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Ten years ago, when we started preparing the congress travelogues, we couldn’t possibly have foreseen that our methodology for evaluating destinations would have become such an important reference point for meeting planners. As of today, we have published 76 travelogues of various meeting destinations, all based on hard graft and solid field work. Our unflagging enthusiasm for this has demonstrated that we have been setting quality standards that are also being recognized by the wider international industry public through the Meetings Star Awards.

 Gorazd Čad, Editor in Chief

Congress travelogues, or Meetologues, have become a firm reference for event organisers in selecting destinations over the past decade, mainly because of their sound logic and the benefits that they bring to all parties.

On the initiative of individual destinations that have participated in the MTLG project, we have now prepared a new categorization of meeting destinations. The primary reason we have done this is to ensure the clarity and comprehensibility of the individual categories; the new categorization involves a combination of criteria and the basis for the classification of destinations into four classes is based on the full range of the index and total scores that fall within it.

The main drive for us to update the categorization is so that we can provide to meeting planners as much information as possible on the capacity of destinations, which we have been evaluating since 2009 through our tried and tested method of congress travelogues – Meetlogue. Every destination is evaluated based on fieldwork and research, through which we want to get as close as possible to the real situation.

MTLG 2017

The complexity of the meetings industry means there are many possible variables that can contribute to defining the ‘size’ of a destination. We have been looking for those that are frequently considered to be closely connected and interdependent. This aspect of the defining criteria process necessitated a review of existing literature, which is quite limited in that field and is heavily reliant on the statistics prepared by the international association ICCA, which focuses on recording the number of association meetings and their participants at a destination. Our pillar capacity of meeting estinations were calculated based on criteria that were defined with the help of leading experts from various destinations and are as follows:

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1. Air accessibility of destinations

This assessment is based on the European air connectivity report, which is prepared annually by ACI Europe. Analysing connectivity data from the SEO Economic Research’s ‘Netscan’ connectivity model, the report provides in-depth insights into how well Europe is connected by air, both internally and with other regions in the world. It distinguishes between direct and indirect connectivity, and takes a special in-depth look at the dynamics at Europe’s hubs – which act as engines of connectivity for wider outreach.

2. The number of 4* and 5* category hotel rooms

The development of meeting destination is directly linked to the number of hotel rooms it has, which according to our study reaches at least twice the maximum capacity of the plenary hall at the destination. The single use of rooms is dominated by congress guests and for business tourism, which includes the meetings industry, the use of rooms in the business categories of of 4 and 5 stars is predominant. For that reason, only those hotels are assessed in this category.

3. The number of 4* and 5* category hotels

To enhance destination comparisons, we also captured the number of 4 and 5 star category hotels that are predominantly used by congress guests. The number of such hotels is a unique indicator of how well a destination is adapted to business tourism and vice versa.

4. Banquet hall maximum capacity

Practically every congress or event also plays host to a social event or a gala dinner. It is often the case that the maximum capacity of the hall for banquets dictates the maximum size of the congress that the destination is able to accommodate. This criterion is therefore extremely important to our assessment.

5. The largest hall in the city in m2

The size of the hall further dictates the size of the largest events and accompanying exhibitions that can ordinarily accompany such events. These are normally the multifunctional halls in congress and exhibition centres. This criterion is directly linked to exhibition activity, which is most highly developed in the so-called ‘meeting hubs’.

6. Maximum hall capacity in theatre layout

Congress centre halls that are suitable for plenary sessions are assessed in this category. To make this a level assessment many sports facilities were excluded, as they typically lack the additional infrastructure required for the organisation of events.

7. Population

A city or a town’s population tends to be the catalyst for development, transformation and, of course, also the generator of many events. Over the course of history the meetings industry has developed in the urban regions and is therefore considered one of the factors associated with metropolitanisation and the major conurbations in Europe.

The results of this new categorization are presented in detail below. It highlighted that, depending on the supporting capacity, destinations can be divided into four categories that are framed based on the maximum number of participants that can be accommodated without encountering any major logistical turmoil or complications.

XL MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host more than 2,000 congress attendees

DESTINATIONMTLG INDEX 2017
LONDON, Great Britain700
BARCELONA, Spain700
PARIS, France698
ISTANBUL, Turkey685
VIENNA, Austria682
MILANO, Italy682
PRAGUE, Czech Republic659
MUNICH, Germany634
DUBLIN, Ireland622
BUDAPEST, Hungary613
WARSAW, Poland608
MOSCOW, Russia591
SOFIA, Bulgaria571
ATHENS, Greece569
ZURICH, Switzerland566
BELGRADE, Serbia545
BUCHAREST, Romania531
BAKU, Azerbaijan511

The largest European meeting destinations are to be found in the first category, as they have advanced development of congress infrastructure and excellent flight accessibility. These destinations are also predominantly the most important aviation hubs. There are, however, significant differences among the destinations that will be further brought out by a detailed evaluation of their qualitative criteria. At the top end of the category are the largest destinations, all with excellent infrastructure and minimum differentiation in their broad provision, mainly being in the sphere of flight availability. Based on the detailed evaluation the destinations with an index of 500 to 600 still have some challenges in different fields, for example at Baku, where infrastructure development is incredible but where on the other hand it has a significantly low level of flight availability, or with Belgrade and Bucharest, where better accessibility and a larger number of hotel rooms is lacking. In each of the MTLGs you can find a more detailed and revealing in-depth analysis of the criteria.

L MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host up to 2,000 congress attendees

DESTINATIONMTLG INDEX 2017
VENICE, Italy479
KRAKOW, Poland475
GRAZ, Austria452
GDANSK, Poland446
SALZBURG, Austria438
ZAGREB, Croatia437
VILNIUS, Lithuania435
TALLIN, Estonia417
SARAJEVO, Bosnia413
BRNO, Czech Republic413
KATOWICE, Poland404
THESSALONIKI, Greece392
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia385
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia382
INNSBRUCK, Austria374
GRANADA, Spain370
NOVI SAD, Serbia367

Congress infrastructure (hall capacity) and flight availability on destinations listed here enables the hosting of a congress for up to 2,000 attendees. In the field of congress infrastructure some especially great progress has been made by a number of the destinations, such as Poland and the Baltic countries, where a number of brand new congress centres can be found today. Among the destinations there are also those where the infrastructure is in place, but is in need of extensive renovation, or those that are still waiting for a proper and dedicated convention centre to be built, such as Sarajevo or Zagreb. For this category flight availability is an extremely important criterion and is where major differences and significant competitive advantages can be made.

M MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host up to 1,200 congress attendees

DESTINATIONMTLG INDEX 2017
DUBROVNIK, Croatia295
LVIV, Ukraine293
KLAGENFURT , Austria286
TIRANA, Albania285
GRADO, Italy274
SPLIT, Croatia267
TRIESTE, Italy259
VILLACH, Austria256
PODGORICA, Montenegro245
SCHLADMING, Austria245
PORTOROŽ, Slovenia244
BUDVA, Montenegro244
OPATIJA, Croatia242
ROVINJ, Croatia236
MARIBOR, Slovenia212
POREČ, Croatia230
ŠIBENIK, Croatia208
UDINE, Italy201
SUBOTICA, Serbia199
BLED, Slovenia198
PULA, Croatia198
ZADAR, Croatia196
KOSICE, Slovakia191

This is probably the most heterogeneous category and the one for which the general conclusion is that it is dominated by regional centres and major tourist cities. The congress offer here is mainly based on the offer of local congress hotels and smaller convention centres. The capacity of listed destinations is therefore up to maximum of 1,200 congress attendees. All of the cities in this category have great potential for further development, which will be determined by additional investments in infrastructure.

S MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host up to 500 congress attendees

DESTINATIONMTLG INDEX 2017
Podčetrtek, Slovenia175
UMAG, Croatia173
ROGAŠKA SLATINA, Slovenia171
VYSOKE TATRE171
HVAR, Croatia169
MOSTAR, Bosnia and Herzegovina169
BREŽICE- ČATEŽ, Slovenia168
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia160
OSIJEK, Croatia158
SARVAR, Hungary154
OHRID, Macedonia151
LAŠKO, Slovenia150
RIJEKA, Croatia149
NIŠ, Serbia145
NOVA GORICA, Slovenia140
MALI LOŠINJ , Croatia138
HEVIZ, Hungary137
SOČA VALLEY, Slovenia121
GORIŠKA BRDA, Slovenia103
BOHINJ, Slovenia97
SAVINJA VALLEY, Slovenia94

This category is dominated by the smaller tourist resorts, where the meeting industry is a complementary activity during low season. Congress capacities are smaller and more personalized, adapted to meetings with a small number of participants (and dominated by the congress halls for up to 150 participants).

The data for our overall categorization was collected through a questionnaire that was answered by convention bureaus, with data on the population of each destination gathered through Wikipedia. All of the recorded criteria were then standardized and statistically ranked, a process by which at the end an estimation of the relative position of individual destinations could be made. Throughout this process of data trawling we directly obtained data from 68 convention bureaus (altogether there were 78 destinations ranked). The process therefore covers a relevant statistical sample, which will be further expanded in the future.

The initial reaction from meeting planners whom we have provided the index has been positive, as this is a tool that will provide them with a genuinely realistic comparison.

MTLG BENCHMARK

The entire methodology of our work had already been upgraded previous year with a system of benchmarking that is carried out for each individual congress destinations, under the name MTLG BENCHMARK.

With our complete methodology we have saved you a lot of your valuable time that would otherwise have been spent in comparing yourself with your main competitors.

Our process is conducted at two different levels:

1. DESTINATION EVALUATION (following the congress MTLG’s methodology)
At this stage destinations are evaluated on all the criteria that are covered in our methodology, including 63 competitive criteria. Based on the destination evaluation a comparative matrix is prepared, which is the basis for the workshop performance of the second stage.

2. BENCHMARK WORKSHOP (with key stakeholders at the destination)
The workshop is designed to evaluate the competitive strengths and weaknesses of a destination and provide the exchange of good case studies in regard to its the further development.

We are confident that our objective evaluation will help event organisers and at the same time allow destinations to implement the further improvements required to overcome their comparative disadvantages.

GET IN TOUCH

For further information regarding the MTLG benchmark we’d love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to call us to 00386 (0)1 430 51 04, or send an e-mail to gorazd.cad@toleranca.eu.

Evaluation results for 2017 will be published in the summer issue of KONGRES Magazine, which will be available in the last week of June.

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