About 3 weeks ago I received an invitation to attend a trade show in Slovenia. My reaction? “Argh, yes, another Business Tourism trade show. This is surely what the world is really lacking!”

I knew virtually nothing about this regional trade show trade called Conventa – “a business to business event bringing together meeting industry providers from South East Europe and carefully selected hosted buyers from all over Europe”. I must admit to having a pathological antipathy to the phrase “South Eastern Europe” – sounds a bit like “The Middle East” (= trouble!?).

However, being an optimist, I agreed to attend, after all, the destination is Slovenia and any destination that has love at its heart can’t be all that bad! In addition, the show is taking place in Ljubljana, a city with a really cool exotic name, which for some illogical reason, I have always been secretly proud I can spell and pronounce.
 
But now, having been there, I have my regrets, the biggest one being the fact that I did not leave enough time to see this fascinating area. Air access was good, with an efficient service provided by a Lufhansa and Adria codeshare flight, via Frankfurt. Then there is the show Conventa, which has a very comprehensive representation of exhibitors from the region – Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, parts of Austria and Italy, and, of course, Slovenia.

The quality and creativity of the catering at this show is among the best I have ever experienced, right up there with my Scandinavian friends. The exhibition space had a very airy and natural feel with exhibition stands made from apple crates. This was a very ingenious use of one of Slovenia’s indigenous and signature products and also very effective as well as sustainable.

Slovenia has excellent meetings and conference facilities, a reasonable standard of hotel accommodation and a spectacular landscape. Even in the rain Bled looks amazing.

But the most impressive dimension to the entire experience was the Slovenian people themselves, with their drive, can-do attitude and business focused approach. Another stereotype blown away!

I have run successful events in Dubrovnik but I was impressed by the wide range of options outside of the iconic city. Montenegro, although small in size, has a surprisingly extensive range of opportunities for the planner. Although largely undiscovered, Serbia, too, has huge potential.

As a professional meetings planner I’m being continuously asked for something different, value-cantered, not boring, with supplier-partners who are flexible and who want to do business. I firmly believe that South East Europe can provide answers to many of these needs. Go there and check it out. I know you will be more than satisfied!

Patrick M Delaney
Managing Director
Ovation Global DMC