I like to divide my career into 5 year blocks that are usually defined by having a major congress project in them. For me, the millennial transition era was captured by the organisation of the Apimondia congress in 2003. It represented the jewel in the crown of my work at Cankarjev Dom, where I learned the real trade and also sharpened my congress industry blade.
When the grand opening of the 38th international Apimondia beekeeping congress was taking place in the Gallus Hall in Cankarjev Dom, I knew then that we had made it. The congress brought more than 1,100 scientists and experts in apiculture to Ljubljana. We were astonished by the turnout and the huge interest in beekeeping tourism, and most of all by the response to the “Beekeeping as a way of life” slogan, which in itself was a timeless statement for a more respectful attitude towards nature. Such an approach is today better encapsulated by the words ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ tourism.
Looking back, the congress was a success because of three key factors:
- The immense energy of the former president of the Beekeeping Association of Slovenia, Lojze Peterle, who really knew how to connect experts, economy and politics into a fully functioning organisational committee. By my side was Franc Šivic, who had mastered the ways of the international beekeeping community, and the late Dr. Janez Poklukar. Janez was a renowned expert in apiculture, a researcher and a passionate beekeeper at heart, who went all-out to make this event a success. From today’s perspective a trio like that was unstoppable.
- Apimondia was looking for a location that would allow a connection point for the biggest beekeeping network in Europe. At that time Slovenia was geostrategically a great option, which was later confirmed by the excellent attendance and the financial results of the congress.
- The entire congress team of professionals at Cankarjev Dom was behind the project. In those days it was a “dream team” of the Slovenian congress industry, which connected the very best from the fields of finance, congress logistics and project management. Without a team like that and its wide array of different knowledge areas and attention to detail, the project would never have been carried out to such a high level.
Today I got a call from one of my colleagues from the former “dream team”, who let me know that the Beekeeping Association, together with Celje Fair, are making a bid for the Apimondia World Congress in 2021. The main competition is the Russian Ufa, which has been extensively promoting their destination with a strong campaign. The winning host of the congress is to be made known in September of this year at the 45th Apimondia in Istanbul. Both candidacies can be reviewed at the following links:
I ave to say that I was excited about the candidacy, as every effort of this kind needs to be supported. Creating a congress bid is a very challenging job; it connects experts in marketing, communication, lobbying and finance.
On this occasion I wanted to offer some of my own tips, which had previously convinced the international beekeeping community to entrust their congress to Slovenia.
HOW TO PREPARE A SUCCESSFUL BID
- Understanding the Terms and Conditions of a Bid
An organisation like Apimondia has congress bids fully figured from the inside out. In the Roman secretariat this field is handled by one of the legendary Janonni brothers, who understands the global meetings industry and knows its trends. At that time our bid managed to fulfill all of the conditions Apimondia had listed. Going through the rules and creating plans on how to meet them is a process which includes the exchange of knowledge and good practice cases from previously successful candidates.
- Potential of Growth and Influence
Apiculture is an industry with strong export links with China, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey and inside Europe strong production in countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Italy and the countries of Eastern Europe. Apimondia represents the interests of every one of its members, but is at the same time influenced by the interests of the strongest countries of the industry. When our bid was filed the potential of growth and long term effects of the congress were very important. The 2003 congress allowed Apimondia to access markets in Eastern Europe and the Balkans representing an ultimate win-win situation.
- Benefits vs Features
Our bid very clearly pointed out the benefits of the congress for the beekeepers, science and for Apimondia in general. From my experience this point is where many candidates can fail, as they all start by listing the technical details of their destination, from the important achievements of the local industry to the square metres of exhibiton space and the number of beekeepers in their country. What matters most is listing the things that participants and the association will actually benefit from – things like business potential, acquiring new knowledge, participating in excursions, socialising with colleagues, learning about new technology etc.
- Financial Assessment
Tight financial assessment was a key for our project’s success. Our strict policy and the control of expenses was also appreciated by Apimondia, as it was a guarantee for a well carried out event. Further deciding factors were also the good references at Cankarjev Dom and membership in both IAPCO and ICCA associations. Seka Per, who ran all of the finances, had lots of experience in projects of this size, and with her attention to detail we managed to carry out the project with a significant profit.
- Standing Out from the Competetion
Every candidacy should stand out from its competition in an innovative way. The mastermind behind our story – “Beekeeping as a way of life” – was the cosmopolitan Franc Šivic, who understood very well the true meaning of beekeeping for the human race. Our sustainable paradigm was the thing that set us apart from the competition and also wowed the world’s beekeeping scene. Mr Šivic backed up his statement with true stories and top class photography, which really was the icing on top of his creative congress cake.
- Logistics and Capacity
The Apimondia congress falls among today’s bigger congresses and not every destination can handle the large number of participants and the accompanying exhibitions. After Ljubljana the congress was hosted by major cities and capitals such as Dublin, Melbourne, Montpellier, Buenos Aires, Kiev, Dajjeon and, this year, Istanbul. Back then Ljubljana represented the perfect balance between venue size, airline connectivity, hotel accommodation and the additional attractions in the city, which is always a high priority on Apimondia’s list.
- Local Tourist Industry Support
The local tourist industry is usually subsumed into a convention bureau, which makes a congress bid much easier. Tourism Ljubljana played a key role in preparing the project and also helped in all of the previous congresses, from Durban to Vancouver. The excellent branding of Ljubljana also did not harm.
- X-factor: Networking and Lobbying
The fact that the project was run by an ex-President of the Slovenian government, Lojze Peterle, helped open many doors. It is hard to imagine how the project might have gone if it wasn’t for his help in the areas of networking and lobbying. He also took the burden of promotion in lead-in events, as he genuinely knew how to approach, convince and make an impression on his beekeeping colleagues. From today’s perspective this was again one of the key factors to our success.
- Professional Team at Cankarjev Dom
The excellent team at Cankarjev Dom has many years of experience in congress events and handled the project with solid professionalism. They connected experts in the fields of marketing, finance and strategic event organisation, and there was a direct cooperation with Tourism Ljubljana, who helped create a first class story.
- Apimondia Politics
Dr. Janez Poklukar and Franc Šivic both had great relationships with the management of Apimondia, especially the secretary, Riccardo Jannoni. He was invited to Slovenia on numerous occasions and was shown all our strengths. This personal touch and a positive attitude towards all the members of the Executive Board at Apimondia really played an important role, and many of them became very fond of Slovenia. Philip McCabe, from Ireland, is one of the people I still meet on the congress scene across the world.
Experience has shown that ‘a shoe too small is hard to stretch’, and so when we have a big desire for an event we put on ones that are too big. Such cases are not hard to find in Slovenia; a typical example is the candidacy for the Universiada Championship in Maribor.
During our candidacy, the conditions in Europe also played to our advantage. We were driven by the feel for community and comradeship, which is hard to find these days. Our team’s wish for Slovenia and its beekeeping scene to win recognition on the global market was stronger than as if coming from just one individual. Our enthusiasm and determination couldn’t be rewarded with just a financial end product.
If the applicants for the Slovenian candidacy for 2021 have positive answers and solutions to all of the points listed above I am without a shadow of doubt that they will succeed. I wish them all the best in Istanbul and hope that Apimondia will return to Slovenia once again.