Conventions and conferences were among the topics of discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of the special events advisory committee.
Conferences aren’t currently eligible for funding from the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The committee will be evaluating all aspects of funding to “see which ones will be eligible and which ones won’t be, because now we’re excluding certain events,” Stephen Adams, District 11 councillor (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road), who chaired the meeting, said in an interview.
Stuart Jolliffe with Destination Halifax said in previous years, smaller run conferences have resulted in a positive economic return for the HRM. He’s also a member of the committee.
Conventions were also discussed. Hal-Con was cited as a strong example.
“There’s somebody that, a bunch of volunteers (and) no paid staff, got together (and) came up with an idea,” said Jolliffe after the meeting.
“In its very early years, it probably did not meet the thresholds that we’re talking about here, but yet here we are — five years into Hal-Con — and it may be one of the most significant events we have annually.”
There are currently four tourism grant programs established to support large-scale special events in the HRM.
The first is for new or emerging events with a minimum budget of $50,000. They are available to organizations that have operated for a minimum of one year and have demonstrated event management experience.
The second is for tourism events with minimum budget of $300,000. Once an annual tourism event has existed for five years and meets the criteria, it may be eligible for consideration under the signature events grant program.
Third on the list is signature events. The event in question must have existed for a minimum of five consecutive years and have a minimum budget of $500,000.
Major hosting events rounds out the four. Events in this category must be of a size and scope sufficient enough to draw tourists to the municipality’s communities, attract significant media exposure and profile Halifax nationally and globally.
Economic return versus size
A pivotal point brought up by the special events committee was if the economic return on certain events was worth it, compared to the size of the event’s budget.
“We’ve always considered economic benefit,” Jolliffe said. “What the budget seems to be is more of a gatekeeper in order to get inside of the funding. The entire funding is then reviewed based on economic benefit.”
Adams echoed those remarks.
“We had a discussion about that last time and I think that what we’re getting at is, what is the main function of the event,” Adams said.
Members of the committee unanimously approved a recommendation during the meeting to get staff to specifically research convention funding further. These findings will be discussed at the next committee meeting on March 29.