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VERA JANSSENS: THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL
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© D i s n ey, E u ro Di s n ey A s s o ci és S . C. A . – S i r e n 3 9 7 4 7 1 8 2 2 R CS M ea u x – Ca pi t al S o c ia l 6 1 1 0 9 9 1 5 6 . 7 0 € - L i c e n c e s E S n ° 1 -1 0 2 1 0 7 0 , 1 - 1 0 2 1 0 8 2 ; 2 -1 0 2 1 0 8 4 e t 3 - 1 0 2 1 0 8 3 . * 5 , 8 0 0 o f wh i ch a re i n t h e 7 Di s n ey ® H o t e ls .
MARCEL A.M. VISSERS Owner - Editor in chief
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© Andreas Von Einsiedel
E D I T O R I A L One million delegates = one new Meeting Forest MARCEL A.M. VISSERS Owner - Editor in chief
It all started with a round table discussion that we organized with MIM magazine for a group of incentive houses. One of the themes was Caritas Terrae, which is a new and trendy word for ecological thinking or surprising the earth with gifts.
© D is ne y, E u r o D i s ne y As s o ci é s S. C . A. S i re n 3 9 7 4 7 1 8 2 2 R CS M ea u x C a p i t al S o c i a l 6 1 1 0 9 9 1 5 6 . 7 0 € 1 - 1 0 2 1 0 8 2 ; 2 - 1 0 2 1 0 8 4 e t 3 - 1 0 2 1 0 8 3 . * 5 , 8 0 0 o f w hi ch a r e i n t he 7 Di s n ey ® H o t el s .
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Someone said: 'Looking after the environment? OK! I barely notice anything about this concern in the conference and incentive world. Most participants are not consciously involved in this matter!'
That's how a lot of people feel, but is that true? For instance, in a short period of time I bumped by accident into a very practical initiative. The famous London photographer Allan Pollok-Morris was in Antwerp for a photo shoot in the 'House of Tulips'. I seized the opportunity to let him do the cover shoot for MIM magazine No.92. He literally surrounded the cover lady with tulips. And what does a new customer of Allan receive? A tree! Allan had a Rowan Tree planted for me in Glen Affric in the North West Highlands of Scotland, an initiative of Trees for life. I was extremely pleased with this present and I made a decision: ‘From now on, I will be looking actively for a spot where we can plant a Meeting Forest. We will keep you informed’.
I'm delighted that today I can announce to all the readers that MIM magazine has bought a company Grove in the Caledonian Forest, a world-famous green restoring project. It already has two trees: one under my name and one under the name of Marion Flipse, this year's Miss MIM during EMIF. Next month another ten trees will be planted: eight for every MIM staff member and two for the AIPC members that won a prize during the AIPC Congress in A Coruna. And it will go on like that, until we've planted a million trees together with the entire meetings industry. Then my dream will be accomplished: a real Meeting Forest! One day I hope to meet there in a tree house with all the Caritas Terrae sceptics.
MIM magazine will keep on donating trees in the Meeting Forest until we've planted a million trees together with the entire meetings industry
COLOPHON MIM magazine IS THE TREND-SETTING TRADE JOURNAL FOR THE MEETINGS INDUSTRY IN BELUX. MIM MAGAZINE IS NOW IN ENGLISH AND COMES OUT 6 TIMES A YEAR AND HAS A CIRCULATION OF 5000 COPIES, PUBLISHED BY MEETING MEDIA COMPANY BVBA/SARL. SUBSCRIPTIONS: An Annual subscription in Belgium costs 75 EURO (excl. 6% tax) and comprises 6 magazines. In order to subscribe, go to www.MIMmagazine.eu or send an e-mail to email@example.com. Editor in chief: Marcel A.M. Vissers T: +32 (0)3 226 88 81 firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Director: Cécile Caiati-Koch T: +32 (0)2 761 70 52 email@example.com MIM Director: Sophie Molle T: +32 (0)2 761 70 53 firstname.lastname@example.org
Editorial Manager: Steven Kins T: +32 (0)2 761 70 54 email@example.com Editor: Rémi Dévé Igor Hendrickx Address: 57, rue René Declercq B - 1150 Brussels (Belgium) T: +32 (0)2 761 70 50 F: +32 (0)2 761 70 51 www.mimmagazine.eu Publisher: Meeting Media Company Marcel A.M. Vissers Mechelseplein 23, bus 1 B - 2000 Antwerpen (Belgium) www.meetingmedia.eu Cover Photographer: Jacky Verstraeten - Print Event
Design: UPSILON advertising, Gent T: +32 (0)9 267 39 40 firstname.lastname@example.org
INTERVIEWS Cover Interview - Siemens
MEETING SPECIAL Intro Budget Survey Videoconferencing The Hotel Business: Round-table discussion Meeting Stats: UIA and ICCA
13 14 16 19 24
Antwerp Special Interview Philip Heylen Interview Inge Marstboom Interview Rudy Van Eysendeyk The Other Antwerp 6 Diamond Water Fashion Art Architecture Gastronomy
40 41 42 45 45 46 48 50 54 56
ABROAD South Africa Meet the 4 Elements Sri Lanka
28 33 34
Printing: Cartim - Destelbergen
MIM magazine sets great store by sustainable development and therefore chose environment-friendly FSC certiﬁed paper which comes from a controlled source. More info: www.fsc.be and www.fsc.org ® FSC, A.C. FSC-SECR-0045
READ DAILY NEWS AND EXTENDED ARTICLES ON THE MIM MAGAZINE WEBSITE: WWW.MIMMAGAZINE.EU
Vera Janssens The Attention to Detail at Siemens
MIM > Corporate Interview > Siemens
On a beautiful Friday afternoon, Vera Janssens, Siemens Corporate and Marketing, Communications Director, welcomed us in her brand-new ofﬁce in the heart of Brussels. And let’s put it bluntly: not only is the building impressive – with its spacious, open, ﬂexible workspaces ('hot desking' is the rule here, so people don't have their own private desk) and its nice view of the greenery outside wherever you stand inside – but so is she, in a gentle, quiet but also ﬁrm kind of way. She explains here how Siemens has developed regarding meetings in recent years… and what competence really means to her.. INTERVIEW RÉMI DÉVÉ AND SOPHIE MOLLE
MIM: Could you introduce yourself to the readers of MIM magazine? Vera Janssens: 'I’ve been working for Siemens since 1984, starting in the Human Resources department of our telecom division during 10 years. After that period, I was asked to combine my role of HR Manager with the role of Communication Manager within the same division. Four years later, in 1998, I was asked to take over the lead of the Communications and Marketing department at Group level. That means for all the divisions of Siemens in Belgium-Luxembourg, including our export activities to Africa and the MiddleEast. Recently I got the responsibility for Siemens South West Europe and I’m also President of the Belgian Corporate Communication Community (3C). 'When I accepted the job of corporate and marketing communications director, my ﬁrst mission was to coordinate all communication activities lead at that time by the different companies and divisions composing the Siemens Group without consistent communication strategy. One of the difﬁcult parts of our job was restructuring
the corporate relational marketing events, the customer seminars and incentives. We experienced resistance because we were touching their most sensitive point: their clients. Each division was used to do its own thing and didn’t really appreciate our new way of working in the beginning. Despite of that, slowly but surely, an overall strategy, a framework, a kind of governance that had to be followed was taking shape. 'In parallel with this story, the market situation was changing. All the B to C gradually disappeared from Siemens’ offer (e.g. mobile phones) or were taken over in joint ventures. Today the core business of Siemens worldwide lies in three sectors: Healthcare, Energy and Industry in the really broad sense of the term. These activities are supported by our IT Solutions and Services division.'
MIM: How is Siemens structured on an international level? Vera Janssens: 'Before, Siemens was organized per country - it’s been so for the greatest part of its 160 years of
existence. Recently Siemens decided to bundle the 190 countries into 17 clusters, headed by cross-boundary management teams. That’s how, one year ago, I became Head of Communications for the cluster South-Western Europe, the third biggest one after America and Germany, based on volume and number of employees. That means that I’m no longer only responsible for Belgium and Luxembourg, but also for six other European countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland and France. So if there are European communication guidelines or a European communication strategy to implement, I’m helping to deﬁne them. Today everything is about crossing country borders, helping each other by sharing best practices and speciﬁc competences, the best way to save time and of course money, with the ultimate goal of being faster, less complex and more competitive.
