Building Connections with BestCities in Tokyo

Comprised of twelve convention bureaus partnering to help associations achieve success through their events, the BestCities Global Alliance has, for some time now, put in a lot of efforts on education, best practice, and advocacy within the meetings industry. After a successful first forum in Dubai, the second edition, themed ‘Building Global Connections Across Cultures’ took place in Tokyo in December 2017. Words Rémi Dévé

Championing inclusivity and multi-culturalism within the meeting tourism industry in 2018 and beyond: that was the aim of the second BestCities Global Forum and on that matter the four-day programme, packed with thought-provoking sessions and plenty of networking opportunities, definitely delivered. Fifty or so delegates coming from all over the world and all kinds of associations took part in workshops and informative presentations learning about cultural management and intelligence, while looking at ways of establishing purposeful meetings, and acquiring practical skills they can apply to their day to day work back home and future events.

What is the BestCities Global Alliance ?

The BestCities Global Alliance is a worldwide partnership of convention bureaux whose objective is to deliver the world’s best convention bureau practices for the meetings industry. The Alliance comprises of members in Vancouver, Bogota, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Edinburgh, Houston, Melbourne, Singapore, Tokyo, Madrid and Berlin. The members exchange business leads, organise sales missions and client workshops as well as sharing best practices and knowledge on the international meetings industry. Not only does BestCities work alongside the association through all phases of their events, they also ensure that this support continues year over year.

A means to an end

In his introductory address, Paul Vallee, Managing Director of the Alliance, explained: “What we can help with is providing value beyond pure tourism benefits. Associations have a higher purpose than just the organisation of meetings, which must become more than simply well planned events, with an increasing focus on their lasting impact and success in the long-term. For destinations and associations, events in general should be regarded as a means to an end, not an end in itself. And BestCities can help in the matter. In fact, that’s exactly what we want to promote with our Incredible Impacts grants, which were just given out to the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), the World Parkinson Coalition (WPC) and the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT): those were really chosen as examples of excellence and what can be best done in the meeting industry.

In fact, the possible – and now necessary – legacy component of meetings was what a lot of delegates took away from the Forum. Theo Tunga, Head, Operations Service, of Geneva-based ITU Telecom, clearly realised that is something his organisation could work more on. Recognising that our association events can go “beyond tourism” in areas such as legacy development, sustainability and accessibility was really an eye-opener for me. And the fact that an alliance like BestCities can help us just do that and advance the purpose of our associations by helping to create lasting legacies was, in a way, reassuring. We’re not alone in this he said.

Collaborating on strategic outcomes with international associations, while really understanding what they want to achieve and what they’re about from the inside out, the BestCities network conducts and shares detailed event research to aid planners in creating innovative meeting outcomes. In addition, they work closely with local industry stakeholders while also providing access to global knowledge and contacts. In this context, most of the associations present at the Forum came to understand BestCities’ added values when organising events.

Cathedral thinking

On the content front, the session led by Rick Antonson on cathedral thinking proved to be very popular. In the Middle Ages, building a cathedral was considered one of the greatest works that a community could undertake. But constructing such a monument was an endeavour of such scale that they would often take decades or even centuries to finish. The people that laid the foundations would do so in the almost certain knowledge that they would never live to see the finished product.

Like the craftsmen that laid the first stones at Notre Dame, today’s leading scientists, business leaders and creative innovators are beginning to think in terms of a new kind of wealth – the handing down of purposeful and life-affirming projects that only their grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren, will see bear fruit. Medical industries might be the epitome of cathedral thinking: it’s very likely that scientists trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease won’t be around when there will be one. Rick Antonson urged the audience to think about what they can cause, not only what they can do, and to reflect on the kind of long-term legacies that meetings can have.

Other sessions explored the impact of culture in business intelligence and the Hofstede’s cultural dimension model or how workplace values are affected by culture. In partnership with the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau – the organisation was smooth and flawless to say the least, with the best timekeeping I have ever experienced! – the Forum also of course offered attendees a few cultural activities in order to explore Japan’s unique heritage.

Has your association a great legacy programme? Has your last conference left something great behind?  You could apply for and win an Incredible Impact grant from BestCities, in partnership with the International Convention and Congress Association (ICCA). For more information, visit


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