The Stavanger region of Norway is dotted with stunning fjords and mountains forming some of the most jaw-dropping views in the world, but it’s not the natural landscape that’s drawing associations. As the fourth largest city in Norway with a population of only 126,000, the city uses other natural resources to compete with big players. Stavanger is a great example of a small city that is put on an international playing field as a member of the Energy Cities Alliance, Lane Nieset writes.
“The only way I can compete being in Norway is when there are obvious reasons for a collaboration,” explains Per Morten Haarr, convention director at Stavanger Convention Bureau and chairperson of Energy Cities Alliance. “We will never be price competitive and we are a smaller destination, so it’s more targeting and finding the niche and the associations that go hand-in-hand with the local business and research communities.”
One of the world’s leading meeting hubs for energy, the city is home to 35 oil and gas companies, as well as over 400 oilfield service and oil technology companies. The country’s largest oil company, Statoil ASA, along with international companies like BP and Shell, base their Norwegian headquarters here and look to Stavanger Convention Bureau’s network of knowledge. “For my team, it’s more important that they know the local business community than every PCO out there because then we can tailor-make what associations need once they get here,” Haarr says. “This really comes in handy when they need to get in touch with possible sponsors and relevant stakeholders because we are much more than a hub of contact.”
Big Voice for Small Destinations
By knowing the local business community personally, Stavanger is able to share this knowledge with the alliance’s partner cities like Aberdeen and Calgary, building on these connections and ties. “Between these business communities, there’s already so many connections, so many ties between our destinations, so it’s been really easy to play on that,” Haarr explains. “We’ve been able to focus on those synergies and see how this becomes a door opener to other industries that may not be related to energy per se, such as medical or healthcare.”
For a city like Stavanger, this international element is key when it comes to attracting relevant associations to the destination. While traveling on joint sales tours, associations find value in talking to the alliance’s four very diverse, yet similar destinations. “The security and feeling of being something international is an enormous benefit for us because life in a small convention bureau (with a team of only five) is sometimes hectic. When we meet with associations, it gives them assurance the meeting is worth having,” he says.
The Value of One Voice
By consolidating partners or collaborating with other destinations for a shared purpose, bureaus and businesses can serve as one voice with a strong message for associations. With the help of local ambassador programs and in-person meetings, associations can learn which of these alliances may be more relevant to their cause and feel confident that through this shared network of knowledge, destinations will better understand what associations are aiming to achieve. The same goes for members of the partnership. They can target associations who are more relevant for their destinations and industries, as well as learn from some of the best in the business. On the destination side, alliances can help other partners find solutions for issues they’re facing in their cities, such as subventions or KPIs. By working together as a team, they can bring this globally garnered knowledge back to the board at home to make future proposals even stronger.
Read the rest of this article in Boardroom #2 – IMEX edition – out in May.