MIM: What kind of events do you organize? Vera Janssens: 'At the time when we had our B to C products, we had more incentives, but unfortunately we don’t do that anymore. If we go abroad, there is a 99%
MIM > Corporate Interview > Siemens
chance it's for an academic seminar or a trade fair. As a B to B company, we are really content-driven and our main concern is to explain our core messages. That’s true for events, but also for sponsorship: we will only sponsor if we can bring content and show our competences and technological expertise somehow. 'Our most prestigious Belgian event is our annual New Year’s reception where we gather about 1,000 top customers and business relations from all sectors. it’s a place to network, to interact and an opportunity for us to bring in our messages. We usually organize it in Belgium and combine the academic part with entertainment in a very stylish way. 'Of course, we also organize events at division or sector level all over Europe so that speciﬁc messages are clearly sent out there. Together with my communication colleagues in these countries, we established a list of events on our calendar that have a big added value content-wise – we call them ‘hot spots’. The objective is to focus our event teams and means on these few but high-quality events instead of spreading our efforts and money over dozens of less efﬁcient organizations. If it's a smaller event, the local division of the respective country is in charge of it. However, whenever it's a more important event, I'm supervising it, and when it's even bigger, then the head ofﬁce in Germany takes control of it. Depending on the communications goals and the target group, the size of these meetings is ranging from a few to dozens of participants. The most important for us is not the quantity, but the quality of the audience. 'This cross-border collaboration is not always easy of course. Each country has its own competences and expertise. Each of them tend to be very protective and multilingualism is not as widespread as it is in Belgium. But I guess that’s the downside of being European!
We consider an event with an overall satisfaction level lower than 85% a failure 'In terms of crowds, our biggest organizations are internal events. When we prepare a Belgian family day for the whole company, we have to hire two halls at the Heysel or privatize, like last year, a part of the Park of Laeken.'
MIM: Could you specify a little about international events? Vera Janssens: 'Sometimes we invite key customers and prospects to ﬁrst-class locations abroad. For instance, specialists from all over Europe are invited for the launch of new healthcare products and solutions during a site visit to a hospital where the new equipment is already installed. Of course, a dinner, some entertainment and an overnight stay is included then, because people often have to travel from far to get there. We also organize seminars on a European level where we invite expert speakers and present our technological innovations. The same is true for important international trade fairs. 'We used to go abroad with our customers much more often in the past. This has changed unfortunately, for cost and also compliance reasons. In order to justify the trust placed in Siemens by customers, partners, shareholders and employees, the integrity and transparency of business processes is the top priority. Now each customer event and the list of invitees has to be approved on several levels and our global internal rules make it rightly difﬁcult to travel abroad with customers. Also for tax reasons: if you want to invite high-level managers to expensive trips to exotic destinations, the tax authorities might see it as a ‘beneﬁt in kind’ if you don’t ask your guests to pay for a part of the trip! Our technology, competences and competitiveness are the main drivers in all events we organize.'
MIM: How do you organize meetings? Vera Janssens: 'Given the number of people working in my department has been reduced dramatically in the past years – in South West Europe from more than 70 to 47 – we tend to outsource a bit more than we used to in the past. In every country we have at least one event manager for the project management. Depending on the goal of the event itself and the workload of the moment, our event managers organize it themselves. If it’s a big project, we usually send a RFP and select an agency accordingly, based on their creativity, price and our feelings. Then what is of the utmost importance is that our project team internally works hand in hand with the external project manager – a well-balanced harmony may be hard to ﬁnd: sometimes even if you wish to give total control over an event to an external provider, our internal team still has a lot to do! In any case you can never outsource your strategy. 'I like to think that, besides the content and the added value for the customers of course, it’s the attention to details that turns an event into a success or not. Internally I constantly emphasize the importance of it. To give you a very simple example, I remember we organized a seminar two years ago in Senegal and we had the idea to leave two postcards in the hotel room with stamps already on them: all the participant had to do was write and put it in a postbox. This initiative – very small, very simple and cheap – was the thing that made the difference. Customers were surprised that we even thought about those kinds of small details'
MIM: Do you have some kind of system that measures the effect of an event? Vera Janssens: 'It is very difﬁcult to
MIM > Corporate Interview > Siemens
measure with precision what an event brings to your B to B organization in terms of money. How could you detect that the new contract signed today found its roots 12 months ago when your sales director met this customer for the ﬁrst time at one of your New Year’s receptions? Traceability of buying decisions requests powerful monitoring tools and is time-consuming. We prefer to concentrate our investigations on the satisfaction level of our guests. We regularly ask customers who attend an event - as well as the sales people who invited those customers - to ﬁll in a satisfaction questionnaire screening all the event’s aspects. So we can detect if the customers found what they expected, but also if the internal objectives were met. We consider an event with an overall satisfaction level lower than 85% a failure. Also in event organization we aim for business excellence.'
MIM: According to you, what are the main qualities of a Corporate Director like yourself? Vera Janssens: 'First of all, communication is not an end in itself. You have to understand the business and the objectives and bring added value to realize them.. Furthermore you have to be a good networker. One of my goals is to open doors at top levels in several areas, from political to academic. You have to be able to interact with all kinds of people so your impact is optimal, you prove you’re competent, and you can bring an added value. The ultimate goal is to be able to make a difference – not a ‘wow’ effect, that’s too much – but that little something extra. In the past, it was easier because we had large budgets. Now, hard times are forcing us to be even more creative, more innovative. Sometimes shortage of money is a good thing!
The most important for us is not the quantity, but the quality of the audience
'I would also add you should never take anything for granted when you’re a Corporate Director: always pay attention to the details, never satisfy yourself with anything that's not perfect or it will just lead you to rest on your laurels, which is never a good thing and kills creativity. And as a Communication Director, I always emphasize the fact that internal communication is even more important than external communication. After all, your employees are you best ambassadors: if they give a bad image of your company to the outside world, the best communication campaign will never succeed in correcting it.'
Where The World Meets
The Global Meetings & Incentives Exhibition Fira Gran Via, Barcelona, Spain
1 - 3 December 2009 www.eibtm.com
MIM > Meeting Special > intro
Meeting Special A few years ago, MIM magazine already had a Meeting Special issue, but until this year, we only talked about the newest tendencies in the ﬁeld of incentive events in our annual Incentive Special edition. In these changing times it's interesting to see what's the current state of affairs in our industry. What's maybe more important is the positive effect of it all: because it was necessary of course, the meetings industry has become more intelligently organized and more cost-effective, even though this is coupled with more intense negotiations and shorter lead times. The articles you'll be reading on the next few pages will go in-depth on subjects that are currently of interest to everybody who's working in the meetings industry. We've read all about videoconferences, but how does it really work and how proﬁtable is it? We've heard people say that hotels are not in an easy position, but how difﬁcult is it really for them? And everybody says that companies are cutting costs, but we want to know: to what extent? So that's why you'll ﬁnd the results of our own budget survey, an interview with an expert in videoconferencing, and the report of the round table discussion with representatives of some leading hotels, next to the well-known statistics of UIA and ICCA. TEXT STEVEN KINS
MIM > Meeting special > Budget Survey
Meetings Industry in Crisis? MIM magazine's Survey Gives Answers To measure the temperature of the meetings industry, MIM magazine conducted a survey among its readers. In June 2009 an e-mail was sent out to organizers of corporate meetings, incentives, seminars and events that are in the extensive database of MIMmagazine.eu, inviting them to take part in this online survey and top corporate people and meeting professionals from Belgium, United States, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, France and the UK responded. And what's even more important, the same questions had been asked in a similar questionnaire in 2008 before the ﬁnancial crisis broke out, which gave us the opportunity to compare both results. Both surveys contained ﬁve key questions that will give us a perspective on how our sector has evolved in the last couple of months. Has the meetings industry been affected severely? We're about to ﬁnd out.. TEXT STEVEN KINS
Size of groups
The main question is of course whether or not the event budget has been affected and we can be brief: this is certainly the case, so no surprises here. While only 16% gave an average budget of less than 500 EURO per person before the crisis, this has now changed into 46%. Most companies used to spend between 500 and 1200 EURO in 2008 (54%), but now that's only the case for 36% of them. The same trend can be noticed for the higher budgets of 1200 to 2500 EURO (was 21, now 15%), 2500 to 3700 EURO (was 8, now 3%) and more than 3700 EURO (was 1%, now zero). Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the quality of events is brought down as well, but probably budgets are used in a more creative way. Sure, some companies have canceled almost all their meetings, but it remains to be seen if this is the best way to go... Other studies have shown that companies choose destinations that are closer to home or that are less expensive, and those are factors that inﬂuence the budget in a positive way without affecting the experience.
When you're trying to reduce the cost of an event, you either need to shorten the length of the stay, reduce the size of the group, or stay closer to home, so it came to no surprise that groups would have become smaller, which led us to wonder: how much smaller? Groups of 100 or more people were the most frequent ones in 2008, followed by 30-50, then 50-100, less than 20, and 20-30. Nowadays, 26% are groups of 100 or more, 23% of 30-50 people, 21% of 20-30 participants, 15% of 50-100 and an equal percentage for groups of less than 20 people. It seems that big groups of 50 to 100 people have had to make room for the smaller ones. A stronger selection of the invitees for events and perhaps also leaving out the husbands and wives of the guests may have led to this. It remains unclear in these results if the really big groups of much more than 100 people are still as big as before, but the expected answer to this would be 'no'.
