DestinationQ Event Forum - Inspiration for Events!

Our top 5 take outs:

Mix it up
Regional events and destinations need to stop using the unwritten event formula (food trucks, wine, farmer’s markets, music and a street parade) and start being creative and entrepreneurial in their event creation and delivery. Take time to visit other events around the world and gain insights and ideas on how you can create an event that is unique to your destination and community.

Be strategic      
Regional councils need to be strategic in how they integrate events into their tourism strategies and destination management plans. It is important that all areas of council (roads and maintenance, facilities management, planning, etc) understand and embrace the power of events and work proactively to attract and support major festivals and events.

IC: Stefan Karpiniec on Flickr

IC: Stefan Karpiniec on Flickr

Listen to your tribe!
There is nothing more powerful than listening to your visitors and attendees. What do they want? What are the trends they are following? How do they want the event to grow and improve? The biggest thing you can do wrong is program an event with all the entertainment that you or the event committee like! It’s not about you, sorry!

Partner up early      
Work with partners very early in the planning stages to gain the best leverage and support e.g. with travel agents, your RTO, corporate partners, Council, etc. Do not work in a silo and expect partners to come to you; it is about building these networks and relationships very early and nurturing them throughout the entire planning process.

Get inspired
We're booking tickets to Dark Mofo In Tasmania now! 

Top tips from the speakers: 

  • Use big gestures + think big! 
  • Be innovative, be brave, and invite others to help you reimagine your festival
  • Relationships, networking, leveraging...
  • Create authentic experiences
  • Be entrepreneurial, and don’t be afraid to ask for help
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The Value of Events

Prof. Judith McLean 

Events play 3 key roles:

  • Building optimism in the community
  • Building community resilience
  • Building citizens who are engaged in their communities


  • We are in the connection business, sharing ourselves; and in the mind-altering game of future-building.
  • Connection is between us and within us. At a great event, you end up knowing something you didn’t know before: you enter a more diverse world.
  • When we share, feel-good hormones flood us, triggering mirror neurons; emotions are contagious.

Destinations need great events that are completely immersed in the destination and the people: locals doing what they do best. People will not travel for manufactured events! They must authentically reflect the locals.

The presence of events folks is needed at DestinationQ’s annual convention 9-10 November in Brisbane (coinciding with the annual Queensland Tourism Awards gala ceremony).

There is a new detailed guide for running events online from Tourism & Events Queensland:

Measuring the economic value of events

Glenn Hardy, IER Events 

Glenn provided really clear instructions on how events can measure their economic impact, what to measure, as well as the top mistakes events make in gathering data. We’ll detail these in an upcoming blog article.

  • The economic impact of an event does not include spending by locals - it's only about measuring new money coming into the destination. 
  • The net event organiser impact economically on the community can be improved by purchasing goods and services from the economy, and growing income from out of region.
  • Destinations want overnight visitor expenditure, and events are a hook to attract more visitors. 
  • Work together in partnerships to build the event brand and the destination brand. Tourism is really everyone’s business because events do a great job of dispersing their export income across many kinds of local industries.

Events create

  • community pride and liveability
  • loyalty and advocacy for a destination
  • economic injections into a community

Measuring the economic impact of your event helps with

  • funding applications and acquittals, and securing sponsorship
  • benchmarking the event to compare with performance in other years
  • partnerships with local businesses
  • increasing the profile of the event which supports working with media and on social media
  • community pride

Loyalty and advocacy

Event objectives: should you chase more and more visitors or chase yield: those who spend more and stay longer? This depends on where your event is in its lifecycle (An event might grow numbers in the beginning and then chase yield).

An event has to provide a minimum quality of transport, accessibility, visitor services, signage and amenities, and provide quality experiential elements: entertainment, innovation, unique food experiences, use of tech, etc. Ensure you are working on improving visitor services.

  • If an event delivers a great experience and a strong connection is created between the destination and event, this creates attendee loyalty and advocacy which will drive repeat visitation (and returning with friends!)
  • Creating emotion leads to loyalty which leads to advocacy, so create opportunities for visitors to feel connected to family/friends/locals, to feel entertained/excited/inspired/special, and for escapism.
  • Word of mouth and social media are the top ways people hear about events so advocacy and loyalty is key!
  • Create local ambassadors for your event because visitor connection with the local community is critical - visitors want to live like locals and feel connected! 

