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Europe Still The World’s Convention Continent

Congress and convention specialist, Wolfram D. Svoboda, the head of marketing at the International Congress Center Berlin, said he’s very optimistic on the future of congresses as people always will have the demand for personal contacts and personal exchange of thoughts.

“In addition to further improvements in electronic communication, personal meetings will stay on the agenda,” he said during a seminar on convention center marketing, which was held during last month’s Philoxenia travel fair.

Mr. Svoboda presented facts and figures that showed most of the world’s congresses are being held in Europe, with nearly 57% of all meetings, followed by North America with 16,2% and Asia with 13,4%. The rest are being held in South America (5%), Africa (4,7%) and Australasia (3,8%). The aforementioned, he said, reflects the market shares for decades, with a tendency to more meetings in Asia and Australasia.

He then explained how the Berlin center markets it services and stressed the point that Internet presence is the marketing tool of today. Content and permanent up-dates are the “musts” of website marketing, he said. On its site, the center has actual dates of meetings and shows. It also includes the ability to look into the center’s halls, rooms, lobbies, etc. As well, the site has online inquiry form to ask for open dates, available space, and so on.

Meanwhile, in Greece, professionals are still waiting for a stand-alone conference center -government announced the creation of a 10,000-delegate congress center at the now- closed Hellenikon Athens airport and said the new center will open before the 2004 Olympic Games. The tender for construction of the center will be issued on December 15 and the winner will be known by May 2002.

Dimitris Mantzios, the president of Greece’s association for conference organizers, says that in light of the new center’s construction, the association has begun a study on how city convention bureaus abroad are formed and how they work.

On completion of the study, the association will attempt overall cooperation with tourism sectors and later with business professionals that are involved in any way with or benefit from congresses.

Mr. Mantzios says cooperation with local and state authorities is an absolute necessity and he has proposed to the City of Athens and the Attica Prefecture to include the convention bureau in their tourism promotion program. This is a priority, he says, because of the Olympic Games.

As a result of the Games and their excellent promotion by Sydney and Barcelona, tourism movement to these cities increased substantially, but in particular the cities have seen a particular increase in conference tourism, he says.

According to the International Congress & Convention Association, Sydney hosted the world’s most conferences in 2000, and Australia will host the world’s most conferences in 2001. As well, he says, recent government decisions anticipate a major leap in the development of conference and congress infrastructure in Athens.

Numerous studies have shown that conference tourism brings economic benefits to all professional sectors and promote the cultural aspects of the host city thanks to the type of delegates that attend each conference, most of which are well educated and well off. A convention bureau’s main task is to entice conferences and congresses through a strong promotion of the host city’s conference infrastructure and available services and products.

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