Recession and the AIG Effect: Meetings are a big deal - but you can’t assume anyone else knows that. “I’m passionate about this,” Albuquerque’s Lockett said. “The meetings industry has become so important from an economic standpoint to our community. It’s not even close to what it was 10 years ago. You cannot get corporations to relocate to your destination unless it’s a desirable place to be - and you need people to experience it. We are aggressive about going after groups that will have long-term benefits to our community.”
Sidebar: What Price Knowledge?
Since moving to Boston in 2010, the PAX East gaming conference has become the second-biggest convention the city hosts. And this past February, PAX East extended its contract with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) through 2023, which will keep the conference at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for at least 11 more years.
Even a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation - multiplying PAX East’s annual 70,000 attendees, times two to three room-nights per year, times 11 years - shows that the contract will bring millions of dollars, if not billions, to Boston’s meetings and hospitality industry. Organizers project that PAX East attendance will reach 100,000 over the next decade, making the deal even sweeter.
But the traditional way of measuring the impact of an event - in terms of its economic effect on the hospitality industry - just “gets at the tip of the iceberg,” said James Rooney, MCCA’s executive director. The impact of an event like PAX East, he said, is much broader, not just in terms of commerce, but in the transfer of knowledge between conference participants and the community. Hosting events such as PAX East can and should be part of a larger economic-development strategy.
PAX East is a good fit for Boston in more ways than just room-night capacity. The Boston area, home to premier academic institutions including Harvard University and MIT, is known for intellect and innovation. “If you look at the industries that we do most of our business in,” Rooney said, “it’s the knowledge-based industries.” The $65-billion global video-game industry fits that description, attracting technology companies, game developers, and venture capitalists, as well as gaming enthusiasts.
PAX East’s long-term commitment helps to secure Boston’s reputation as a hotbed for video-game innovation, Rooney said. And in what appears to be an industry first, the contract made the tie between the gaming conference and Boston’s knowledge base explicit, by including an annual $25,000 donation from PAX East to the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDIGI), based at Becker College.
With its investment in MassDIGI, an academic and entrepreneurial center, “PAX East won’t just be coming to town for three days every year,” Rooney said, “but will have a year-round presence.” This kind of long-term partnership, which directly connects events to local business and academic communities, he said, “should be the way of the future.”
Read Convene's comprehensive report on CIC’s Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy study.
Learn more about DMAI’s Event Impact Calculator.