How to be innovative in creating economic value

  • Incorporate unique elements of your region into your event
  • Communicate with out-of-region attendees about the destination
  • Understand the broader visitor experience and what will value-add to your target market's experience
  • Motivate locals to invite their friends and families - community pride
  • Develop packages with local attractions and retailers to increase spend in your region
Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 5.12.08 pm.png

Packaging and partnerships with travel agencies to drive visitors

Sarah Gerrand of helloworld, Richard Glew of Flight Centre

Partnering with a travel agency can expand the reach of your event - it's another great distribution channel that also increases the length of stay and yield of visitors. 
Travel agencies are frequently overlooked as event partners but they have contacts with end consumers.

A large agency covers

  • cruise, rail, flights
  • tour operators
  • package holidays
  • inbound visitors from overseas
  • retail shops
  • business groups and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions)
  • ticketing

Travel agencies are looking for

  • larger events with the volume of visitors to generate enough revenue to warrant their marketing spend
  • iconic or unique events or an event that’s in demand (where there is FOMO)
  • events with ticketed elements
  • destinations with accommodation 
  • a long lead time
  • where return is greater than risk (e.g. where the agency must prepurchase tickets)
  • marketing rights (so they can market the packages!)

Benefits of packaging

  • Removes barriers or perceived barriers such as accessibility, cost, etc to make it easy for the consumer to buy: they can see the full cost of their trip
  • Provides competitiveness against TV broadcasting and live streaming (the couch is our biggest competitor!) by providing experiences like backstage access
  • Reduces ticket scalping (who’d try to on-sell accom, flights and tickets?)
  • Provides unique products e.g. regional tour (dispersal and longer stays), exclusive front row seats, back of house experiences, meeting celebrities, pre-sales (first tickets sold are only in a package)
  • Consumers can’t see the cost of individual elements (not misleading but smart communicating)
  • Increases length of stay – agencies target interstate visitors who spend more and stay longer
  • Provides options to add to the package, including those that might not be obvious such as dispersal (e.g. if the Gold Coast had a big event and accommodation was very expensive there, an optional extra could be to explore the hinterland where accommodation prices are attractively cheaper)
  • Travel agencies can work through white label websites. This is a ticketing page on your website with your event's branding, so consumers seamlessly recognise it as the event's ticket page, but the sales actually take place with the travel agency. International visitors book early, so have this page on your website early (and add merchandise packs too!).

Why partner with travel agencies?

  • Agencies sell to end consumers
  • Planning for success: as partners, agencies can help events meet their objectives
  • Expanding reach: to interstate visitors, groups (including the lucrative MICE market), frequent flyer members (and specific subgroups of frequent flyers)
  • Increased economic yield from interstate visitors
  • To grow tourism either side of the event
  • To take advantage of their marketing channels, owned and paid
  • They can remarket to their customers who are nearby

Events need to start working with travel partners early to get the best value! 
Event packages need to be in market at least 8-10 months prior to events. 


Jeff Gillies, Ironman - Case study

Be customer-driven: 
How will your customer enjoy the journey?
Do what you do to provide for your audience.

Think of packages for all attendees
For Ironman they have packages for participants and their supporters.
What needs or wants does each group have and how can you improve their experience?
The same goes for merchandise (and remember to do merchandise for babies and kids!)


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    For conference breaks, attendees got a chance to stretch their legs on insightful tours of Australia’s largest outdoor art gallery: Toowoomba's  First Coat , produced during a series of mural festivals.

For conference breaks, attendees got a chance to stretch their legs on insightful tours of Australia’s largest outdoor art gallery: Toowoomba's First Coat, produced during a series of mural festivals.

Business engagement and leveraging

Cr Geoff McDonald and Kate Scott, Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

Attracting sponsor partners
State what kind of sponsor you are looking for e.g. a business that is a high achiever with a strong brand and affection for our town.

Trademarking can protect your brand from use that's unaligned with the brand. The Carnival brand is so powerful everyone wants to leverage it – a garage sale and a business selling toilets used the logo during festival week (yes, that really happened!).

