Events: Drive visitation and support brand image

Communities and resorts, particularly those that have high and low seasons, are often looking for a strategy to drive occupancy and create an exciting attractive atmosphere for visitors. Festivals and events have the power to both attract crowds and build brand image for a destination. One great example of a community that uses festivals and events to drive off-season business is Whistler. Have a look at the Whistler events calendar; you will see that there is something happening almost every weekend through the spring, summer, and fall. These types of events may not necessarily work for every destination.

The choice of which events to bring to a community are often politically based (Chalip, Green & Hill, 2003, p. 214). Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are often involved in planning events in their communities to help promote tourism in otherwise flat or slower tourism seasons. Sports tourism and sports event are the biggest drivers of tourism worldwide (Pike, 2008, p. 111). Getz (2003) suggests that sport event tourism is the biggest and most profitable niche in the sport tourism industry. While sport events are a major attraction, cultural or celebratory events also have the ability to generate visitations to a destination (Pike, 2008, p. 111-112). The potential for an event to attract a crowd is an important factor, the media attention’s impact on developing a destination image could be more important than actual visitor spending (Getz, 2003, p. 51). Therefore the image portrayed by the event in question should match the desired image of the destination (Chalip, Green & Hill, 2003, p.228); and the event choice should be influenced by the image desired by the DMO and local community.

Participatory events have become increasingly popular and effective at driving visitation. For example, a Tough Mudder event in the Callaghan Valley’s Whistler Olympic Park attracted 25,000 people in 2013. With participatory events, visitors are more likely to tell their stories on social media, further promoting the destination’s brand image.

To determine what types of events are appropriate in a community, we use a combination of market research (including psychographics) and public engagement. This allows us to make sure that the event image aligns with the destination’s brand image. We also evaluate the destination’s capacity to support the desired events and festivals. There may even be opportunities to run different events simultaneously to capture different market segments.