The 95th Annual DMAI Convention

Strategic outlooks and global perspectives
Expert insights into DMAI

City marketing experts, educators, students and industry representatives from all around the world gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, for the 95th DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International) Convention, held from July 28th to the 30th.

The annual convention featured in-depth lectures and discussions encompassing both practical and theoretical information aimed at developing close networking among destination marketing professionals from around the globe, as well as discussing new strategic outlooks and global perspectives. The convention offered efficient business solutions as well as educational resources, and opportunities for mutual exchanges and partnerships.

Established in 1914, DMAI is the sole international organization representing convention bureaus, and boasts over 2,300 members from 1,500 city marketing agencies and tourism ministries in addition to convention bureaus and authorities. The organization maintains its headquarters in the United States and a branch office in Europe. DMAI also provides support to experts working in 650 urban planning organizations in 30 countries worldwide.

SCB calls for Asian office in Seoul
During the conference, the Seoul Convention Bureau (SCB) worked tirelessly to strengthen networks with industry leaders as well as international and domestic agencies and organizations. The SCB held discussions regarding the creation of DMAI’s Asia office, as well as conducting meetings with the chairman of the ICCA and the Asian Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (AACVB) directory, while participating in major events, including the Global Attendee Meeting and the Asian Dinner.

While DMAI had selected China, Japan and Korea as candidates for the site of the new Asia office, plans have now been put on hold due to the global recession. However, the "Meeting to establish DMAI's Asia office" reaffirmed the active and prominent role of organizations in Asia and the importance of DMAI’s expansion in the Asian region. DMAI is also reviewing plans for creating a South American branch office.

Eugene Choi, one of the SCB representatives at the conference, reported, "The SCB introduced Seoul's diverse infrastructures and environment, and expressed our strong desire for the location of the new DMAI Asia office in Seoul," adding that "the SCB will work to integrate DMAI's education programs into our ongoing efforts to establish Seoul as an education hub of Asia."

The SCB also participated in the Global Attendee Meeting, during which the head of the European office, located in Brussels, as well as the chairperson of DMAI presented overviews of DMAI and its key activities. The event allowed the SCB to strengthen its networks with participants from the Europe. The European office opened in 2007, and has focused on promoting its activities during the past year as well as reviewing the possible membership of Serbia and the Czech Republic into the organization. The office plans to devote 2010 to pursing its agenda in regions outside of the United States, as well as jointly supporting the creation of the AACVB.

Branding Seoul
Strengthening overseas activities and forming diverse partnerships

The SCB participated in the "Opening Celebration" and "Asian Dinner" to strengthen existing relationships with overseas industry members. The opening celebration was held at the Georgia Aquarium displaying the venue's multiple uses.

Christina Song of the SCB described her experiences at the event, saying "The Asian Dinner was a special event held at the request of Asian, indicating the importance DMAI attaches to Asia," and added, "The event allowed the SCB to gauge the opinions of participants from Asia and exchange valuable information." The SCB also took part in other major events, including the "Roundtable with ICCA Chairman Martin Sirk," "The AACVB Planning Discussion," and the "Product Exhibition."

Eugene Choi of the SCB explained, "The SCB will continue to strengthen its overseas marketing activities in order to promote the brand value of Seoul, and work towards creating a variety of partnerships including the AACVB. We plan to maintain close and continuous communication with DMAI representatives in order to successfully pursue our goals regarding the Asia office and an education exhibition."

Expert insight into DMAI and the convention industry
"Economic environmental changes and city marketing strategies"

Professor Hwang Hee-gon, Hallym Institute of Advanced International Studies

The outlook for the global economy continues to deteriorate. Despite a brief respite in fuel prices and the financial crisis, new challenges including climate change and public health threats continue to arise. Countries around the world are struggling to find the proper means for dealing with these new issues. The tourism, MICE and other service industries, which carry out more people-to-people interactions than other industries, are especially exposed to the cost-and-safety issues created by these challenges.

Cities and countries are working to come up with viable solutions for dealing with these unprecedented issues. Seoul, as Korea’s capital, also needs to create strategies that can overcome these global as well as local challenges.

Adjusting to new environmental changes through marketing efforts
The 95th annual DMAI Convention presented an ideal opportunity to rediscover the marketing efforts being made by both government and industry organizations to adjust to new environmental changes. As customer needs in the MICE industry continue to further fragment and specialize, marketing information channels are also becoming increasingly globalized and diversified while generational and regional gaps continue to expand.

