Many cities in the world are fighting for the status of the largest transfer points, hubs. Among such cities, for example, Singapore or Seoul. A lesser known fact is that cities are fighting for the right to host international events. You can call them event hubs.
For several decades, several international associations have been ranking cities according to the number of international events held in them. This article uses data from two of them: ICCA (International Congress & Conventions Association) and UIA (Union of International Associations). The ratings of these associations vary because their definitions of “international events” differ.
ICCA criteria are extremely strict: only events that take place in turn in at least 3 different countries are included in the statistics. According to ICCA, there are more than 15,000 of them per year in the world. They are held on a regular basis, the number of participants is more than 50 people. Conferences usually include related exhibitions and trade shows.
UIA takes into account events organized and / or sponsored by international organizations. According to the UIA, about 400,000 international events are held annually in the world.
Why are cities fighting for the opportunity to host an event on their territory?
1. Tourism as a direct consequence of a major event. According to various sources, about 50% of international delegates continue to travel to other parts of the country except the conference venue, and a third come with satellites.
2. Conferences, convention centers and exhibition centers create jobs. In addition to personnel directly employed in infrastructure centers, it is worth considering the personnel of agencies that provide event organization services, catering companies, and technical contractors.
3. Events are an ideal catalyst for the exchange of ideas for creating joint business projects, improving international trade.
4. Major events are covered in the press and affect the reputation of the city and country.
UIA compiled a rating of countries by the number of events per year (2012 data). In the first place is the tiny state of Singapore, which has managed to become the largest event hub in Asia. Next come Japan, the USA and Belgium.
According to this association, the top 5 event hubs look like this: Paris, Vienna, Barcelona, Berlin, Singapore. For example, Moscow is in the 70th place on this list.
Despite its size, this tiny city-state is rightfully considered the best venue for business events in Asia and the world. Singapore is one of the most developed countries on the planet, which in 30 years managed to achieve one of the lowest levels of corruption and crime, as well as to make an unprecedented leap in economic development, causing sincere admiration for all understanding people. In Singapore, the vast majority of the largest Asian and world congresses are held. In addition, Singapore is famous for its rich nightlife, which, of course, is an additional reason to visit it. Among the largest venues - Singapore Expo - the largest exhibition center of Southeast Asia. The center's infrastructure includes parking for 2,200 cars, and the center itself is over 100,000 square meters. Even the hotels here are world landmarks (the legendary Marina Bay Sands), to say nothing of the recently opened futuristic Gardens by the Bay gardens.
As the main characteristic for winning positioning, you can safely indicate the unique infrastructure and quality of service.
ICCA data are also noteworthy in that they have been counted for over 50 years. The figures show a rapid increase in the number of events since the 60s.
The City of Lights is the record holder for the number of international congresses hosted. This is the main political, financial and cultural center of France and Europe. The headquarters of UNESCO, OECD and the International Chamber of Commerce are located in Paris. Due to the fact that the city is a tourist mecca, 85% of Paris jobs are in the service sector. The capital of France is one of the main shopping centers. Event organizers love him for the exquisite charm and aura of romanticism. Despite the strong autoload, Paris is surrounded by greenery - this is one of the best examples of respect for the environment.
The main reason for choosing Paris as a venue, of course, is its image, history, and opportunities for the informal part of events.
Brussels is the cultural and political center not only of Belgium, but also of the entire European Union, which, of course, gives the city a certain status. Here is the headquarters of the European Union, the NATO office, the first world exhibition was held after the Second World War. Another undoubted plus of Brussels - thanks to the developed transport structure, it can easily be reached from Amsterdam, London, Paris, Luxembourg or Frankfurt. Hotel prices vary, and each organizer can choose something suitable. In addition, Brussels with its huge parks is one of the greenest cities in Europe. In addition, it is famous for gastronomic delights and excellent beer.
The key characteristic when choosing is transport accessibility within Europe.
Vienna is the third UN resident city after New York and Geneva. It is the cultural, economic and political center of Austria. The Vienna International Center includes the IAEA, UNODC and many other organizations; OPEC and OSCE headquarters are located in the city. It is an ideal place for business meetings due to its convenient location, the highest standard of living and a rich history. One of the main advantages of Vienna is its geographical location, which allows it to develop relations with countries of Eastern Europe.
