Analyzing the Long-Term Benefits of Events Hosted in Canada

29th May 2024

In a three-year study spanning from 2022 to 2025, Destination Canada aims to analyze the long-term benefits of events hosted in the country. This initiative focuses on measuring the outcomes and impacts of these events, particularly in terms of their legacy. While many cities are already engaged in legacy initiatives at a local level, this study, in collaboration with #MEET4IMPACT and GainingEdge, seeks to understand and quantify these effects on a national scale. Destination Canada recently unveiled the first results of this pioneering Legacy & Impact Study.

Words Remi Deve

Legacy is defined in various ways. Academically, it encompasses all planned and unplanned, positive and negative, tangible and intangible outcomes that persist beyond the completion of an event. For the purposes of Destination Canada’s study, legacy is viewed as the long-term, intentional, and positive effects that an event aims to create, which will benefit the community, industry, research and environment.

“A study of this magnitude is unprecedented, as Destination Canada’s evidence-based strategy distinguishes itself from the more empirical initiatives recently undertaken by other destinations,” points out Virginie De Visscher, Executive Director, Business Events at Destination Canada. 

The Role of Destination Canada

As the national body charged with growing the country’s share of global business events, Destination Canada operates differently from individual cities’ destination marketing organizations. Unlike cities that can work closely with associations throughout the entire event process, Destination Canada must adopt a broader approach. 

This is crucial, given Canada’s vast geography—28 times the size of Germany, with only half the population. With such expansive horizons, Destination Canada emphasizes the importance of legacy, not just within Canada but globally, aiming to maximize positive impacts while minimizing negative environmental footprints.

The study is evaluating up to 16 events held between 2018 and 2024, across six key sectors: life sciences, agribusiness, natural resources, digital industries, advanced manufacturing, and finance and insurance. These events, hosted in cities both large and small, welcomed from 400 to 8,000 delegates, providing a diverse sample for analysis. The first part of the study focused on seven conferences which took place across the country, from Edmonton and Québec City to St. John’s, from Ottawa and Montréal to Winnipeg and Halifax.

Key Findings

“Our early findings, exploring the legacy and impact of seven of the international conferences studied, reveal that business events can leave an extraordinary legacy by leveraging four key factors,” says De Visscher. 

These are:

  1. Pre-Event Activities: Activities such as social media campaigns, workshops, advocacy efforts, and small pre-conference gatherings can significantly enhance the impact of an event. For example, the CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton included a pre-event Mayor’s Summit, resulting in the Edmonton Declaration on climate change.
  2. Government Participation: Events that involve government officials or announce new policies tend to yield higher social, political, and financial impacts. The Edmonton Declaration, signed by 4,500 North American municipalities, underscores the power of governmental involvement.
  3. DMO Involvement: The role of Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) has evolved from sales and marketing to a more comprehensive stewardship role. For instance, Tourisme Montréal’s collaboration with the International AIDS Conference led to significant local engagement and the development of a social impact strategy.
  4. External Collaboration: Partnerships with external entities can greatly enhance an event’s reach and impact. The Insects to Feed the World Conference in Québec City, for example, involved universities, industry partners, and local producers, resulting in significant public engagement and recognition of insects as a viable food source.

Geneviève Leclerc, Co-Founder of #MEET4IMPACT, highlighted the importance of these factors: “One common thread that really stands out in these four key factors is “intentionality”. When one sets clear intentions and engages with external partners early on, it often leads to better strategic alignment and bigger long-term impacts. Our initial findings suggest that if event owners introduce strategic interventions early in the legacy planning of upcoming events, extending habitual collaborations to government entities and external stakeholders who share common objectives, it can really enhance the outcomes, making them easier to document and measure.”

Impact Categories & Case Studies

The study identified three main categories of impact, all of which were highlighted at the CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton:

  1. Policy Impact: Events can influence policymaking and governance. The Edmonton Declaration is a prime example, emphasizing urgent climate action and the role of cities in addressing climate change.
  2. Financial Impact: Events can spur sector growth, increase public funding, and boost local economies. For instance, the Edmonton legacy research grant program allocated $500,000 for climate change research.
  3. Intellectual Impact: Events can promote public engagement, knowledge sharing, and the development of new research projects. The “Become a Reuse Champion” initiative, inspired by the Cities and Climate Change Conference, exemplifies this impact.

The events highlighted in the study demonstrate these impacts. The International AIDS Conference in Montréal, for instance, saw Tourisme Montréal collaborate closely with local organizations to create a robust social impact strategy. 

Similarly, the Insects to Feed the World Conference in Québec City catalyzed the growth of the insect agriculture industry in Canada, leading to significant academic and economic advancements.

Future Research 

The Legacy & Impact study will continue through 2024 and 2025, with additional events and a focus on learning and adaptation. New areas of investigation will include the Indigenous perspective and long-term economic development outcomes such as investment and trade. Further interviews will be conducted with a broader range of stakeholders, including universities, trade associations, and citizen groups, to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of these events.

Geneviève Leclerc noted, “This is a real learning process for us. We’re uncovering things that we just didn’t know we were going to face, and some of the learnings are helping us adapt our approach.”

In the end, Destination Canada’s comprehensive study highlights the multifaceted legacy of events and underscores the importance of strategic planning and collaboration to maximize positive outcomes. This ongoing research will continue to provide valuable insights into the long-term benefits of hosting events in Canada… and hopefully inspire others to follow.

For more information about Destination Canada’s Legacy & Impact Study, visit this website.

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