Apparently the average length of events has been affected slightly. Weeklong events already made up for a mere 12 percent before and now this has lowered further to 10 percent. Events lasting more than one week are completely over now (1% before compared to none now). Most events (87% before, 90% now) still last two to ﬁve days and even there we may assume that the average will lean over more towards two days instead of ﬁve.
Accommodation Most organizers (59%) still choose fourstar hotels and this is the same as in 2008, making it by far the most important type of accommodation for corporate meetings and events. Design and boutique hotels, on the other hand, have lost a bit of their market share (from 17% to 11%) in favour of three-star hotels (was 12%, now 17%). Other options like ﬁve-star hotels, castles and museums, but also own meeting rooms are still considered (was 12, now 13%). This small augmentation however does not mean that more people are using
MIM > Meeting special > Budget Survey
2009 2008 % 60
Choice of destination
What is the average budget per person? % 30
50 – 100
30 – 50
20 – 30
What is the average size of the group for your events?
more than 1 week
Especially the average budget per person has been lowered
100 or more
The originality of a destination used to be the most important reason for selecting a destination, but this has now moved to second place, in favour of - not surprisingly - the cost of the stay. The third reason is still transport time, followed by the activities offer, the image of the destination and other things like price-to-quality ratio, capacity and the availability of direct ﬂights. Already we were able to see that destinations that are reputed for being rather expensive, are trying to focus on the fact that they are offering better value for money because of the effects of the crisis. However, this does not mean that a destination shouldn't pay attention to the quality of its offer and originality, because in difﬁcult times it's deﬁnitely important to stand out of the crowd.
3700 euros or more
2500 to 3700 euros
1200 to 2500 euros
500 to 1200 euros
more expensive hotels, but maybe they're also more original in the choice of accommodation in order to cut costs but at the same time keep the same standard of quality.
less than 500 euros
How many days is your average event?
In each and every subject it's clear that budget cuts have been introduced in many companies. Especially the average budget per person has been lowered dramatically. Future research will have to make clear if this is a continuing trend or not, if budgets will go up again after the effects of the ﬁnancial crisis have faded away, and whether or not the lower budget has affected the whole event experience. But for now, everyone involved in the meetings industry will have to deal with the situation and the matching budget cuts as creatively as possible, be it in organizing an event or in promoting a destination or product. MIM magazine will continue this comparative study next year with an in-depth study which will be conducted in cooperation with one of the leading Belgian colleges specialized in tourism.
Design & Boutique hotels
What kind of accommodation do you use?
the image of the destination
cost of the stay
originality of the destination
What is the reason for the final selection of a destination?
MIM > Meeting special > Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing - the perfect solution ? AV Brähler - Youssef Bougria
CSR is also a reason to use videoconferences The advance of videoconferences gained momentum because of the current global situation - although we have to keep in mind that this can never fully replace an actual face-to-face meeting - but still many of you are not completely familiar with the subject. That means it was high time we had a chat with Youssef Bougria, the backstage man on this type of events, who works for a leading energy company that owns several dozens of dedicated videoconference systems in its headquarters. He's rumoured to be the reference in Brussels in this very speciﬁc ﬁeld. What sets him apart from other companies is the number of conferences he prepares: an average of ﬁfteen a day on an international level, connecting people from Argentina to Asia and Europe. This gives him the necessary experience to solve any problem.. INTERVIEW SOPHIE MOLLE AND STEVEN KINS
MIM: Could you tell us something more about yourself and your job description? Youssef Bougria: 'It's a very speciﬁc job and my services also include the equipment for simultaneous interpretation. Six years ago I started at the bottom of the ladder. There's no real school to teach you what I do either. One and a half years ago I started working freelance for a leading energy company, installing their videoconferences and providing A/V equipment. Sound and translation is my speciality and they needed a ﬂexible person so now I'm
available 7 days a week, 12 months a year for them. From time to time I organize webinars and videoconferences for others. An average group for a videoconference is often around twenty people, but I've also had groups of 170 people.'
ISDN and internet connection is often not powerful enough. The sound quality and the reliability got better thanks to better sound and video compression methods which means we now get DVD quality instead of VHS quality.
MIM: Have the new technologies improved compared to some years ago?
'A bridge that also solves incompatibility problems can be installed to connect 10 to 15 points instead of only two. When everything works out ﬁne in such a setup, I'm a happy man.'
Youssef: 'Since one year, we've entered the HD (High Deﬁnition) phase but not every infrastructure allows us to use this technology to its full potential. The
MIM > Meeting special > Videoconferencing
MIM: Has it become more user-friendly? Youssef: 'It's really simple to use. Some meeting rooms already have the necessary equipment installed, others are equipped by me, and I even rent out standalone systems which are very easy and basic. If you can use your TV and DVD at home, then this will work as well. 'There's only a small percentage of people that are at ease with the installation though. Most of the time they don't know anything about it, so I select the simplest and most suitable solution for them, mostly only two machines and a connection.'
where can follow it in real-time, and ask questions through a chat system, which even makes it more accessible to ask questions. A webinar can also be part of an incentive trip, in order to give a serious message during a fun trip. 'Of course you have the starting cost, the investment, and you need a decent internet connection or enough ISDN lines, because I use a minimum of six lines to get the required quality, although eight is even better. Still, it's cheaper than buying a plane ticket and arranging hotel rooms and lunches.
Telepresence is like videoconferencing but much more lifelike MIM: Are more evolutions coming up? Youssef: 'Telepresence is getting a lot of attention now. To make this possible, a decorator creates identical meeting rooms with the same colours, lighting and so on in different sites and then you can do real-size videoconferences where people are actually sitting in front of you. It's the same principle as a normal videoconference but it uses HD technology and it's much more lifelike. For now however, a videoconference is still the most ﬂexible solution, since telepresence requires ﬁxed installations and more infrastructure.'
MIM: We can imagine that videoconferences are an obvious success in these rather difﬁcult times. Do you notice this? Youssef: 'Of course there's the crisis which makes companies want to cut costs, but CSR is also a reason to use videoconferences, since it actually helps people diminish their ecological footprint. At the same time it allows for a quicker decisionmaking process. Because of the swine ﬂu, companies want to avoid a pandemic and let their employees travel only when it's really necessary. Normally a videoconference is meant to replace regular conferences, but now it's also used for seminars and congresses. 'Webinars are online seminars that you can watch in streaming video. One or two cameras are installed where the actual seminar is taking place and people else-
'On top of that, older systems still work, so it's a long-term solution as well. OK, there's an investment to be made but then you're settled for years to come. 'I don't really feel the crisis but I can't exaggerate the costs for the client of course. You need to stay logical; people use this system because they want to cut costs. Naturally we need to deliver a minimum of material (a microphone, a camera,...) and if there's a lot of interaction during the conference, two cameras are required, but I don't sell anything that's not necessary.'
MIM: What feedback do you get from the users? Youssef: 'For some it's too complicated and they don't really take the effort to learn it, but most people are very satisﬁed. There's also no reason that it shouldn't work. Sure, a disconnection from the network might occur but that never takes long and that's not our fault, but the fault of the network provider of course. The system might become unstable but that's extremely rare and the problem is quickly resolved as well. 'At one instance, eight different systems were connected and one of them became unstable, which is something that can happen. We were unable to reconnect, so we had to start from scratch again, but even this only took ten minutes. The people that were connected abroad of course had no idea about what was going on, but they were able to continue the conference and
afterwards they understood what had been the problem.'
MIM: What are the drawbacks? In which instances is it less natural to use videoconferencing? Youssef: 'There are no real limits; you can use videoconferences for two to 300 people. When different internet connection types are incompatible, a bridge has to be used. Some companies have their own private network, and then there's no connection possible to other systems, but that only means they have to install separate ISDN lines or a public internet connection with enough bandwidth.'
MIM: Which sectors are using it the most? Youssef: 'I don't see particular sectors that use it more often than others, there's not really a speciﬁc public because it's open to everyone. Bigger, international companies obviously beneﬁt the most from using it.'
MIM: How do you see the future for yourself? Youssef: 'Working for this leading energy company was great training for me. Meanwhile, I'm organizing more and more videoconferences for others. 'When you're doing this job, you need to be on top of the latest technologies because there are different systems out there and I want to be able to help everyone, and even help them by setting the right parameters on their videoconference system with my own computer from anywhere in the world. I stay up-to-date by following product presentations and staying in touch with the suppliers. 'I want to provide support for my clients and be there to help, as an 'AV consultant'. Patience is also part of the job. If a laptop locks up, I won't say: 'hire one of mine.' No, I'll try to solve the problem. As you see, you have to be passionate about the job. I'm not in it for the money. 'Once, I even drove off to Genève with a broken foot. Something fell on it in the morning but I can't say to the client that I'm not coming. I need to calculate time perfectly because people are waiting for me and counting on me as well.'