The city boasts a large number of conference centers and nearby hotels for every taste. The cost of living in a hotel in the center is quite high, but there is the opportunity to choose housing and away: thanks to the excellent public transport system, you can reach anywhere in the city in a matter of minutes. The cultural program includes amazing architecture, the famous opera, magnificent gardens and the oldest zoo.
Key characteristic: the image of the city and the possibility of organizing the informal part of the event.
Las Vegas is also a great example of building a successful event hub.
Everyone knows the city’s famous motto: “What happened in Vegas, remained in Vegas”, but the city’s authorities are successfully promoting another slogan: “Vegas means business.” In addition to sparkling casinos, the city has more than 10 million square feet of exhibition space, most of which is a real work of art.
The largest mega-centers in Las Vegas offer infrastructure in the “all under one roof” mode, which involves the combination of the famous nightlife and the most modern infrastructure for organizing events: all the best for work and entertainment in one place. In the afternoon - the most modern equipment, and at night - the famous chefs and world-famous shows (for example, Cirque du Soleil). If you add to this the advanced infrastructure of the city and the beautiful airport, it becomes clear that the city has done everything to become a center for event organizers.
Las Vegas has long been a favorite vacation spot for millions of visitors. However, in the early 1950s, city and state leaders realized that the cyclical nature of tourism leads to a significant decrease in the number of visitors on weekdays, during the summer months and during the Christmas season. A new market - the event market - was defined in order to attract more visitors to the area during these recession periods.
Recently, the leadership of Azerbaijan and Baku have taken a number of steps in the field of development of the country and the city as an attractive place for organizing events.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2013 announced that it will soon launch its own Convention Bureau (AzCB) to strengthen the position of the country and the city in the field of MICE, the organization of events. AzCB is an example of a partnership between the state and private business, between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the largest market players. The new structure will deal with the positioning of the country and the capital as a unique venue for events uniting Europe and Asia.
It should be noted that another city is very successfully positioned - Istanbul. Istanbul Convention & Visitors Bureau offers many options for events, not only on modern venues, but also on unique venues with a history. They can be found in the section "Unusual sites." For example, the Yerebatan Cistern is a huge underground reservoir in the city center of the time of Constantinople. Or the Esma Sultan Yalısı mansion - a historic three-story brick building on the banks of the Bosphorus. The ruins, consisting only of external walls, were acquired in the early 1990s by the Marmara hotel chain. After restoration with additions developed by architect Gokhan Avjioglu, the mansion was opened in 2001 as a multi-purpose venue. Together with the brick exterior, which was left as original, the steel and glass structures get along.
How can a city become the perfect venue for events?
Based on the given ratings and experience in organizing events in different parts of the world, we can give some recommendations to future event hubs.
1. The choice of positioning. You need to bet on 2-3 key characteristics that will be decisive when choosing a venue. It will be an ultramodern infrastructure (Singapore, Las Vegas) or opportunities for cultural life (Vienna, Paris), or entertainment opportunities (Las Vegas).
2. Infrastructure. The city should have an “infrastructure minimum”: a modern airport, convenient transportation system, hotels of various levels, and service in the field of events.
The same point can be attributed to the ease of obtaining an entry permit for foreigners, especially the visa regime. Unique in this regard is Singapore, which has developed a very flexible visa system for foreigners arriving for several days.
3. Needless to say, all of the above cities can boast of well-functioning service bureaus, which are supported by the city and help foreign companies find a venue, find partners for the organization, and plan the entire event.
4. Opportunities for the entertainment part of the event. Any business event involves an informal part - be it an evening program or excursions. The presence of such an additional bonus in the city is a definite plus. Briefly, this item can be defined as follows: does the city offer something that can only be seen in it.
5. General economic and social factors. For example, the level of corruption, security, the development of medicine, the environmental situation.
The experience of Singapore shows that it is possible to create the largest event center in a fairly short period of time. If we return to the future of Astana, then part of the conditions have already been fulfilled, part to be implemented. Perhaps the main challenge for the city in the near future will be the development of a service part, the creation of a “smart” infrastructure for event organizers from around the world.