EVALUATING AND DEFINING ‘THE BEST’ IN THE BUSINESS
The Editorial Board of Kongres Magazine has completed the evaluation process of meeting destinations, which has been carried out continuously since 2010.
With travelogues we literally cross the boundaries of space and time and absorb specific knowledge about meeting destinations. Each travelogue is an experiment of an objective interpretation of the current situation through the eyes of our reporters.
Awards will be granted to the Top Destinations at Conventa networking dinner and award ceremony held at CD Congress Centre.
TOP 10 NATIONAL MEETING DESTINATIONS
Prague hasn’t been an Eastern European gem for a long time, but a true European tourist metropolis with a diverse and comprehensive offer, luxury hotels and sometimes too high prices. The story is reminiscent of Škoda, of which the Czechs are very proud and is one of the oldest automotive brands in Europe. Reputable, solid and reliable pre-war limousines were after the war changed by cars that were behind the times.
Current support of local politics and the economy in the region is more an exception than a rule. Although the country has recently found itself in a whirlwind of protests and political instability, it seems that this does not affect the meetings industry and the Turkish congress tiger is relentlessly growling and overcoming everything set in front of it.
Looking at a number of various criteria the City of Vienna is listed among the world’s most innovative, energy efficient and so-called smart congress cities. These titles are the result of active development of the meetings industry, which is managed and directed by the Vienna Convention Bureau.
A historic city with excellent connectivity to the rest of the world and where you will find infrastructure befitting a major European capital, but with better weather and in a more interesting location. The Athens allure includes 300 days of sunshine a year, more than 30,000 hotel rooms in 439 hotels, 95,000 sq.m of conference space, 1,000+ restaurants and 200,000 flights per year.
Based on its conference and accommodation infrastructure, Ljubljana belongs to the group of capitals suitable for medium-sized and smaller meetings (up to 2.500 participants). It is positioned side by side with the new EU member states and geographically in the region of the Western Balkans. Thus, according to congress stakeholders in Ljubljana the most competitive destinations are Zagreb, Belgrade, Prague and Budapest.
Belgrade bases its congress story on the rich culture at the crosroads of East and West, the central position in the South-East Europe and a lively social life. Belgrade is a city on the rise and a rough congress diamond, which has enormous development potential and can be placed geo-strategicaly side by side with world congress capitals, if it improves its infrastructure and handles the entire meetings sales chain.
I predict a great congress future for Zagreb. It is well established in the international congress market and in addition to Ljubljana and Belgrade it represents the future backbone of the continental meetings industry of the region. All three cities are progressing steadily on the charts of developed meetings destinations; the final breakthrough of the entire region is intertwined and dependent on the marketing of major regional cong ress cities in the international market.
Bratislava is undiscovered European congress capital which slowly and steadily penetrates into the congress market. It represents a novelty for international congress market which impresses due to the kindness and sympathetic of city centre but also because of not excessive commercialization. Bratislava has long lived in the shadow of neighbouring Vienna and Prague but today as fresh and full of new energy invites international congress organizers.
Of all the Polish cities Krakow is the one with the greatest soul and is the most fraught with history. Being the main tourist city it has excellent conditions in place for the development of congress tourism. With the construction of the new convention centre it has also received a real affirmation. In Poland Krakow will be the destination of the new generation, which will soon be recognised as a high quality, compact and most versatile meetings destination in Poland.
KEY CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION
Destination evaluations are based on thorough analyses of different criteria. They have developed from interviews and surveys with over 1,200 event organisers from across Europe, work that showed us that congress destinations are comparable and helped us to form a unique model of evaluation. A mixture of factors that we have been evaluating since 2010 can affect the entire meeting experience for both congress organisers and participants.
During our years of assessment, three basic categories were formed, which are related to the size of a destination. Each category has its own standards, with important professional and other comparable criteria also playing a major role.
Main groups of criteria have been divided into subgroups as listed below.
- Min. 15 years of international experience in the meetings industry
- Knowledge of international standards and specific knowledge of control standards (DIN (Deutsche Industry Norm), and others;
- Knowledge of trends in the meetings industry in both the domestic and international markets;
- Identifying the specific needs and preferences of meeting planners
- Knowledge of all the necessary elements for guest satisfaction (technical specifications, catering services, additional services, security etc,).
