In the media and in general debate we often hear convention bureaus have an immense impact for a destination. In my opinion such discourse is unnecessary, since it has long been surpassed. We are mostly well aware, friendly doormen and receptionists at destination entries are not the only ones responsible for an elegant and friendly reception of potential meetings organizers.
But what are things really like in Slovenia? Do we also need strong regional and city convention bureaus despite having a strong national one? How should they look like to be noticed on the global competitive market?
Slowly the notion that "what is good for the whole is also good for its parts" is gaining support. Slovenia is a small meetings destination and at first glance development of regional convention bureaus seems unreasonable. Yet here we stumble upon the highly praised diversity, which never cesses to surprise active foreign and local connoisseurs of the meetings market. We do actually have rounded up meetings destinations, which deserve their own regional convention bureaus. They have common key meetings icons, support services, accessibility and geographical frame. At the moment, we could use a convention bureau for Maribor and its surroundings, Portorož and the coast and Bled for the Slovenian Alps, besides the already existing ones for Slovenia and Ljubljana. Also possible are separate bureaus for Prekmurje and Dolenjska. The current state is reflected in the meetings economy. If we exclude Ljubljana, which as capital holds a special position, the destinations without convention bureaus and active conventions policies have experienced lesser growth or even stagnation. The most typical case is Bled which is no longer among leading Slovenian meetings destinations.
Good practice examples can be found right next door. Austria, one of the leading meetings destinations, has 11 regional convention bureaus, four of which are city bureaus.
So why do we keep favouring convention bureaus as vehicles of development? Mostly because they are the driving force of the industry and ensure the support of other stakeholders and politics, necessary for success. Without them we see a lot of apathetic marketing, unmanaged activities of municipalities and tourist organisations and leaving the meetings industry to manage itself.
I feel we are about to reach puberty. We have a lot of ambitions and desires; we are managing many projects, which are not carried through since they are missing the proper knowledge. We can look up to the already mature Slovenian Convention Bureau in at least one aspect – the project Conventa, which has surpassed teenage points of view with the help of efficient networking, finding synergies among partners, lobbying and mutual support.
For this we need the right co-workers, who are familiar with the structure of the meetings industry, understand the inner processes and are able to produce ongoing innovations in acquiring new business for Slovenian meetings industry.
Which brings us back to the beginning. If we choose to remain on the level of friendly destination doormen and receptionists, this is not going to be enough for a breakthrough into the meetings industry premier league.
Conventions are sold by trust, trust is based on professionalism. Besides that employees of convention bureaus have a huge responsibility towards their partners since they are often the first and last contact for potential business. They create the identity of a destination and put it on the map.
How you ever thought how many conventions and events Slovenia lost due to inaccurate impressions and information offered to our potential clients?