31 August – 1 September 2015
Bled; main location: Hotel Golf
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and the Centre for European Perspective
Government of the Republic of Slovenia, Sava Hotels & Resorts
ABOUT THE EVENT
Bled Strategic Forum is one of the leading international conferences to be held in the region. Organised jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and the Centre for European Perspective, this was the 10th time the Bled Strategic Forum was organised. Over the last decade, the Bled Strategic Forum has grown into a successful platform for high-level strategic dialogue among leaders from the private and public sectors on key issues facing Europe and the world in the 21st century.
Many prominent guests from Europe and beyond, including President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, and Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, attended the 10th forum at Bled.
Considering the complexity of organisation, Bled Strategic Forum is undoubtedly one of more demanding events. Every year, new challenges are faced and new solutions are sought with organisers to conduct matters as smoothly and optimally as possible. Since BSF is an annual event, the experiences of previous years come in handy. Every year, the greatest challenge for hotels is, without exception, how to accommodate all the delegates in suitable hotel categories and room types with limited capacities. One week prior to the event things start to hot up – delegations wait in line asking whether we can find them accommodation and, at the same time, meet special requirements relating to security, hierarchical levels of delegates, and any whims of top guests. At the last moment it can happen that a delegation of 20 persons cancels their stay a day before arrival due to a sudden political crisis in their home country. It happened this year and it has happened before.
Notably, this year’s Strategic Forum posed two purely practical challenges not entirely alien to hotels. One was related to a delegation from the Middle East who were requesting from the hotel a large common room as a private living room in which they could smoke undisturbed. Naturally, smoking is forbidden in all public places and there is no special smoking saloon at Grand Hotel Toplice; furthermore, none of the terraces were appropriate as they failed to provide sufficient privacy. The second challenge was related to the implementation of lunch at Hotel Golf, as the expected number of guests significantly exceeded the number of seats at the restaurant. A standing buffet was absolutely not an option. The areas normally used to extend the restaurant were specified for other purposes and we knew from experience that almost every participant arrived at the same time and lingered quite long at tables due to business contacts and running discussions. Hence, the turnover of tables at the restaurant was very slow.
We use a team approach to handle challenges such as these. An experienced team of associates involved in the organisation of events met within the scope of a regular briefing for the event concerned and considered both matters requiring solutions and adequate preparations. There were plenty of ideas and opinions and, finally, we found two excellent scenarios that were successfully carried out in both cases.
For the smoking living room, we decided to use large covered balconies at the end of the corridors of three storeys of Grand Hotel Toplice. These otherwise isolated balconies have an exit to the main corridor and access to the extreme (corner) rooms of the Hotel. One balcony was hence made private and furnished with saloon furniture, while a view of the lake and the constant sunny weather were the icing on the cake.
For the lunch challenge at Hotel Golf, there were many ideas and considerations. We were severely concerned with any effects on the quality of service and the possible bad mood of guests waiting for their meal. The organiser did not like the idea of dividing lunch into two locations at the Hotel. Nevertheless, a scenario was developed that convinced them. We decided to dedicate more space at the restaurant to additional surfaces for a buffet bar in order to avoid bottlenecks. At the same time, we planned to arrange another location for lunch, i.e. a small restaurant with direct access from the Congress Centre, which has an exit to the grand terrace, where additional tables were set. When the main restaurant started filling up, our staff kindly invited guests to the terrace overlooking Bled Castle. Guests were delighted and so was the organiser, and we were pleased because everything ran smoothly.
AFTER THE EVENT
The Strategic Forum is no doubt the most important annual event in Bled. The fact that Sava Hotels Bled has been one of the key partners and hosts since its very beginning, i.e. for 10 years, means BSF is our chief reference. Within the frame of the ten forums, we have hosted a great deal of eminent guests from the world of politics, economics, and different professions. Many of them were opinion leaders from various parts of the world. This has made us interesting for numerous other international events as well. Three large congresses were obtained on the back of certain key individuals attending the Bled Strategic Forum, while many participants were later hosted as tourists.
Attendance at BSF has grown over the years and we have been hosting between 400 and 500 participants for several years. The event has also expanded in terms of content. The main forum is accompanied by other events, such as Young BSF, Business BSF, or this year’s second Tourist Panel, and a one-off ministerial event focusing on the tourism industry (2nd High Level Meeting of China and CEECs tourism ministers).
BSF has become a brand and our advantage from this is no doubt that a part of the brand name is also the name of the destination, i.e. Bled.