

To learn more, find the full Capilano University Conference Legacy Impact Study, here