Dorint Spa-Balmoral Looking out over the green valley Dutchman Nick Kleingeld is the Manager of this wellestablished name here in Spa and he's been doing this job with heart and soul for many years now. Obviously they're still doing great, since they've extended the building by 30% this Summer. The new wing offers clear meeting rooms with a lot of glass and a big entrance which is perfect for product launches. That's an excellent addition to this property because now they can ﬁnally accept larger groups. If you've ever been there you'll deﬁnitely remember the hotel staff. Not only do they speak different languages, but they're really friendly and dedicated, as this personal experience proves: me and my colleague
were sitting on the terrace and immediately a lady came and asked if we wanted a coffee. We said we were waiting for someone, but promptly she replied: 'that doesn't mean you can't have a cup of coffee while you're waiting.' Wellness and nature play an important role in the Dorint Spa-Balmoral. The sauna even has a window with a splendid view of the green valley - a view that actually deﬁnes the entire hotel, because the rooms look out over the same abundance of nature. Even when you take a bath or a shower you can admire the greenery of the Ardennes.
Contact: Dorint Spa-Balmoral Route de Balmoral 33 4900 Spa-Balmoral T: +32 (0) 87-793250 F: +32 (0)87 793 241 email@example.com
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MIM > Meeting special > The Hotel Business: round-table discussion
Inside the Hotel Business A Round Table Discussion
Hotels take a prominent place in the organisation of meetings and events, because they can offer a certain quality, comfort and convenience, so MIM magazine was interested in what hotels can offer in their dedicated meeting packages and, more importantly, how the current global situation has affected this. Cutting costs when organizing a meeting or event also means looking for the lowest hotel rates of course. In MIM magazine No.104 Ilja Strumane of AB InBev even said that they have blocked certain hotel chains because they didn't match with their image. Therefore we did some research among corporate organizers about what they ﬁnd important, which gave us the adequate background information, and after that we had a chat with representatives of six leading hotel chains to get a better insight in their situation. After all, there's always two ways of looking at something. As we'll see, the hotel people do have frustrations of their own.. INTERVIEW AND TEXTS MARCEL A.M. VISSERS EN STEVEN KINS
MIM: We already heard that the decisionmaking process became very short, so hotels have to become ﬂexible. How do you experience that? Eloise Ceurvorst - Dolce: 'It's all about action and reaction, so indeed, you need to be quick.' Eline van der Velden - Marriott: 'It's extremely hard to forecast if a group will conﬁrm or not. We experience we have to be more ﬂexible about our cancellation policy.'
Dominique Van Passel - Starwood: 'It's a fact that it's extremely hard to get signed contracts, and if they sign, it's only a few days before the actual event.' Eloise: 'They take less and less risks, and try to see what they can do about the general conditions in the contract. We get no visibility on the actual size of the event, so we have to keep adapting everything.'
wanted to book for a meeting which was taking place four days later and he needed an answer within the hour. I called and he got all the info, I prepared the contract, and on the moment he needed to sign, he let me know that the meeting was canceled. You get a lot of negative energy from incidents like this when you ﬁght and ﬁght but in the end it's negative, and all you get to hear is 'it's postponed'... In one word: frustrating.'
Dominique Van Passel Starwood: It's extremely hard to get signed contracts, and if they sign, it's only a few days before the actual event
Tanja Barella - Renaissance: 'It's rather a request for information instead of actual requests. We put everything together, but then they respond 'it's too expensive', and they don't even go to other hotels, so it's not really a question of losing clients to the competition. How do you think this makes us feel?'
Dominique: 'I had a client abroad who
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MIM > Meeting special > The Hotel Business: round-table discussion
MIM: Have you become more creative with new efforts or promotions? Dominika Dhondt - Accor: 'Creativity is not really the issue, because we're completely dependent on the companies' budgets now, and for the moment they do a lot of conference calls instead. We really notice that videoconferencing and webinars are going up, especially in huge companies, so technology is our competition now.' Eline: 'Even we as a hotel company organize a half-day online training instead of a 2-day training on location.' Eline: 'We became 4-star on our own initiative – to avoid losing any clients and to open up for Pharmaceutical companies, who are not allowed to book 5 star hotels.' Eloise: 'But even then, people are expecting 5-star services in hotels of lower standings.' Dominique: 'We proposed our 5-star property to a client, but he booked a 4-star that was more expensive... It's all a matter of perception.' Eloise: 'That's also because certain industries, like pharmaceutical companies, often have policies that don't allow them to go to 5-star hotels.' Dominika: 'The automotive sector had a very big budget, but now they've lowered it to zero. We try to promote our products in the best possible way because, of course, everyone tries to keep the same part of the cake, but clients are called and sent e-mails all the time, so much that they're even getting upset, so that's a difﬁculty we have to take into account.' Editorial note: Afterwards the ladies also added that Pharmaceutical, Chemical, IT and consulting are the industries that are still doing ﬁne.
MIM: How's the competition between the different hotels? In unison: 'It's a price war!' Dominika: 'Clients are no longer loyal,
Tanja Barella - Renaissance: Some clients even start negotiating after a cancellation and threaten not to come back if we don't accept their wishes
they're shopping for better prices even after a long-standing relationship.' Eloise: 'And they're even transparent about the fact they're window-shopping. That's how the price war starts.' Everyone in agreement: 'But it's an attractive period for clients.' Cécile Potut - Conrad & Hilton: 'In spite of the crisis we don’t go below a certain point because we keep on offering the same high level quality and customized service. If they want to go to the competition, I let them go. Otherwise we would encourage the price war!' Eloise: 'Indeed, you can only go that far.'
Eline van der Velden Marriott: We became 4-star on our own initiative – to avoid losing any clients and to open up for Pharmaceutical companies
MIM: How important is accessibility for corporate clients? Eline: 'People want to go downtown, even if it's less accessible, because the prices of downtown hotels have lowered so much.' Dominique: 'Corporate meetings have become very intensive one-day events. They're also better prepared and more focussed.' Dominika: 'Indeed, accessibility is very important for those one-day meetings, so that's when an airport location becomes interesting, also parking is important. For residential meetings accessibility is less of an issue. If you have an international
meeting, people always want to see the city centre.'
MIM: ...and comfort? Sandra Otero Fernandez - Radisson Blu Royal Hotel: 'People pay less but still expect the same service.' Dominika: 'And they want technology included in the package, free of charge of course.'
Dominika Dhondt - Accor: We really notice that videoconferencing and webinars are going up, especially in huge companies
MIM: Have Meeting Packages stayed the same? Dominika: 'There's more ﬂexibility in the innovation of new ideas. For catering, we try to be more creative, e.g. with a tapas buffet, and people are fond of it. They only have to try it! I really believe that these days people are looking for new ideas.' Eline: 'Clients say they do not need fancy coffee breaks with chocolate fountains, just a coffee is ﬁne. If you're a 4- or 5-star hotel, this is difﬁcult because you want to keep a good standard.' Tanja: 'A meeting package still includes coffee breaks, equipment, meeting room, lunch, and we've also made the cancellation policy more ﬂexible.' Dominika: 'Nowadays, hotels are becoming more ﬂexible towards cancellations! Very often meetings are postponed due to a lack of participants. We even waive the cancellation costs when a new booking is scheduled. We sympathize with the companies, we understand their situation. We all suffer together, so let's have a group hug.' Tanja: 'Some clients even start negotiating after a cancellation and threaten not to
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MIM > Meeting special > The Hotel Business: round-table discussion
Eloise Ceurvorst - Dolce: Now people are expecting 5-star services in hotels of lower standings.
come back if we don't accept their wishes, but where do you draw the line then?' Eline: ''Hey, you need us!' is their reaction.'
MIM: Was there something wrong before, prices perhaps? Tanja: 'We had ﬁnally become healthy in Brussels, but now we're back to the situation of ﬁve years ago and it will take us ten years to come back.' Eloise: 'I'm afraid that after the crisis we'll get to hear: This is what's been offered before, so we want the same now.'
Dominika: 'All the extras like an aftermeeting drink is too much, they say: let's stick to the budget, we don't need the rest, but to go that extra mile, we organize coffee breaks in the garden, for instance. This requires extra ﬂexibility from the staff, but guests like it. If you have these facilities that can make a difference, use them, especially now. It's a way of convincing them.'
Everyone in agreement: '2010 will be more difﬁcult than 2009.'
Eline: 'Last year we would offer a cocktail if they conﬁrmed, now we just have to lower the rates instead. Added value is not that important anymore. It is about the base cost.'
Tanja: 'In Belgium we only started feeling the crisis in January, not in 2008 like many other countries, so we don't know if things will come back to normal later than the rest of the world as well.'
