Based on data from ACI Europe, we analysed the data for some of the major meeting destinations in the region, according to the number of passengers. We considered destinations that have conference facilities and developed meeting infrastructure and are also listed on the ICCA scale of meeting destinations for meetings of associations. We left out some Greek and Turkish classical tourist destinations, with the prevailing charter flights and a large number of passengers. The main air hub of the region is Istanbul, with some 50,201,417 passengers annually over both their airports. Looking at the list an interesting geographical picture is drawn of the future development of congress tourism, which is largely dependent on air accessibility, but the development is not dependent solely on this factor, which is demonstrated by some destinations such as Dubrovnik or Ljubljana, who rank high despite their relatively poor air accessibility.

1. ATHENS 

14,436,064 passengers 2011

22 place ICCA, 55 meetings 2011

Domestic Air Company: AEGEAN AIRLINES, 6.5 million passengers in 2011

Domestic Air Company: OLYMPIC AIRLINES, 4.6 million passengers in 2011

The city with the most diverse and complex meetings offer in the region, which was fully renovated for the Olympic Games. The main competitive advantage is the affordability and quality of infrastructure, which in addition to good air connectivity is a guarantee for the further development of the meetings industry which will be able to successfully defy the current crisis.

2. BUCHAREST

7,447,433 passengers

51 place ICCA, 23 meetings

Domestic Air Company: TAROM, 2.1 million passengers in 2011

Despite the good air accessibility Bucharest did not utilise its meetings potential to the fullest. Mostly it lacks a recognizable meetings brand, grouped into a functional and proactive Convention Bureau, which would help to take advantage of many historical monuments and several top convention hotels.

3. LARNACA, Cyprus

5,507,762 passengers

103 place ICCA, 10 meetings

Domestic Air Company: CYPRUS AIRLINES, 1.86 million passengers in 2011

Larnaca has found itself on the scale primarily due to good air connectivity, with conference activity currently more a supplementary activity for the low season and representing a significant and largely untapped potential of the resort destination.

4. THESSALONIKI 

4,061,697 passengers

68 place ICCA, 17 meetings

Thessaloniki is forever in a fight with and overshadowed by the capital, which proves that even with poor accessibility and systematic work good meetings results can be achieved. Overall a very solid destination, known for its university and diverse conference facilities, which although it does not enchant at first sight, it fully meets the needs of meeting planners.

5. SOFIA

3,474,993 passengers

93 place ICCA, 11 meetings

Domestic Air Company: BULGARIA AIR, 1.19 million passengers in 2011

Despite solid congress infrastructure and relatively solid accessibility, Sofia is similar to Bucharest in terms of what it lacks. Because the offer is not connected and the brand is unrecognisable, this is one of the unused gems of the region. This is clearly reflected in the ICCA scale at which it is at the tail end among comparable cities.

6. BELGRADE

3,124,537 passengers

26 place ICCA, 42 meetings

Domestic Air Company: JAT AIRWAYS, 1.21 million passengers in 2011

Belgrade has made the fastest evolutionary congress progress, because of which it has become a recognisable convention destination for innovation and exceptional entertainment. In Belgrade they took excellent care to combine adrenalin and passion that get many eager looks from the competing cities. If they are going to sort out the infrastructure as well, the way up is unlimited.

7. ZAGREB

2,320,098 passengers

48 place ICCA, 24 meetings

Domestic Air Company: CROATIA AIRLINES, 1.87 million passengers in 2011

The elegant Central European city expects airport expansion and construction of a convention centre that will surely spark off a new cycle of congress development. Based on the available infrastructure, the city achieves outstanding conference results and with a reasonable price it offers very strong competition to the other cities.

8. TIRANA

1,817,073 passengers

178 place ICCA, 5 meetings

Rookie on the scale that it ended up on due more to better air connectivity compared to some of the other top-ranked destinations than anything else. In Tirana forget about boredom; the city is full of contrasts and will certainly be developed in the future as a convention destination.

9. DUBROVNIK

1,349,501 passengers

48 place, 24 meetings

The regional tourism flagship carrier is always one of the stronger players, also in the field of congress tourism and especially in incentive programmes. If it will improve the connection between the summer and winter season, because of the excellent infrastructure it will be better placed than its rivals.

10. LJUBLJANA

1,287,461 passengers

27 place, 42 meetings

Domestic Air Company: ADRIA AIRWAYS, 1.16 million passengers in 2011

For the third time in eleven years Ljubljana as a convention destination made a list of 50 top meetings destinations worldwide and in 2011 it made a considerable improvement compared to 2010. It has appropriate infrastructure and as a small, compact city it offers a very pleasant experience to congress participants.

HORS CATEGORIE

ISTANBUL

50,201,417 passengers in 2011

8 place ICCA, 113 meetings 2011

Domestic Air Company: TURKISH AIRLINES, 32.62 million passengers in 2011

Without a doubt, the top regional congress destination, that in the battle with the better-known congress cities still seems fresh and in shape, also because of the excellent operation of the entire destination. From the perspective of congress service users one finds it difficult to imagine a more attractive destination, full of excellent facilities and an attractive additional offer.

2 COMMENTS

    • Air accessibility is one of the basic conditions forthe development of the international meetings industry. Therefore, in this comparison, we were taking into account destinations, which by this point of view have the greatest potential. The comparison did not include typical leisure destinations. To make the comparison relevant, we have also added the current ICCA ranking on a scale that measures the number of congresses of international associations. How important is the air accessibility shows Ljubljana that with the stagnation of the number of air connections has lost in comparison with Belgrade, which is one of the fastest growing meetings destinations in region. I personally believe that the future air hubs of the region will also be important convention destinations. After all Istanbul proves this, as it last year ranked among the TOP10 world convention cities in the company of Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, London, Singapore, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. All of these cities are important air hubs. Or the example of so far unknown Zadar, which has also become a popular convention destination. I am deeply convinced of correlation between air transport and development of congress tourism, but certainly among the total number of passengers not all are business guests. For this reason we have also taken into account the ICCA statistics. Regards, Gorazd

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