In addition, our examiners have a checked reference in the field of quality assurance of their own work in the meetings industry, which provides an unbiased view on behalf of the client and the maximum reliability of the method. Our hidden meeting planners are objective, fair, accurate and reliable, as well as being well-organised and paying attention to detail.
MEETINGS EXPERIENCE INDEX
With different destinations we evaluate over 70 criteria that are described in detail below. They form the final destination grade or the ‘MEETINGS EXPERIENCE INDEX’, as we like to call it. The best destinations are annually recognised on the main stage of the Conventa Trade Show.
A. Natural and cultural factors
Factors that are vital for the development of the meetings industry, because events are usually focussed on the more appealing destinations. We grade everything from regional diversity, climate conditions and social attractiveness to architecture, historical sites and the attitude towards continual development of the market. The whole picture gives us an image of the diversity of a destination and is an important criteria for its attractiveness.
B. General and transport infrastructure
This includes analytic assessment of infrastructure and public realm tidiness, which reflects the quality of living for residents and consequently also for congress guests. In this section we test everything from destination safety to road, air and rail connections. Other important criteria include public infrastructure, the network of financial institutions, internet access and a healthy and respectful attitude towards the environment.
C. Tourist infrastructure
Without appropriate tourist infrastructure, the development of congress tourism is nearly impossible. The assessment shows if there is an appropriate quality and accessibility of hotel capacity, restaurants, cafes and nightlife. We also grade the recreational/sport offer as a basis for incentive programmes. On top of that, the cultural offer, tourist information and destination management are also given full assessment.
D. Meetings infrastructure
For many the most important part is grading the congress capacity. In this section we evaluate the standard palette of congress providers, congress hotels, congress centres, exhibition centres and focus on their quality. We want to know the number of appropriate 4 and 5 star hotel room providers and, above all, that the incentive offer, business attitude and professionalism of congress providers is supportive of congress services and the activities of their local convention bureau.
E. Subjective grade
Within the remit of subjective grading are a number of combined criteria that include political stability, destination safety and the attitude taken to congress tourism. We also assess the ratio between quality and price, the competitiveness of the destinaton, local hospitality and the destination’s overall image. A lot of this boils down to the personal experience of the assessors.
F. Marketing buzz
Despite impressively fulfilling the other criteria, proactive marketing can be the element that sorts the good from the great. This is why we assess the development of the entire marketing infrastructure in the field of direct, digital, social and traditional marketing.
An added value of our project it that we can then offer recommendations and suggestions on the further positive development of the destinations reviewed.
After evaluation, the destinations are then assigned one of five categories as follows:
- 5 excellent meetings destination
- 4 quality meetings destination
- 3 recommendable meetings destination
- 2 average meetings destination
- 1 so-so
MTLG 2016 – CONSTANTLY UPDATING METHODOLOGIES
Every year the editorial board of Kongres magazine aims to further refine the Meetologue methodology in order to assure the most authentic score reflecting the genuine situation of congress destinations.
In 2015, we added the NUMBEO index of quality of life to the existing criteria, but as in recent years the quality of congress destinations has become heavily dependent on security, this year we went a step further and have included the most relevant assessment, the Global Peace Index, in the comparison. This index has classified countries according to 24 factors, including the prevalence of violence, organised crime and military expenditure. Norway, a country known for promoting peace in the world, is at the top of the list and closely followed by New Zealand and Denmark, with countries like Iraq, Sudan, Israel and Russia at the bottom. The research carried out for the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is associated with The Economist weekly, was supported by among others the Tibetan Dalai Lama, the former US President Jimmy Carter and the US economist Joseph Stiglitz, all three Nobel Prize winners for peace.
Also new is a more realistic application of the ICCA methodology. When classifying destinations we took into account the ten-year average number of events and participants, which was compared with the actual results for the year 2015. In doing this we have produced a scale that we believe reflects the actual situation. More information about this part of the analysis can be found in Kongres magazine.