Silk Road Media and the Eurasian Creative Guild (London) have been developing the tourism potential of the Eurasian region for 15 years through creative and business events, including literary festivals, art exhibitions, business forums, as well as road shows, creative meetings and much more. Thanks to these events, not only the direct participants, but also the general public learn about amazing places, and the destinations themselves become part of world culture.

Photo by Joel Heard on Unsplash

The effectiveness of creative industry tools for destination marketing is undeniable. With relatively low direct costs, a strong PR effect can be achieved if you know how to create the right agenda and skilfully avoid ‘bottlenecks’. If you are planning an event that will increase the tourist appeal of your destination in the near or distant future, it is worth starting with a checklist of “ingredients”. Without them, the event will be “unpalatable” and will not have the desired effect.

Firstly, as strange as it may sound, you need a theme that appeals to the segment of tourists you want to attract to the area. The business community is attracted by business forums and conferences, while travellers are attracted by iconic events, places or famous (even in narrow circles) personalities. For example, Rio de Janeiro has chosen a cultural theme, while Abu Dhabi has chosen a business theme, and the mix of travellers will be appropriate in both cases. ECG (London) specialises in attracting artists and cultural figures who not only come in person, but whose work creates a romantic image of a city or even a country, which ultimately attracts a much wider audience than, say, the literary festival itself. How many people are attracted to Paris, London, New York and other places mentioned in hundreds of books, songs and films? Such themes and the composition of the participants allow even small events to be really effective.

Secondly, the duration of the event. In order for an event to be really effective in attracting tourists, it makes sense to plan it to take place on a regular basis, once a month, once a quarter, once a year, once every two years, and so on. This allows audiences to plan their itineraries in advance, prepare and make an effort to get to the event. The Cannes Film Festival, Milan Fashion Week, the Paris-Dakar Rally, the Brazilian Carnival – all of these events attract millions of tourists each year and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for their local economies. ECG hosts four major festivals each year – the ECG Film Festival (since 2019) in London, the Voices of Friends: Poetry & Art Festival (since 2021) in Burabai, Kazakhstan, and two travelling events – Open Eurasian Literary Festival & Book Forum (since 2012) and Eurasian Creative Week (since 2016). Even during the pandemic, the festivals were held in hybrid formats, which helped to keep the events attractive to international audiences.

The third “ingredient” is the keynote speakers. The more prominent the speakers, the more attention the event receives. Speakers at ECG events have included popular writers Elchin Safarli and Janusz Wisniewski, Australian composer Warren Wills, Cannes winner and living legend of Polish cinema Krzysztof Pius Zanussi and British director and jury member of many international festivals Ovidio Salazar, as well as ambassadors and consuls of various countries and even the President of Kyrgyzstan Roza Otunbayeva (she opened the 2012 festival in Bishkek). For the growth of domestic tourism, however, it is enough to create an opportunity for personal interaction with international participants, even if they are not A/B stars. This is the basis for the attractiveness of the ECG festivals, which each year attract delegations from dozens of countries.

Factor #4 – Partners. No event can do without partners in various fields, from the venue to the video shoot. It is thanks to a network of partners that it is possible to produce a quality event within a reasonable budget. The team at ECG (London) has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to organise and deliver an international level event in a short space of time with minimal resources. It is important to understand what the partners will get and to build partnership into the project idea at the planning stage.

The “fifth element”, without which the event makes no sense, is of course information support. It is this that provides the relevant PR effect. And it is often the most problematic area of any event. The ECG (London) team is confronted with problems in this area every year. And the problem is not the lack of journalists at the events (there may be no journalists at all, nowadays you can take photos and videos with your mobile phone). The problem is that the participants and partners of the event are not always aware of their responsibility and their contribution to the wow effect. At our festivals, we often see that the partners practically disengage themselves from the process of reporting and attracting guests (even though it seems to be their direct interest), and often even hashtags for promotion on social networks are invented by the festival participants themselves (needless to say, this significantly reduces efficiency).

In addition to the nuances directly related to the event, there are other factors to consider in promoting the region. Logistics and cost are often the biggest concerns. Logistics refers to the accessibility of the destination (how easy it is to get there from the airport or other hub), the availability of visas for delegates, local hospitality and local infrastructure.

Cost is another stumbling block. On the one hand, there is a limited budget and it is worth detailing the financial and business model of the event at the concept stage to minimise unforeseen costs and perhaps focus more on working with partners and sponsors. On the other hand, there are the costs of visas, tickets, accommodation, meals, etc., and the value of your event to the audience should definitely be greater than the amount spent to attend. This is a subtlety that is often forgotten at the event planning stage.

The overall destination promotion policy is also important. Local authorities and tourism industry representatives should also be interested in the success of the project. If there is no one to talk about the region, give a tour, show a guide or at least welcome guests to their territory, the PR effect in terms of destination marketing will be zero.

Well-constructed events that work on the development of the territory’s brand often become an independent source of attracting tourists, financial, business and other projects, and their positive effect extends to all spheres of life in the region. Therefore, this type of tourism should definitely be considered as an investment project.

by Marat Akhmedjanov,
Vice-Chairman ECG (London)