Cécile: 'Just listen to the needs of customers and customize to client's needs. Before, they just bought the whole package, now you have to adapt, customize and look for the little thing that makes the difference.'
Eloise: 'It's more like forecasting and adapting accordingly.'
Dominika: 'Response time is very important too. The ﬁrst one who responds can get the contract.' Sandra: 'You give a very good ﬁrst impression like that. And remember, getting a contract back signed is crazy for the moment.' Eline: 'There are also more intermediaries and often they only forward the ﬁrst four offers to the client, which makes it even more critical to be quick.'
Eline: 'Our revenues have diminished but keep in mind that our costs stay the same.' Dominika: 'Negotiations for 2010 will be more difﬁcult than in 2009! Price raises will be hard to sell to the customers, on the contrary...'
Sandra Otero Fernandez - Radisson Blu Royal Hotel: Many companies do not want to guarantee their rooms anymore and prefer their delegates to book by themselves to avoid paying cancellation fees
MIM: What's the average size of the groups for the moment? Sandra: 'Many companies do not want to guarantee their rooms anymore and prefer their delegates to book by themselves to avoid paying cancellation fees. When rooms are guaranteed by companies themselves, there are big washes on groups despite deﬁnite conﬁrmation, so groups have became smaller than before.' Dominique: 'Maximum 50 rooms get occupied per group.
Eloise: 'We still have meetings from 5 to 500, and we also have sessions of more than one week, depending on the proﬁle of the meeting. It's true that companies are cutting down on numbers of participants or on patterns, in other words shortening the length of stay. However, as a hub city, Brussels still generates many meetings. Moreover, companies try to cut costs on transfers, so they stay in Belgium.'
MIM: We can feel some tension in the room... Dominique: 'We're all in the same boat somehow. We also have to survive, and need to pay people, so we have to cut costs, just like companies do...' Dominika: 'My message to the corporate people is: let's hold your meetings in Belgium, preferably in Brussels, and don't go abroad!'
Cécile Potut - Conrad & Hilton: In spite of the crisis we don’t go below a certain point because we keep on offering the same quality and service
Hotels and meeting packages: what's important In the online survey, accessibility turned out to be the most relevant factor (29%) when choosing a hotel, closely followed by meeting room comfort (28%), new technologies and support (22%), and staff assistance (21%). In a hotel meeting package, the rates (50%) are obviously the most important component, while the catering type (25%) and the certiﬁed meeting professional staff (20%) are clearly less important. Other factors (5%) are ﬂexibility and comfort. Hotel chains are improving their meeting packages, but it's difﬁcult to classify how important respondents ﬁnd the factors 'More online event planning tools', 'Connecting the meeting to a 'green' action', and 'A rewarding program for the members of the group' because all three of those received almost the same score (respectively 34, 33 and 32%).
MIM > Meeting special > Meeting Stats: ICCA
ICCA The Association Meeting Market 2008 This year the ICCA Data researchers have identiﬁed 7,475 events which took place in 2008, a rise of approximately 800 over 2007. Partly this reﬂects the strength of the market, partly it is thanks to a record number of ICCA members sending their calendar information to help identify new events.
This led Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, to point out: ‘ICCA's researchers have never before identiﬁed so many international meetings taking place in a single year. 800 more regularly-occurring and rotating events than in the previous year. Record numbers of delegates. Record estimated expenditure. ICCA has shouted loud and long about the importance of this segment of the international meetings industry, but the results for 2008 have been truly remarkable, and not just because of the second half of the year that was already showing signs of the global turbulence that is still rocking us.’
Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA:
ICCA's researchers have never before identiﬁed so many international association meetings taking place in a single year. 800 more regularly-occurring and rotating events than in the previous year Number of meetings per country Ranking 1 2 3 4
As has been the case since 2004, U.S.A. and Germany are the number one and two countries respectively measured by the number of international meetings organised in 2008. The numbers 4 and 5 are Spain and France: they had a considerable increase by amount of meetings compared to 2007: 40 and 79 respectively. For the ﬁrst time in three years, Vienna shares the top with Paris as the most popular city. Barcelona on third place had an increase of 30 meetings over 2007. Remarkable newcomers in the top 20 are Athens, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Tokyo. Stockholm and Seoul both climb in the rankings to 8th and 9th position respectively.
Country U.S.A. Germany Spain France United Kingdom
Number of meetings per city # Meetings
Republic of Korea
MIM > Meeting special > Meeting Stats: UIA
UIA International Meeting Statistics for the Year 2008 For the past 60 years, UIA has undertaken, for the beneﬁt of its members, statistical studies on the preceding year’s international meetings. The statistics are based on information systematically collected by the UIA Congress Department and selected according to strict criteria maintained over the years, thus enabling meaningful comparison from year to year. Meetings taken into consideration include those organized and/or sponsored by the international organizations which appear in UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations and in the International Congress Calendar, i.e.: the sittings of their principal organs, congresses, conventions, symposia, regional sessions grouping several countries, as well as some national meetings with international participation organized by national branches of international associations.
Top international meeting cities in 2008
Number of meetings
Top international meeting countries in 2008
Percentage of all meetings
Number of meetings
Percentage of all meetings 9.73
UIA criteria for collection and inclusion have not changed. UIA just divided meetings in 3 categories: meetings of international organizations, 3-day other international meetings and 2-day other international meetings.
12. Korea Rep
Meetings of international organizations are organized or sponsored by ‘international organizations’ included in the UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations, with at least 50 participants. 3-day other international meetings are not organized or sponsored by ‘international organizations’ but nonetheless of signiﬁcant international character, with at least 40% of participants who are from countries other than the host country, with at least 5 different nationalities, lasting at least 3 days, with either a concurrent exhibition or at least 300 participants. 2-day other international meetings are not organized or sponsored by ‘international organizations’ but nonetheless of signiﬁcant international character, with at least 40% of participants who are from countries other than the host country, with at least 5 different nationalities, lasting at least 2
20. Hungary/ Norway
days, with either a concurrent exhibition or at least 250 participants.
The worldwide breakdown (market share) for meetings in 2008 by continent is:
General picture At the time of producing this edition (May 2009) there were 328,949 meetings in the UIA meetings database of which 316,128 (96%) meet the criteria for inclusion in this report. Of these 316,128 meetings, 297,306 took place in 2007 or earlier, 11,423 took place in 2008, and 7,399 are scheduled for 2009 or later. The section of the report with ﬁgures for 2008 covers 1,664 cities and 193 countries.
+ + + + +
Europe 52.73% America (North & South) 17.83% Asia 21.67% Africa 4.70% Australasia / Paciﬁc 3.07%
Check the full statistics in the news section of our website www.MIMmagazine.eu MIM 25
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20-08-2009 10:15:34 16/07/2009 9:47:36
MIM > Belgium > Ghent
Ghent is ﬂourishing Ghent is reputed as one of the most creative cities in Belgium, yet it hasn't lost its typical character. Tradition goes hand in hand with innovation, just look at the 34th edition of the prestigious Ghent Floralies, the wooden Town Hall on the renovated Braunplein, or the diversity of music in Ghent.. TEXT STEVEN KINS
Floralies of Ghent From 17 through to 25 April 2010, the Royal Agriculture and Horticulture Society will organise the 34th edition of its Ghent Floralies, which is the continuation of a 200-year-old tradition of prestigious ﬂower and plant exhibitions, that are only organized every ﬁve years and continue to attract large numbers of visitors. In 2010 the Ghent Floralies will be once again one big green celebration, with a new focus on presentations and the garden experience as a whole. The innovative garden and greenery approach will not prevent Ghent Floralies from keeping up its reputation of offering people a never-ending search for admiration and amazement. The ﬁnest ﬂowers, plants and botanical treasures from all over the world, rare for their size, form, colour or smell, will all be presented to the public in the halls at Flanders Expo. Special arrangements can be made, going from individual tickets to private tours for groups, with reception or seated dinner afterwards. www.ﬂoralien.be
Ofﬁcially a Creative City for Music The City of Ghent will be afﬁliated to Unesco's Creative Cities Network in the category of ‘Music’, which also includes the cities of Bologna, Sevilla and Glasgow. According to the report, 'the music scenery has many identities, is designed by numerous actors and is above all a mosaic of different styles; where a culture of co-operation and deliberation between the actors and the policy beneﬁt the complementarity.' Ghent is a versatile city of music: think about the different stages such as the Music Centre De Bijloke, Flemish Opera, ‘Handelsbeurs’, ‘Vooruit’, and others. It is also the festival city par excellence, with - among many others - the International Festival of Flanders, the Film Festival of Ghent, and the Ghent Festivities. On top of that, it's also a creative city with many producers. Moreover, Ghent is a city of music education, and it also offers rehearsal facilities for young groups.
