Conference & Meetings World Issue 102 - Page 43

Subvention role tourism plays, and will continue to play, in showcasing what our great country has to offer,” the former PM noted. Subvention – business enabler, or bribery? The aim of the Tourism Sector Deal is to make conference facilities across the UK, and not just in London, more attractive to international organisers. It operates on a philosophy of ‘if you build it, they will come’ – which is very much the opposite of subvention. Subvention is the practice of governments providing direct financial incentives to international event organisers, in order to attract them to a country. It can come in many forms, such as venue hire discounts, contributions toward event costs, or the provision of things such as dinners or receptions. Some take issue and call subvention funding bribery, while others say it is just another tool to attract and develop business. Emma Nolan, an associate lecturer at the University of Chichester, is currently researching a PhD on the subject. She explains: “Subvention is widely used, but isn’t widely talked about. “That’s partly because destinations don’t want to give away their sales strategy, but more than that, I think it has a bit of a bad reputation. It has been compared to bribery by some industry professionals, and there is a distaste for it in places. “I don’t think that’s necessarily true – there’s a very good business case for using subvention. The amount that is usually offered is tiny when compared to the economic benefits of hosting an association conference.” Nolan says that associations are usually the beneficiaries of subvention funding – organisations that are often not run for profit, and struggle to meet the large up-front costs of hosting an international event. Subvention, she says, can break down some of those initial barriers to entry, and allow all involved to reap the mutual economic benefits. It can also break down barriers to entry for those smaller or less established destinations, which need to provide a USP when bidding for an event. Is subvention levelling the playing field in an increasingly crowded market, or is it normalising bribery inside a moral grey area? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic – you can get in touch at swood@ mashmedia.net Above: Emma Nolan, an associate lecturer at the University of Chichester ISSUE 102 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / 43