I wrote this up for a mailing list I’m a member of, and it seems also useful to post it here, as well.
I learned a lot from chairing Arisia 2011. Arisia moved from the Cambridge Hyatt to the Westin Boston Waterfront for the 2011 convention, and it was a really fascinating learning experience. All told, I think it went smashingly well. This was partly circumstance, and partly really intentional work from all parties.
First off, in general, I highly recommend getting to know the staff of your hotel or facilities very well, very far in advance. I had several lunch and coffee meetings with our hotel representatives more than a year before signing the hotel contract, even. (The contract signing is at least a year in advance, but preferably multiple years in advance, note.) I stayed in the hotel several times prior to signing the contract. I became a familiar face they saw several times a year (and sometimes several times a month, in the case of the door staff). Some Westin staffers still recognize me and remember my name, years later, and they associate me with positive things such as large-ish tips and remembering who they are. (I am lucky to have reasonably good facial/name recollection.)
Worldcon is historically kinda bad at getting the vote out on site selection (aka “voting on where Worldcon will be in the future”). Last year, there were 6130 total members of LoneStarCon3. Of these, 1348 members voted on site selection, or not quite 22% of the membership. And that was a highly contested race!
I don’t think low voter turnout is the intended outcome, but I do think Worldcon voting isn’t the easiest system to understand. Worldcon is a big endeavor, and big things are unwieldy, and site selection voting hasn’t often made it to the top of the list of things to make sure the public is knowledgeable about. Plus, according to the Sasquan report I read last month, the previous five Worldcon races were uncontested. Maybe it’s pretty understandable that it wasn’t a huge focus in the past. I think I was on Worldcon staff for at least two years before I knew we could vote on Worldcon location.
But this is how we decide where Worldcon will be! Which has a huge impact on the con in the long term (more on that later)! And it’s the least expensive option for getting a membership to Worldcon! So I’m going to attempt to explain it.
After losing Worldcon 2015 by only 35 votes, I truly believe that only YOU can bring Worldcon to Helsinki! You, and many others voting with us …
Should the Helsinki in 2017 bid win, the city of Helsinki will be providing all attending members of the Helsinki Worldcon with free public transit during the convention, thanks to one of the grant programs we are eligible for (this one from the city’s tourism bureau). Fans typically spend $30 or so on local transit during a Worldcon, so this is a savings that will directly help attendees of a Helsinki Worldcon run around being tourists while visiting Finland.
Should you decide to do some tourism, the options are very convenient from our convention centre, Messukeskus. The Pasila local train station is immediately adjacent to Messukeskus and it’s one stop (3 to 5 minutes’ transit) from the central train station of Helsinki. There are currently between 10 and 35 trains each hour in both directions, depending on the time of day or night. Three tram lines also have a stop right in front of the site, and it’s well served by other bus and tram connections. Travel to and from the centre of the city is very simple, in other words, should you decide to have adventures elsewhere in Helsinki.
Concerned about accessibility? All buses and metros, as well as most trams and trains, are low-floor and wheelchair-accessible. Mobility scooters are allowed on low-floor trains, and wheelchairs are usable everywhere.
I’m not saying that you’ll need to go anywhere on public transit. Messukeskus shares doors with the main hotel we’ve contracted with (a Holiday Inn). You won’t have to go outside to get to the con if you’re in the main hotel, and there are several other hotels within a couple of blocks, so you wouldn’t need transit in Helsinki if you didn’t want to utilize it. However, I personally find public transit in Helsinki to be clean, pleasant, and speedy. It’s very efficient, and it gets to me to exciting places nearby, like the nearby amusement park, Linnanmaki, the sea fortress, Suomenlinna, and the contemporary art museum, Kiasma. The last of those completely deserves its own blog entry, since I was just there this week, and it was fabulous. 🙂
(A major concern people expressed about the Helsinki in 2015 bid was that it would be too expensive to have a Worldcon in Helsinki, so I thought I’d highlight some of the things that would be objectively more affordable about our bid for the 2017 Worldcon race.)
Helsinki is known for having impressively good tap water, free for the drinking. I’m told that Helsinki’s tap water is judged better than Evian bottled water in a blind taste test. It’s certainly been judged more pure than bottled water. I can personally verify that it’s very tasty!
One of the surprising savings of having Worldcon in Helsinki in 2017 would be water. Not the biggest savings available to us, over all, but the potential math surprised me on this, so I thought I’d post a note about it.
See, for a Worldcon, buying water in bottles can be very costly. Even buying it in huge bottles, multiple gallons apiece, is expensive. Four thousand people average 10,000 gallons of drinking water over the course of five days. Not all of that liquid would be provided by the convention, of course, but a large portion of it traditionally is supplied by Hospitality or Member Services at Worldcon. The facilities contract for Sasquan, in fact, requires that all food and beverages, including water, be purchased through the Spokane Convention Centre at their prices. I called the facility, and was given a verbal estimate of $28 (including tax and fees) per 5 gallon water barrel.
This cost is, luckily, something that a Worldcon in Helsinki could avoid. Drinking water that’s free would be a boon to any Worldcon, if possible, and Helsinki has this savings in the bank, amongst several others.
What are some of the other savings? Coming up soon, I should at least post about
- Free Public Transit to All Worldcon Attendees,
- Cheapest Hotel Rates In Recent Memory,
- Eligibility for Grant Monies, and
- No Fees for Decorator and Tech Setup (unlike all American Worldcons).