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August 3, 2009

SUCCESS BY ASSOCIATION 3:Europe's number one destination

According to the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) report on the associations meeting market for 2008, Germany is Europe’s most popular European destination for association meetings and second only to the US on the world stage. Lutz Vogt, managing director of the German Convention Bureau, explains to Pete Roythorne what makes the country stand out.

“Reachability, infrastructure, quality of the meeting facilities and ‘soft factors’ like security and tourist attractions are rated as exemplary in Germany by the experts. These are important requirements for any destination wanting to master the current crisis and emerge from it with new strength,” says Lutz Vogt, managing director of the German Convention Bureau (GCB)

Germany has a wide range of large and well-equipped congress centres across the country. Furthermore, it offers large hotel capacities, which allow association meeting planners to accommodate their delegates within easy reach of the venues. The country boasts 6,330 meeting and event venues – 2% more than last year – and hosted 2.76 million meetings and events in 2008 that were attended by 318 million delegates – almost four times the size of the German population.

“Germany's image as a meeting and event destination is constantly improving,” says Vogt. “Rising attendance figures at meetings and events over the past few years prove the growing economic importance of this market for Germany. The meetings industry is still a growth market. However, it will not be able to escape the current financial and economic crisis unscathed. That's why meeting planners are keeping a closer eye on where to buy and what service they will get for their money.


Andels Hotel Berlin: part of the changing face of the
German meetings infrastructure


Value for money
“In Germany you can not only meet at an affordable price but the great meeting quality and low incidental costs make it an extremely attractive meeting destination in the heart of Europe. Our excellent value for money in all areas of business and everyday life are reason enough to opt for Germany. However, not everyone is aware of this yet. We sometimes discover in our talks with customers that we still have a high-price image. But this is a thing of the past."

Although the associations market is just one – albeit big – piece of the pie in the meetings and events industry, the sector is relatively resistant to the economic conditions and is accordingly important for any destination to focus on. Numerous associations have already realised this potential and Germany’s advantages as a meeting and congress destination, and the GCB meeting calendar (www.germany-meetings.com) lists many international conventions that will take place across the country.

Vogt believes that the most important sources of information for organisers are personal recommendations and talks, followed by a good convention website, decision-maker invitations and visits to trade fairs – and this forms the core of Germany’s marketing efforts.

Advice and support
“The GCB is an interface between organisers of meetings and conventions and suppliers of the German meetings market, offers advice and support for planning and organising events and invites meeting planners to educational trips to Germany and provides contacts and addresses,” he says. “In 2008, the GCB launched a Customer Advisory Board, which consists of 10 top meeting planners from the USA. Association planners are also on this panel, which meets twice a year, and advises the GCB and its members on how to actively and successfully market their destination and products to the clients itself.”

Also helping to raise the profile of Germany as a key meetings and events destination is the fact that the GCB is strategic partner for global meetings and events show IMEX, organising 15 German seminars and one English-speaking lecture. As IMEX’s largest exhibitor, the GCB presents 180 exhibitors at the Germany stand.

However, as you would expect, the Germans are not a group of people to be found sitting on their laurels, and the country continues to invest heavily in its meetings and events infrastructure. The past 12 months have seen several new high-profile meetings and events spaces opening across the country, including: the new event area at the Nuerburgring; the Andels Hotel Berlin; the World Conference Center Bonn; Seminaris Campus Science & Conference Center Berlin; and the Leonardo Royal Hotel Berlin. And future openings include the Ameron World Conference Hotel Bonn and Kameha Grand Hotel Bonn.

Future thinking
“The World Conference Center Bonn and the darmstadtium offer special services around green meetings, which has a rapidly growing impact on the global meetings market,” continues Vogt. “New openings offer new perpectives for planners and help the destination reach new clients. The venues all offer state-of-the-art facilities in all areas. The Andels hotel Berlin and the Leondardo hotel Berlin have a special focus on arts – which also allows us to attract new clients.”

So, how is Germany facing up to the financial storm?

“Our environment today is a lot different than it was last year,” says Vogt. “The realities of today's economic conditions require us to pay serious attention to the return on investment (ROI) for all of our clients.”

But he insists that it still makes economic sense, as well as business sense, to plan international meetings in Germany. And the low costs relative to quality of facilities, accessible location and world-leading green credentials make it difficult to disagree.

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