Ghent loves water During the Gentse Feesten or Ghent Festivities (and of course afterwards too) people can sample a new boat trip around Ghent. Rederij De Gentenaer & Gent Watertoerist organise new tours in cooperation with Waterwegen & Zeekanaal that take ninety minutes with a passage of two locks, to unknown places of Ghent such as Porthus Ganda, Keizerspark, old harbour… www.rederijdegentenaer.be www.gent-watertoerist.be
A new venue The wooden Town Hall on the Braunplein is the most radical innovation of the reconstruction of the city centre. It is expected to be ﬁnished in 2012, is 40 by 15 metres and is built on four concrete pedestals with on top a wooden construction with little holes that let the light ﬂow in. The hall, that will also function as a gateway, will house a Grand Café and is available for events.
Contact: Gent Congres Van Rysselberghedreef 2 box 3 Citadelpark 9000 Gent T: +32 (0)9 224 44 95 F: +32 (0)9 224 44 98 firstname.lastname@example.org www.gentcongres.be
MIM > Abroad > South Africa
SOUTH AFRICA A 'Braggable' Experience
I'm sure that many people would start dreaming when they hear or read about South Africa. It certainly was the case for me. Weeks in advance I was fantasizing about this country where everyone wants to have the trip of a lifetime. The South African Tourism Board invited us to join the Meetings Africa, the annual one-stop shop for the Meetings Industry. From all over the world interested people came ﬂocking in for this fair that's as usual held in the Sandton Convention centre, close to Johannesburg. TEXT CÉCILE CAIATI-KOCH
Art on Constitution Hill
'Africa's business tourism lekgotla', which is African for a meeting or gathering, is the nice subtitle of the event and it brings you in the South African mood straightaway. After all, the spirit of this country is connected to its vibrant multinational and multilingual culture with its music and humour straight from the heart. For me, 'lekgotla' evokes all those elements as soon as I pronounce this beautiful word. The fact that business tourism is showing an upward trend is also shown in the constant growth of the number of participants and visitors at the fair. Moeketsi Mosola, CEO of South African Tourism, conﬁrmed that he'll do everyting in his power to keep developing this in the next
few years in line with the Business Tourism Growth Strategy.
Braggable & meaningful - Business unusual! A top speaker from the London Avant Garde Institute dared to use the term 'braggable experiences' because South Africa is so unique and overwhelming thanks to its natural beauty, the rich heritage of traditions that can be directly related and integrated in the business methods (think of 'lekgotla'!), and meeting spaces. But South Africa can offer more than just 'braggable' experiences, it also offers meaningful experiences. The new economic situation asks for business with core values, connecting people, learning and
MIM > Abroad > South Africa
South Africa can offer more than just 'braggable' experiences, it also offers meaningful experiences the Zwartkops Mountains with luxurious lodges and enough meeting capacity for 120 people. Serenity is the word that ﬁts here perfectly. Sitting at the edge of the water and just watching game pass by at a slow rhythm, what more do you want? A great, braggable experience!
rolls out the red carpet
not just watching. This completely ﬁts in with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is or will be adopted by more and more companies, so South African Tourism's 'Business unusual' slogan couldn't have been better thought out. By the way, the World Cup Football in 2010 makes sure that the infrastructure improves by leaps and bounds and may also be a good reason to plan an event then?
The thing that stuck in my memory about this city is the ICC Durban, one of the most beautiful conference centres with lots of natural light, an airy architecture and above all an extremely friendly and open staff. They had literally rolled out the red carpet for us. Mr Miller Matola, the CEO, welcomed us in person, even though it was an early Sunday morning.
Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay
Business and Game in Jo'burg
To me this was an unknown part of South Africa. The name put me in the completely wrong direction - instead of the western part it's in the eastern part of the south of the country. And it was a real eye-opener. In this nice coastal area Port Elizabeth is a city that's still waking up and has kept its charm because of this. The sea is always only a few minutes away from each venue. Feather Market Convention Centre may be old but at the same time that's what deﬁnes its character. The Boardwalk Conference Centre with its spacious rooms is located in a modern entertainment and shopping area. But one hour drive from Port Elizabeth came the real revelation: n
Johannesburg is the bustling business city of South Africa, thanks to the discovery of gold in the 19th century. But the visit to the Constitution Hill, the former Old Fort Prison Complex where thousands of ordinary people were brutally punished before the dawn of democracy, turns you silent and sets you thinking. Not far from Jo'burg is the Cradle of Humankind, full of game reserves, lodges and also perfect country estates for nice evening events right in the heart of nature. One of those lodges is Kloofzicht, which has a splendid view of a gorge between two rocks and is situated at the foothills of
Pumba Msenge Lodge
Contact Peggy-Sue Figueira Business Tourism manager, South African Tourism Netherlands T: +31 20 471 3181 email@example.com www.meetingsafrica.co.za
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CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION T : +32 2 535 25 20 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Website : www.clubmed.be/business
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MIM > Abroad > Meet the 4 Elements
Meet the 4 Elements workshop A photographic record Geting back to the basic instinct of Meetings and Incentives by drawing inspiration from the energy of the 4 elements: earth, air, ďŹ re and water. That was the idea behind the 2009 edition of the Meet the 4 Elements workshop which was held on 17 June for the agencies and the day after for the corporate clients from 3 p.m. and followed by a walking dinner at Nine City in Brussels, on the occasion of the cartoon year. This is a unique new 3000m2 event location devoted to the world of cartoons, located in the Brussels Media City. Both multifuncitional rooms and the VIP room were used for the workshop.
With the help of 40 professionals from the different countries and specialists from Rail 1 and Brussels Airlines, people got to (re)discover the possibilities, original ideas, and unknown areas in 4 nearby European countries: Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland.
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MIM > Abroad > Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka A small miracle again
At the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula – straddling the major sea routes between West Asia and South East Asia – lies an island with multi-coloured, warm watered beaches and an inland overﬂowing with inexhaustible ﬂora and fauna. Many names have been used to describe it. Tenerism or 'Isle of delight' in Arabic, Pa-Outchow or 'Isle of Gems' in Chinese, Salabha or 'Rich Island' in Indian, Ceylon in English and Sri Lanka or 'Resplendent Land' in Sanskrit. BY MARCEL A.M. VISSERS, EDITOR IN CHIEF
Reborn The long conﬂict between the ofﬁcial government and the LTTE, fraught the North and East of the island with bitter violence and scared away many tourists. Fortunately, the insurgency was brought a deﬁnitive end in May 2009. The island can once again live up to its name and even before the conﬂict ended the new brand of Sri Lanka was launched: Sri Lanka Small Miracle. The director of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, mister Vipula Wanigasekera invited me to Sri Lanka to write an exposé on the possibilities of incentives in Sri Lanka. When I visited the country early this year, the conﬂict was still raging in the North. However, when travelling in the South, I never felt unsafe. I asked mister Paul Van den Hende, an expert on Sri Lanka and director of SriTours in Ghent, whether in-
centive travel to Sri Lanka was safe. He told me that the country has always been safe for guests, especially now that the conﬂict is over. It’s as safe as walking around in Brussels. He also made some suggestions for the ultimate incentive trip to the country.