As city-level marketing becomes more emphasized than country-level marketing, the fundamental element of city marketing, for dealing with environmental changes, lies in a strong positioning in the minds of clients through the provision of services that meet their unique and diverse needs.

As the client base for the MICE industry is composed of "buying centers" rather than random customers, a multi-dimensional marketing program is vital for the industry. As a result, leading cities have focused not only on business demands and conferences but on providing packaged or integrated services that include culture, tourism and new and innovative forms of entertainment.

These changes to the economic and marketing environments require a new strategic approach to city marketing strategies. A "destination brand architecture" will create a unique and differentiated brand for Seoul, with the ultimate goal of enhancing customer satisfaction and value.

This process can be aided by first evaluating the image of Seoul as perceived by various target groups then establishing a basic infrastructure to create a differentiated identity for establishing the strategic foundations for maximizing customer value. Many cities today are dedicated to creating unique branding architectures as part of their efforts to form systematic marketing strategies.

To this end, efforts should be concentrated on forming Seoul's own unique character, a brand image that people can recall with fondness and longing. This should be accomplished not simply through infrastructure but through new services and systems. Another requirement is a service mechanism that enables innovative thinking and a general overview of the service industry. A good example is the efforts by New York City and the NYC & Company presenting the city as a prime location for filming movies as well as for musical performances and other events, in order to rebuild the city's image after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.

Developing Seoul's own Killer Contents
Cutting-edge marketing strategies need to be formulated, through information and data collected from a wide variety of sources, and accompanied by the careful analysis of customer needs and demands, creating new and customized services. Developing Seoul's own Killer Contents will be the key to overcoming the current economic downturn and building a solid reputation and re-positioning of the city among current and potential customers.

Ideas for hands-on and experience-based marketing that can allow customers to participate and experience the city should be applied to these efforts. We can for example, draw upon the successful precedent created by Nintendo of Japan that defeated powerful competitors like Sony and Microsoft by cooperating with partners to deliver consoles and handheld entertainment systems meeting the unique demands of today’s discerning customers.

To accomplish these vital tasks, the industry must work closely with related agencies that create and implement MICE-related policies, building on cooperation and mutual support to maximize the potential benefit for all parties involved. In addition to forming partnerships, networking with other cities in Korea as well as abroad will also form a vital component of this cooperative and mutual development system.

A city is a community that is relatively free from the ideological and systematic limitations that often present barriers at the national level. Meaningful exchanges and cooperation with other cities will help enhance the brand image of each entity, and ultimately enhance the quality of life for the local community.

The wide variety of city marketing ideas and strategies that were presented during the DMAI Conference will act as catalysts for stimulating future efforts to enhance the brand image and value of cities around the globe. The city of Seoul must also find and develop its own marketing paradigms in order to become a truly global city and an economic and cultural leader.

Expert insight into DMAI
"The prominence of Korean experts in our field is remarkable"

Professor Rob Davidson, Westminster University

I teach Destination Marketing as part of the Masters course in Conference & Events Management that I run at the University of Westminster in London, and I am proud to be a Faculty Member of DMAI. The Atlanta convention was my first DMAI event, and it was very useful for me to get so many insights into the challenges facing Convention Bureaus all over the world, with, of course, the major emphasis being on the US. Those challenges are particularly significant in the current global economic context, but I found it very interesting that most participants at the DMAI convention were not only willing to discuss the problems they are facing, but were also generous enough to share solutions that they had found too. Although it can be said that, in a very real sense, the convention attendees were actually competitors, all competing with each other to win conferences and events for their cities, there was an encouraging spirit of openness and generosity in Atlanta, with widespread sharing of tried-and-tested techniques for succeeding even in the current economic climate.

I also had the pleasure of meeting several other professors from different countries, teaching the same subject as I teach in my university. This was very inspirational, as we exchanged ideas on how best to educate students on Destination Marketing topics and on our research interests. Research and writing academic articles and books are important professional activities for most professors, so it was useful to discuss this and to explore options for possible future collaborations.

I was particularly pleased to see so many attendees from South Korea at this convention. Their presence made the event more global in nature and provided a different perspective. It is clear to me that several South Korean cities are rising destinations for international conferences, and the strong presence of Korean professionals at the DMAI convention reinforced this image. At the University of Westminster, we have had many South Korean students on our MA Conference & Events Management course, and we are very proud of the fact that when they return home after the 1-year course, they always find employment in the conference industry.

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