„Where to next?“ Image 1


„Where to next?“

Lisbon and Barcelona are distinguishing themselves as venues for tech congresses, including reference events such as MWC and Web Summit. Zagreb is enhancing its profile as conference destination with the first MEETEX, Croatian Meeting Experience Summit 2019.

here to next?" That was the simple question raised by the Web Summit 2018: "At a time of great uncertainty for industry upon industry and the world itself, we gather the founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers and heads of state." 70,000 attendees accepted the invitation to meet in Lisbon from November 5 thru 8, 2018 and to listen to a total of 1,200 speakers, among these Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Ten days before, Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit CEO, and Portugal's Prime Minister António Costa announced that the Web Summit will be based in Lisbon for the next ten years. This decision had been preceded by a Europe-wide call for tenders and a €110 million deal: the Web Summit will be sponsored with €11 million per year; Altice Arena and Feira Internacional de Lisboa (FIL) will be doubled in size by 2021. This measure would accommodate the growth forecast for the Web Summit, in which the Portuguese government identifies €300 million in economic impact for the country.

And that's not all: the summit and the national 'StartUP Portugal' program will elevate the country and its businesses on the global stage. Portugal has long advanced to be "one of Europe’s hottest stars, with tech startups mushrooming and investment pouring in" (The Wall Street Journal). Lisbon's mayor Fernando Medina: "This 10-year agreement with Web Summit will decisively make Lisboa a key capital for innovation, entrepreneurship and talent. I am confident the next few years will bring a sharp rise in IT investment and employment in Lisboa. We are thrilled to continue to write this story together with Web Summit."

CEO Paddy Cosgrave confirmed: "We're incredibly excited to be staying in Portugal. Without a larger venue, this would not be possible. Even until a few months ago, we never believed it would be possible. The plans are incredible and we're very thankful to all those who have worked on them." The first expansion phase will come in time for the Web Summit 2019. The Altice Arena, Portugal's largest event hall with a capacity of 20,000 persons, was erected in the Parque das Nações city district as 'Pavilhão da Utopia' for the World Expo98. Then there's the Feira Internacional de Lisboa with four halls with 10,000 sqms each and the FIL Meeting Centre.

Larger convention facilities are available at the Lisboa Congress Centre – CCL in the historical area of Belém with eight auditoria, five pavilions and 34 meeting rooms. Other alternatives are the Lusíada University Convention Centre Centro and of course the hotels; 25 with 5 stars, 85 with 4 stars and 45 with 3 stars. The Lisboa Convention Bureau (LCB) supports planners in their search for just the right meeting venues and partners.

„Where to next?“ Image 2
António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal (left), and Paddy Cosgrave, CEO Web Summit, during the Opening Cermony of the Web summit 2017 at Altice Arena Lisbon.

Barcelona has been positioning itself as Digital Capital; its reference event is the MWC (formerly Mobile World Congress), the largest mobile event in the world. Under the event theme of 'Intelligent Connectivity', MWC19 Barcelona will highlight the intersection of 'hyper-connectivity', enabled by 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), and 'intelligence', delivered by artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. "Underpinned by 5G and AI, intelligent connectivity is a major technological force that will shape how the world communicates well into the future," said Michael O’Hara, the organizing GSMA's Chief Marketing Officer. "Attendees will get to experience the impact of intelligent connectivity firsthand, across the conference and exhibition and the many programs and events taking place at MWC19 Barcelona." At the event scheduled from February 25 thru 28, 2019, more than 2,400 companies including Accenture and Alibaba Cloud and around 107,000 deciders are expected to show at the Fira Gran Via, Fira Montjuïc and La Farga L’Hospitalet facilities.

IBTM World 2018 is moving towards the starting block here; they've announced keynote-speaker Millennial tech entrepreneur Charlotte Pearce (26), CEO and founder of technology platform Inkpact. For Christoph Tessmar, Director Barcelona Convention Bureau, the trade show taking place from 27 to 29 November is a perfect display window. Barcelona with its 195 international association congresses recently passed Paris and Vienna to take the lead in the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) City Ranking 2017.


Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square in ZagrebPHOTO: ZAGREB TOURIST BOARD, M. VRDOLJAK
Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square in Zagreb
The Croatian Meeting Experience Summit (MEETEX) will take place at the Westin Hotel Zagreb from 19 to 21 March 2019. In a series of appointments, close to 60 Croatian MICE professionals will present their facilities and services to approximately 120 meeting planners and hosted buyers from Croatia (35%) and other European countries (65%). The summit is organized by the Croatian Meeting Professionals Association (CMPA) and the Inovativni Eventi agency. The Croatian Ministry of Tourism is the official sponsor. Supporters are the Croatian National Tourist Board, the Croatian Chamber of Economy, and the Zagreb Tourist Board and Convention Bureau. www.meetex.eu

The Barcelona Convention Bureau and 'AssociationWorld' joined in a global partnership aimed at promoting education for association professionals. Tessmar: "Barcelona is a leading destination that brings large numbers of associations and international organizations to our city. As a city we benefit from it and we want to give something back. Whether they are small, medium or large size associations, we understand their needs very well." His team assists with the organization of events and the identification of adequate venues such as the Centre de Convenciones Internacional de Barcelona (CCIB) with 38 rooms, an auditorium seating up to 3,140 attendees, and an exhibition hall.

At the IBTM World, the Croatian Convention Bureau will operate a stand jointly with eight associated exhibitors, among these the Dubrovnik Tourist Board Convention Bureau and the Zagreb Convention Bureau. Croatia's capital is at position 56 (28th in Europe) in ICCA's 2017 ranking. The calendar for the next two years has scheduled the 15th ISGA International Auxology Congress 2020, the 7th European Phycological Congress 2019, and the first MEETEX Croatian Meeting Experience Summit from 19 to 21 March 2019 at the Westin Hotel Zagreb. The latter event will provide a platform for 50 to 60 Croatian meetings industry professionals to present their convention options to between 100 and 120 meeting planners and hosted buyers.

While the discussion on building a congress center has been on-going for years, two new hotels opened for business in October. These are the Canopy by Hilton with 151 rooms and the meeting rooms 'Tesla" and 'Penkala', and the Amadria Park Capital Heritage Hotel with 112 rooms and the conference rooms 'Capital Business Salon' and 'Capital Private Club'. Martina Bienenfeld, CEO Zagreb Tourist Board, is delighted: "Zagreb's meetings industry offer has seen consistent annual growth, and with the announcement of new hotel capacities opening in Zagreb, it is to be expected that opportunities for business tourism will continue to grow." The corporate travel and meetings market is fueled by innovative Croatian companies such as Rimac Automobili. Founder Mate Rimac aims to produce "superfast" electric cars; he presented his new hyper-car, the C_Two, to the Croatian audience this past September. At the opening of the event staged on Josip Juraj Strossmayer Square, Mate Rimac pointed out: "The prototype was first shown at the Geneva Car Show in March. It was our wish to meet the public at home and showcase our car and technology, and so we decided to organize this three-day event at the center of Zagreb."  KERSTIN WÜNSCH

ICCA City Ranking 2017: Barcelona passed Paris and Vienna to take the lead.