The island is the incentive A trip to Sri Lanka should start in Colombo, the capital city. The ﬁrst few days of your stay you can organise and attend meetings and seminars in one of the many beautiful beach resorts. • Galle Face Hotel • The Galle Face Hotel is one of the finest and oldest purpose-built hotels in South East Asia. Located in the heart of Colombo and bordering the Indian Ocean, almost every room offers a panoramic
view. Built and restored in Victorian style, the hotel boasts 3 grand ballrooms, 6 function rooms and a business centre. www.gallefacehotel.com • Mount Lavinia Hotel • Another grand old colonial landmark, is the Mount Lavinia Hotel sitting on a rock promontory and surrounded by the ocean on three sides. This former gubernatorial palace has five venues available for meetings, conferences and seminars and is in the process of setting up a new business centre. www.mountlaviniahotel.com Organising an incentive in Sri Lanka means organising a tour of the island. The ﬂora, fauna, people and Buddhism need no brushing up and the relatively small size of the island, makes it easy to visit many
MIM > Abroad > Sri Lanka
spots in a short time. Sri Lanka has a total of six Cultural World Heritage Sites and one Natural, all within close distance of each other. An incentive tour of the island almost always includes these. On the road from Matale to Kandy one should take the time to stop and visit a spice garden, especially the one of Ranweli. Since the earliest of times, Sri Lanka has long been an important exporter of Cloves, Cardamom, Pepper, Nutmeg, Mace, Ginger and Cinnamon. The ﬁrst stop on the road will be the Sacred City of Kandy. This sacred Buddhist site was the last capital of the Sinhala kings before the British occupation in 1815. It’s also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which is a famous pilgrimage site. One should certainly attend an evening at the local Culture Centre to watch a typical dance. • Mahaweli Reach Hotel • The hotel has a five-star rating and is perfectly located to visit Kandy and its surroundings. 112 tastefully decorated rooms await you, complete with breathtaking views of the grand Mahaweli River or the tropical garden of the hotel. www.mahaweli.com You can stay a bit longer in the region around Dambulla. The Golden Temple of Dambulla has been a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries. This cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings are of particular importance,
as are the 157 statues. The hotels in the area will make your stay very enjoyable Amaya Lake Resort Set on 12 hectares bordering Kandalama Lake, where a boat trip by sunset should certainly be arranged. A terrace fronts each villa, with a traditional long seat moulded into the patio. Enjoy the view as you sit next to a tree-trunk column supporting the red-tiled roof. www.amayaresorts.com Heritance Hotel Kandalama This hotel emerges from the lush foliage of a mountainside and overlooks the lake and Sigiriya. Enter the fantasy ambience of five-star luxury suspended in a natural dreamscape. www.heritancehotels.com/kandalama
From Dumballa, one can easily visit the Ancient City of Sigiriya. This city was built on the slopes and the summit of the Lion’s Rock – a granite peak, which dominates the jungle from all sides. A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site. Sri Lanka is an important exporter of tea, so a visit to a tea plantation should form an integral part of the trip. We recommend the Tea Factory hotel located in the dreamscape of Nuwara Eliya. Animal lovers will love the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. The orphanage is a sanctuary for rescued, injured or abused elephants. As home to around 70 animals, it is one of the largest centres of its kind in
the world. One can truly experience nature as it was meant to be in Yala National Park. It’s the largest national park in Sri Lanka and contains 32 species of mammals, 125 species of birds and many other animals in a very diverse landscape. The tour of the island ends in the Old Town of Galle and its Fortiﬁcations. It is the best example of a fortiﬁed city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. Contact info: Sri Lanka Convention Bureau T: + 94 11 4865050/1 2440002 F: + 94 11 2472985 email@example.com www.visitsrilanka.net SRILANKAN AIRLINES Direct ﬂights to Colombo Airport are possible from the following European cities: Frankfurt, London, Paris and Rome. Bandaranaike International Airport has been completely renovated in 2007 and now offers: + Serendib – the Business Class lounge of SriLankan Airlines – has room for 150 passengers. It’s possible to eat, drink, rest, refresh, use the internet and watch TV. + For a small fee one can wait comfortably in the Executive Lounge for their ﬂight. The Sathkara Meet & Greet Service of SriLankan Airlines offers an extensive range of services for arriving, departing and transfer passengers with connecting ﬂights through the Bandaranaike International Airport. www.srilankan.aero
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MIM > Abroad > Sri Lanka
Ayurveda in Sri Lanka Ayurveda, an individual reward for meeting and incentive organizers. It happened to me in Sri Lanka. I discovered a new way of vacationing: feeding the soul and slimming down the body. The acquired energy stayed with me for two months and now I’m once again in need of a trip to Sri Lanka. TEXT: MARCEL A.M. VISSERS, EDITOR IN CHIEF
centre and young and friendly staffers. And the treatment had not even started yet. I had already had some experience with Ayurveda in the Kerala Backwaters, but I did not expect this.
What’s the reward?
! Manik Rodrigo: 'Ayurveda has become very popular with Europeans'
The oldest medicine in the world If you’re looking for an individual incentive, I’d recommend two weeks of refreshing yourself in a Buddhist setting. The Sri Lanka specialist, Paul Van den Hende of SriTours (Ghent), will immediately say: 'You should never organise an incentive in an Ayurvedic spa, because no alcohol is allowed and the meals are vegetarian.' He’s right and that’s also what kept me from trying it out sooner. But when I entered the 15 acres Ayurveda resort of Barberyn Beach, I saw a ﬁve-star hotel with a charming welcome lounge, a rolling garden with a magniﬁcent view of the Indian Ocean, a private pool with lifeguard, a fruit juice bar, a restaurant on the roof, a secluded Ayurveda wellness
Ayurveda is derived from the ancient Hindu Sanskrit: 'ayuh' means 'life' and 'vida' means 'science' or 'knowledge'. Three things should be kept in mind. One, Ayurveda is not an alternative medicine. It is one of the oldest forms of medical science known to man – originating 5000 years ago. Two, Ayurveda is more than a system of herbal medicine. It is a way to a long and healthy life and can complement modern medicine. Three, Ayurveda aims to do two things: treat the symptoms of the disease and help individuals strengthen their immune system. Ayurveda treats body and spirit as one entity: what affects one affects the other and vice versa. If they work together they can overcome almost any disease.
swimming in the pool or ocean. Daily, each guest gets three hours of Ayurvedic wellness: massage, herbal treatment and baths. Apart from that, it’s just your regular turn of the mill stay at a ﬁve-star hotel. But … you start to enjoy each and every breath and bite you take. The food is so tasteful and plentiful, that you don’t even notice that you’re losing weight. One day, you’ll wake up and notice you’ve attained a zen-like state of mind and you’ll know that your incentive investment was worth it. You return home and live life more freely and much more healthy.
Family-run resorts Doctors specialised in Ayurveda will advise you to follow a treatment for at least two weeks, because the effects will be more visible then. The treatment starts with an in-take conversation: 'Who are you? What do you do? How do you live? What’s your diet like? How do you exercise? ... What do you want to change about your life?' Afterwards you receive a tailor-made program. An Ayurvedic oil is created with herbs from the garden, you get a dietary programme and you get to choose your own exercise: yoga, shiatsu,
We heartily recommend the family-run Barberyn Reef and Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resorts. The father of the current executive manager, Manik Rodrigo, opened the resort in 1982. It was the ﬁrst Ayurvedic hotel in Sri Lanka and got an award for pioneering the art of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka. Nowadays it's run by the renowned Rodrigo family, specialised in ensuring the best and most personal service for European guests. www.barberyn.com
A S T R I D H OT E L, ANTWERP
diamond fashion gastronomy
the Other Antwerp 6
architecture water art
MIM > Antwerp special
Together with Amsterdam, Vienna, Zürich and Valencia, we also form the “Cool Capitals”.
Philip Heylen High ambitions for Antwerp In 2008 MIM magazine interviewed Philip Heylen, the vice-mayor for Culture and Tourism in Antwerp. He told us about his inspired and great ambitions for Antwerp as a congress city. Now, one and a half year later, we visited him for a follow up.
MIM: Our readers haven’t forgotten your promise to improve the international image of Antwerp. Has this been realised? Philip Heylen: Each day the ofﬁces of Tourism, Congress and Culture all work hard together to improve Antwerp’s international fame. This all depends on two things: Antwerp as a product and a good marketing and promotion campaign. In the last few months a lot has happened to make Antwerp stand out and more is to come. The iconic MAS (Museum At the Stream) will open soon and already enjoys international attention. Another iconic building will be the new congress centre, for which the Flemish government has promised 57,2 million euro. Last month we launched the Dutch Capitool Travel Guide and the English version will soon follow. This is the touristic guide and really puts Antwerp next to the other metropolises on the bookshelf. We’re also trying to attract more international hotels – with whom we
already work closely together – through city renovation projects. Lastly, we have signed several agreements with Antwerp Airport, Brussels Airport and Brussels Airlines to make travel to Antwerp much easier. As you can see, we’re constantly making progress and that’s how I want it.
MIM: Branding has become very important for cities. What does Antwerp as a brand represent? PH: Meeting in Antwerp is meeting in an easily accessible historic city. Antwerp is a pocket-sized metropolis: the historic city centre, the international port, diamonds, fashion, culture and gastronomy are all combined with accessibility and small scale. These are the most important trumps of Antwerp.
MIM: With which other European city would you twin Antwerp? Why? PH: We’re already working together with Ghent, Bruges, Mechlin and Louvain to proﬁle ourselves as the “Flemish Art Cit-
ies”. We share a stand and act as a group at the larger international meeting fairs (IMEX, EITBM, and EMIF). Together with Amsterdam, Vienna, Zürich and Valencia, we also form – on a more touristic level – the “Cool Capitals”.
MIM: Antwerp is known in the Meetings Industry as a second city. ICCA statistics place Valencia as the ﬁrst of the second cities. Will Antwerp compete for this position? PH: Fly with the eagle or scratch with the chickens. We’re ambitious and naturally we want to be the best second city. Once we have the new congress centre, we will be able to fully challenge cities like Zürich, Valencia and even Barcelona.
Antwerp special is a production of MIMmagazine.eu. Interviews and texts: Marcel A.M. Vissers, Editor in Chief Igor Hendrickx, Assistant Editorial Officer www.mimmagazine.eu
MIM > Antwerp special
Unlike a lot of bureaus, we don’t work with members but with the whole group of organizers and suppliers
Inge Marstboom A grateful sector and a great city In March 2008 a new congress bureau was established, focussing exclusively on managing congresses and business events in the city of Antwerp. Leading the effort is Inge Marstboom, Manager Congress & Business Events. MIM visited her in her bureau on the Great Market Square.