How to maintain sponsor partners

  • What do they want? e.g. branding or consumer engagement? Can the event service that?
  • Have really regular contact
  • Have agreements that are actively referred to

Engaging the community and businesses

  • Provide a graphics kit so everyone can use it e.g. Instagram-size branded image, Mailchimp-banner-sized branded image
  • Put programs on the front counters of businesses. It generates word of mouth: ‘Go to the chemist; they have the Carnival programs.’
  • Businesses can have a float in the parade, or sponsor a community club float
  • Having commentary at various points along the parade where people stand to watch means the MC can make frequent mention of business sponsors
  • Buy locally. Council has a policy of providing in-kind support rather than funding because that way they ensure services are all provided by local businesses.
  • Use your brand in creative ways: one of the conference speakers mentioned the great use of Carnival branding of vases of fresh locally-grown flowers everywhere: in their hotel, in shops, at the conference, in restaurants… 

Connecting with Indigenous communities 

Louisa Panuel, Commonwealth Games Reconciliation Action Plan

For the first time ever in the world, the Commonwealth Games has created a Reconciliation Action Plan to effectively engage with and include the Indigenous community and offer long-term legacy benefits to the community from the games. 

For the first time ever in Australia a major event has created a Reconciliation Action Plan. 

How to include indigenous communities in small, regional events

  • There are many support agencies to help
  • Show you genuinely want to engage with the community (not just tick a box or whitewash)
  • Find out what the community’s expectations are and manage these expectations
  • Buy from indigenous-owned businesses
  • Find a way to engage with youth who are in detention centres (e.g. with art)
  • See it as social enterprise: what you can give rather than what you must get

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog article specifically about the Commonwealth Games RAP and the significance of RAPs for the Australian events industry (plus takeaways for smaller events).  


Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 4.21.37 pm.png
IC: BotheredByBees on Flickr

IC: BotheredByBees on Flickr

Staying on brand

Kate Gould, Dark Mofo Festival

You’ve got to keep delivering your event on brand, remaining true to who you are and what you are trying to achieve.

  • Don’t be limited by the expectations of others
  • Use grand gestures
  • Be surprising
  • Take risks
  • Mix it up – you don’t need to be bigger every year, but different
  • Use artists to conceptualise ideas
  • Be grateful for the freedom of more-relaxed local government regulations
  • Consider dark or controversial ideas instead of ticking the festival element boxes of parade, market, food, music, etc: Can you reinvent the festival format?
  • Accept criticism and failure: it’s meant to help you. Acceptance leads to community respect.
  • Create immersive experiences
  • What makes events sticky is the social engagement: the strength of the idea and how it connects with the community
  • Engage the community: Dark Mofo ‘paints the town red’ by having local businesses light up their storefronts and display windows with red lights
  • Consider adding a participatory ritual. Each year Dark Mofo creates a paper mache monster. As it is built the community writes their fears on paper and adds them to its belly. The beast is paraded down a street then burned; the community has a ritual cleansing of its fears.
  • Don’t push back against the community and defend yourself. Conversation is good, though!
  • If you are passionate about your event’s purpose you can find solutions.
  • Know when to let go of your passion if it’s not working (You can use the six hats method with your committee)
  • Dark Mofo’s biggest risk now is not being risky.
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Dispersal into regional areas

Dispersal depends on collaboration and the strength of your idea: how it speaks to the community (its values) and speaks of the local environment (that rugged essence of the Australian landscape that is unique in the world). Tell that story in a compelling way.

Work to a five-year vision.

Video by CMCRocks - celebrating 10 years!

Connecting communities and events

Matthew Lazarus-Hall, Uncommon Cord, CMC Rocks Festival
Ben Pole, Ipswich City Council

CMCRocks is a case study of how a destination can lose a major event.
The Hunter Valley decided they would enforce a minimum four-night stay at $390 per night, which the target market couldn’t afford. In addition, the RTO in three years never had a meeting with the festival. So CMCRocks moved the event to Ipswich where they are working with a positive proactive council that makes things easy for them and works with them. In years two and three at Ipswich the festival discovered they needed more space so Council found it for them. A destination needs to be willing to cooperate if they want the benefits of events. 

Well-known destinations attract events, but smaller, more remote destinations are now being placed on the map as a result of events e.g. Birdsville Big Red Bash

How to approach Council with a new event

  • Show alignment with Council’s strategic objectives
  • Show how you fill a gap such as spreading visitation around the year (e.g. don’t be on at the same time as another big event)
  • Have sponsors on board already

Presenters' top tips for small events to grow to the next level:

  • Big gestures - think big! 
  • Be innovative, be brave and invite others to help you reimagine your festival
  • Relationships, networking, leveraging
  • Create authentic experiences
  • Be entrepreneurial and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Your thoughts

We would love your comments on this blog: 
If you were at the DestinationQ Events conference, what were your top take aways?
What stood out for you that we missed? 
Have your read anything you'll apply? (Travel the world going to festivals to get inspired?)
What was your most inspiring experience at a festival?


Kushla GaleComment