Q: How have you seen the congress industry development in Ljubljana/Slovenia over the past years?
Due to the systematic work of the Slovenian Convention Bureau and others involved in congress activity, Slovenia has put itself on the international business meetings map as an attractive destination. The joint performances under the “I Feel Slovenia” trademark at international trade shows, the examples of good practice, innovative approaches, natural diversity and the diversity of our country with its excellent cuisine and fresh wines etc. – in addition to the status of a safe country, all of these are certainly attributes that have contributed to a greater profile and visibility. Ljubljana has become a true tourist hit with its old city centre, Ljubljana castle and the floating Ljubljanica, with the promotion of green tourism and numerous events. And that is why it is also becoming more and more interesting for the organisers of business meetings. However, despite great efforts the increased demand for the congress offer has shown a few other gaps: bad airline connections – congress participants from other continents still travel too long to get to us – and recently we have noticed that some congresses could not be accepted due to a lack of hotel accommodation. Due to high demand some hoteliers, in our opinion, also raised their prices too much, which is not exactly a matter of pride for the destination.
Q: What is the formula for success for GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre?
With its more than 60 years of tradition, the GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (GR) is the leading event centre in Slovenia. In addition to the fair events, various cultural and entertainment events such as electronic music concerts, fashion spectacles, modern lifestyle, automotive, photography, digital media and much more are all taking place at GR. We host small business conferences daily and we are also an ideal location for major international congresses. Based on their good experiences, some organisers, such as Kenes International and the Dekon Group, are returning to us with their events, which is the best reference.
If you are asking about our formula for success, it is: a professionally educated team + reputation of the destination. The professionally educated team are professionally well-trained and highly motivated colleagues who enjoy their work and are exceedingly pleased when they exceed their goals. This means that they are capable of carrying out an event brilliantly. The reputation of the destination is also influenced by safety, an appropriate price to quality ratio, and an effective promotion of our strengths, which makes us stand out and helps us differentiate ourselves from the offer of others.
Q: What are your main projects up to the end of 2017 and what will be your main goals and focus for 2018?
At the end of June, we hosted the 16th World Congress of Fetal Medicine, one of the largest and most important congresses in this field in the world, and one of the largest medical congresses in Slovenia, with 1,700 participants from 85 countries. In mid-September there was the 47th EABCT congress of the European Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapy, with 700 participants from 57 countries, and at the end of this month the 29th EUROSON Congress of the European Federation of Ultrasound Medicine and Biology took place. The organiser of both congresses is Global PCO Dekon Group, based in Istanbul. The circular economy is the central theme of the annual Eurocities annual Conference, which is being hosted by the city of Ljubljana at GR from 15th to 17th November 2017. Ljubljana, the Green Capital of Europe 2016, expects 600 representatives from 100 major European cities who will be welcomed at the opening by European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc. In November we will also host the 11th International Tunnelling and Underground Structures Conference, while a larger corporate event of the congress type is just about to be signed. Of course there are other smaller events of the congress character and various other events, and in December, among other things, different parties at the end of the year. Fair events in our organisation, e.g. the fair for a healthy lifestyle (Nature-Health fair) and the fair of furniture and home furnishings with some construction segments (Home Fair+ and Ambient Ljubljana), are joined by the exhibitors of other organisers, some of them new, specialist and only available for the business public (B2B).
Q: In your opinion, what for you are the main advantages of GR compared to bigger convention centres?
GR has a professional, educated and highly motivated team whose motto is: “Don’t stress. Relax. GR does the rest.” Every client, whether one who brings 10 participants or one who brings more than 2,000 participants to a congress event, is important for us. GR is based practically in the very centre of Ljubljana; it is easily accessible and usually convenient for participants to walk on foot to their hotel in the city centre. It has a large open space, a courtyard, which can be used as a parking lot or as an additional area for activities. The main halls are all at ground level and have daylight with darkening possibilities. The halls are mostly multifunctional – therefore they allow the event to be custom-made by the client. Our investment in infrastructure is permanent, which provides a modern offer, and we have a network of verified partners, so our offer is really comprehensive, but nobody has exclusivity with us.
Q: In May 2017 Dekon Group, an international PCO, announced the opening of their new offices in Ljubljana directly in co-operation with GR. Can you tell us a little bit more about the cooperation and your future plans?
DEKON.SI was founded in May 2017 in cooperation with the Dekon Group from Turkey and with the aim of organising congresses not only in Slovenia, but across the whole region. Dekon.SI with Dekon Group Turkey is in that sense the first international PCO in the region. Both partners – GR and Dekon Group Turkey – have the same share in the company, i.e. 50 %, and the company is managed by two directors, Cengiz Korkmaz and me. Dekon Group is a Turkish company and its activities are spread all over the world; it operates in 22 countries and markets 170 destinations. The company has a great reputation in the congress world and is a member of all the most important international organisations in the field of congress tourism, including INCON.