MIM: Networking is an important part of the meetings industry. In such a setting, isn’t it difficult for you to be the new face of a new Congress Bureau? How do you cope? Inge Marstboom: It’s true that you have to prove yourself, but I like a challenge: variety is the spice of life. You should also not forget that I’ve been working for the Tourism Bureau since 1997, where I have helped organize such events as the “Fashion Year” and the “Van Dyck Year”. A lot of contacts from the tourism industry return in the meetings industry. Professionally, I don’t feel unprepared or new. Personally, it makes everything easier to work in such a grateful sector with such a great city to promote.
MIM: You probably already know how to play Antwerp as a trump card. What’s your strategy? IM: Communication is the most important part of the job. I believe it’s important to regularly communicate with everyone in the local meetings industry (hotels, venues, …). Unlike a lot of bureaus, we don’t work with members but with the whole group
of organizers and suppliers. Associations don’t like limitations and really appreciate this open and neutral approach. I also work closely with Tourism Flanders, because they have many permanent bureaus in Europe, Asia and America. This helps a lot to raise our international profile, as do the many fairs and events that we try to attend: IMEX, EITBM, EMIF and Event. We’re also member of MPI and will become a member of DMAI. Finally, we collaborate regularly with our local industry to organise sitevisits and publish advertisements in foreign magazines.
MIM: The new congress centre will significantly simplify your job in the future. How will you translate this to the public at large? IM: True, the new congress centre is already very popular in Belgium. Their name, “Zalen van de Zoo” (Halls of the Zoo) really attracts a lot of attention. With its iconic historic façade, central location and easy accessibility, it hardly needs promotion. Abroad, however, we first need to work on
our destination promotion before we can promote the centre. Antwerp doesn’t enjoy the same name recognition as Paris or London, even though we have just as much to offer, but within closer vicinity of each other. That’s Antwerp’s strongest asset: everything is on walking distance. It truly is a city on human scale.
MIM: Finally, what have you planned for 2010? IM: We’ll be launching a new and much more professional website with a databank, contact lists, etcetera. The new MAS will need launching as well, since it opens its doors in Spring 2011. The promotion of the new congress centre will also start in 2010. And all the while I’ll be working on further expanding my network. Busy, busy, busy...
Antwerp Tourisme & Congress Grote Markt 15 – 2000 Antwerp Phone: +32 3 338 81 81 Fax: +32 3 338 81 32 firstname.lastname@example.org www.antwerpen.be/visit
MIM > Antwerp special
Flanders Congress Centre A New Competitor on the European Conference Market Only recently has Antwerp started to work on renovating and expanding its many advantages. What Antwerp lacked the most, was a large modern congress centre. Luckily this is the past tense. It looks like there will be an Antwerp congress centre after all in 2012. MIM interviewed Rudy Van Eysendeyk, the director of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp and responsible for the current Flanders Concert & Congress Centre. We were welcomed into his beautiful Art-Nouveau office suit, located in the Zoo entrance building, overlooking Astrid Square and right next to the congress centre. INTERVIEW AND TEXT MARCEL A.M. VISSERS AND IGOR HENDRICKX
Rudy Van Eysendeyk
MIM: Antwerp has been waiting for al long time for its very own congress centre. Didn’t this take too long and how did it happen? Rudy Van Eysendeyk: My answer to the ﬁrst part of the question will be short: yes, it took too long. As to why it took so long, that’s a longer story. Perhaps it is best to explain the current situation ﬁrst. The Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (KMDA) is made up out of several institutions: the Antwerp Zoo, the Wild Animal Park Planckendael, the nature reserve De Zegge, the Serpentarium in Blankenberge and the Flanders Concert & Congress Centre (FCCC). When I became director in 2001, the KMDA was in dire ﬁnancial straits. The animal and nature parks no longer turned a sufﬁcient proﬁt to renovate and repair. My experience as crisis-manager in the private sector and my political connections from my years as director-general of the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, served me well to
solve this problem. Nowadays the Zoo has once again become a pearl of this city – especially with the recent birth of baby elephant Kai-Mook (Thai for ‘pearl’). Remained the problem of the FCCC. The FCCC – better known as the Elisabeth-hall – functioned primarily as a classic concert hall. The congress part was never fully integrated. Luckily, everyone concerned was aware of the problem and all agreed Antwerp needed a real congress centre. Sadly, no one could agree on how exactly this would be accomplished. Should the new centre be located in the very centre of the city or should it be moved to a more remote location? For a long time it looked like the new centre would be built on the Island, the modern neighbourhood at the old docks. The construction of the MAS in the same area, made a new congress centre there nearly impossible. So that idea was ﬁnally discarded for the renovation of the old congress centre in its current location at the Astrid Square. The monetary
discussions between the different levels of government (city, province and region) were ﬁnally resolved in the beginning of 2009: 57,2 million euro would be set aside for the complete renovation and rebuilding of the FCCC.
MIM: What exactly will happen now? When can we expect the new congress centre to open and what special changes will we see? RVE: The concert hall will probably be ﬁnished in 2013, maybe even 2012. The construction of the congress parts will go more smoothly and is planned for 2012. Let me explain this distinction. The Elisabeth-hall will be converted into a an acoustic concert hall with 2100 seats. That way, the Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra will ﬁnally have the space it always needed and previously lacked. The idea is that congresses will take place during the day, while concerts and repetitions will be scheduled for the evening.
MIM > Antwerp special
With the appearance of the new congress centre Antwerp will be reborn as the new leading Second City of the European congress market. • • • • • • •
A large conference hall with +/- 2071 seats A large entrance/exhibition hall (+/- 2000m2) A marble ballroom in Colonial style ( +/- 465m2) Exclusive boardroom in Art Deco style. 12 break-out rooms. A new hotel is planned. 1200 hotel beds on walking distance.
In 2012 Antwerp will have a modern, state of the art, dedicated congress centre in a classic Art Nouveau setting. More than 1500 people will be able to meet and convene in the heart of the Diamond City. MIM: Yet again a combination of a concert hall and a congress centre. Is that wise? RVE: The demand for a completely dedicated congress centre in Antwerp isn’t high enough to be cost-effective. This is a practical and more proﬁtable solution. We’ve arranged with the orchestra that the planning of congresses will be given priority over their concerts. Anyway, the planning of a large congress always starts earlier than the planning of a new orchestra season, so we foresee no problems in this regard. Architecturally, it will become a classic concert hall with reverberation, but this will be neutralised electronically for congresses. The entrance hall will be expanded to 2000m2 – more than twice its original size – and can serve as exhibition room, dinner room, etc. While the preliminary session will take place in the main hall, the subsequent smaller meetings can take place in breakout rooms on the upper ﬂoors. Additional meeting rooms will be available in the grand Central Station. One of these even has a glass wall overlooking the HST trains. This way we’ll be able to easily accommodate 2000 attendees. Because most hotels are within walking distance, we won’t be integrating the three chair principle. There’s also no need for modernising the building’s exterior: it’s
already an iconic and historic building, we don’t need to change that.
MIM: That brings us to our next question. The FCCC is a member of the Historic Conference Centres of Europe. Will the new centre remain a member of this organisation? Will you strengthen this or do you see other possibilities? RVE: Most likely the new centre shall remain part of HCCE, but we do question its added value. Perhaps the whole concept behind the HCCE should be rethought, because at the moment the members still compete with each other. In my opinion the HCCE limits itself thus to merely a nice placard on the façade. There should be less competition and more cooperation and if this happens, we might even discuss increasing contributions.
MIM: The new congress centre has a very strategic location. Marcel Vissers once called it Astrid Meeting Square: a neighbourhood with hotels and congress centres within walking distance of each other. Moreover, the Central Station is located right next door. How will you make use of this? RVE: Transportation is, marketingwise, our highest trump. There is a distinct difference between a fair and a congress.
Fairs need a lot of parking space, because most attendees live in the same region and arrive by car. Congresses, on the other hand, cater more towards an international public. Most of these people will ﬁrst arrive by plane in Brussels and will then take the direct train connection (planned for 2011) to Antwerp. When they arrive in the Central Station, they can immediately go to the congress centre. Practically all public transports pass by the Astrid Square, so people arriving from outside the city centre will still have no problem. It’s already possible for guests to walk between the congress centre, their hotel and the station without having to face the weather: an underground ﬂoor connects all three. Everything truly is within walking distance and when not attending meetings, one can always visit the city centre and its many delights.
MIM: Lastly, will the name change? RVE: Probably. Flanders Concert & Congress Centre is a mouthful and doesn’t mouth easily. Hardly anybody knows it by that name and usually calls it the Elisabeth-hall. Already we’ve been using a different appellation: “Zalen van de Zoo” (Rooms of the Zoo). It’s a work in progress. www.zalenvandezoo.be