PRAGUE, Czech Republic / 4,51
Prague has for a long time not been an Eastern European gem, but a true European tourist metropolis with a diverse and comprehensive offer, luxury hotels and sometimes too high prices. The story is reminiscent of Škoda, of which the Czechs are very proud and is one of the oldest automotive brands in Europe. Reputable, solid and reliable pre-war limousines were after the war changed by cars that were behind the times. Today, Škoda’s shine again and again puts the Czech manufacturer where it once was. The same can be said for the meetings industry, where Prague began to seriously falter against the locations top of the European league. If we look at the position of Prague regionally, Prague certainly has all the conditions to remain one of the most popular congress destinations for a long time.
ISTANBUL, Turkey / 4,39
The Turkish congress tiger is relentlessly growling and overcoming everything set in front of it. Professionalism and entrepreneurship when they are competing for international events is not lacking and they could be setting an example to other convention bureaus. Congress Bazaar of Istanbul offers everything that a meetings organizer needs, in addition to 7 convention centers, 3 fair grounds and almost 100.000 hotel rooms, and the excellently organized Convention Bureau of Instanbul. The quality of life in Istanbul is improving as well as the general infrastructure; Turkish airlines has become the fourth largest airline in the world.
BUDAPEST, Hungary / 4,37
Budapest enjoys a very favorable position in Europe, at the crossroads between the East and the West. It is one of just a few cities in the world that literally lies on thermal springs and to which the Danube River gives a special experiential value. The city has no shortage of picturesque special venues nor the most luxurious hotels and crazy and diverse incentive locations. If Prague is love at first sight, then Budapest is love on the long run. In addition to the selection of 16 five stars hotels, from Intercontinental to Kempinski, and 61 hotels with four-stars, it impresses with unique historic spa resorts. All this has been for many years an excellent and well-established MICE destination with well-oiled congress machinery. In addition, Budapest is also a very pocket friendly and safe congress destination.
ATHENS, Greece / 4,18
A historic city with excellent connectivity to the rest of the world and where you will find infrastructure befitting a major European capital, but with better weather and in a more interesting location. The Athens allure includes 300 days of sunshine a year, more than 30,000 hotel rooms in 439 hotels, 95,000 sq.m of conference space, 1,000+ restaurants and 200,000 flights per year. All major hotels in the city underwent a refurbishment for the 2004 Olympics.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia / 4,17
According to its conference and accommodation infrastructure, Ljubljana belongs to the group of capitals suitable for medium-sized and smaller meetings (up to 2.500 participants). It is positioned side by side with the new EU member states and geographically in the region of the Western Balkans. With two top-level convention centers and a very well developed hotel meetings offer, Ljubljana is the region’s leading congress destination. At the end of last year in order to give Ljubljana a new sales and promotional momentum, a partnership called Ljubljana Strategic Bidding Team (LSBT) was established; it is composed of interested partners from both the private and public area. The city is extremely safe and one of the region’s most sustainably-oriented.
BELGRADE, Serbia / 4,15
Belgrade bases its congress story on the rich culture at the crossroads of East and West, the central position in the South-East Europe and a lively social life. It is a city with remarkable cuisine, world-class nightlife, world events and positive vibrations, which makes it a very dynamic and attractive tourist destination. Belgrade is a city on the rise and a rough congress diamond, which has enormous development potential. With the establishment of the Serbian Convention Bureau in 2007, co-operation and promotion has thoroughly improved and now Belgrade has in terms of management a unique opportunity to take advantage of its benefits, provided so the complete infrastructure can be thoroughly renewed. With that the city can easily be geo-strategically placed by the side of world’s congress capitals.
ZAGREB, Croatia / 4,14
It can be said that Zagreb has a great congress future. As well as Belgrade, Zagreb is also progressing steadily on the chart of development meetings destinations; the final breakthrough of the intire region is intertwined and dependent on the marketing of mayor regional congress cities in the international market. In the last ten years Croatia has radically improved road infrastructure and thus its accessibility. Significantly improved is also air accessibility via Zagreb Airport, which accepts over 40 % of all air traffic in Croatia. The hotel infrastructure with new acquisitions fully satisfies modern congress guests and is perhaps at this moment the best among regional capitals. Zagreb is a pocket-friendly destination that offers a lot for reasonable money.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia / 4,13
The city of four rivers defines the Danube river with its tributaries and with the mighty Renaissance castle above the intimate and compact old town. Bratislava is undiscovered European congress capital which slowly and steadily penetrates into the congress market. It represents a novelty for international congress market which impresses due to the kind and sympathetic city center but also because of not excessive commercialization. The city is close to the congress organizers mainly due to a more personal congress experience – the city is very friendly and there are no problems with the safety. The city center is full of pubs, restaurants and shops and the hotel offer includes the best known hotel chains. Many special venues like Eurovea city center are the ideal choice for larger and scenic demanding events.
KRAKOW, Poland / 4,12
Of all Polish cities Krakow is the one with the greatest soul and is the most fraught with history. In Poland, Krakow will be the destination of the new generation, which will soon be recognized as a high quality, compact and most versatile meetings destination in Poland due to the cultural heritage, hospitality of the locals, new meetings capacities and because of its huge scientific potentials. Krakow has a variety of hotels services and an exceptional number of tourist attractions. Being the main tourist city it has excellent conditions in place for the development of congress tourism. With the construction of the new convention center ICE it has also received a real affirmation. Krakow’s recipe is successful and a case of good practice for other more traditional central European destinations.
GRAZ, Austria / 4,08
Graz is a mature tourist destination, which is despite the crisis recording a steady growth of tourist arrivals and overnight stays in all tourism segments. Cultural diversity, rich history and the connecting Mura River have formed a high experiential diversity, which is reflected in the many opportunities for congress and incentive organizers and planners. In terms of infrastructure and transport, Graz is still the leading regional convention destination and can be also in this term described as modern, dynamic and internationally competitive. With more than 154 congress event and some 46.000 participants it achieves excellent results and is stable on the charts ranking international events. A very big focus in Graz is on environmental responsibility and tidiness of the surrounding areas and infrastructure.
BUCHAREST, Romania / 4,03
Bucharest is a city of contrasts in the field of congress tourism. Great palaces and the latest congress hotels but on the other hand poorly recognized brand and unrelated congress offer. These are the main disadvantages compared to the much more active cities such as Belgrade and Sofia in the vicinity. But at this moment it is certainly the most affordable major European Congress Capital. With a little effort you will find everything you need for any events. Even the friendliness of the staff in the hotel and congress sector deviates from the average. It appears that the city is missing a little bit more energy so it can be placed alongside big cities, where it actually falls depending on its situation and the conditions for the congress industry development. On a scale of ICCA in 2012 occupied 85 place with 28 congresses, and depending on the conditions it could be ranked much higher.
SPLIT, Croatia / 4,01
Among the Adriatic congress destinations Split has become serious competition to Dubrovnik in the last years. The main disadvantages of the destination are bad cooperation between the service providers, lack of air traffic connections to key markets and not enough destination marketing. If Split gets a real convention centre in the future it could become one of the leading congress destinations in the Mediterranean. New and excellent hotel capacities, good road connections to Europe and wonderful surroundings, with islands offering numerous incentive programme opportunities, all bolster this proposition. Split is one of the most unexploited congress destinations in the Mediterranean.
KOŠICE, Slovakia / 3,98 (NEW 2016)
If Bratislava is the capital of the country, then Kosice can be declared its creative centre, one that impresses with vibrant urban zones, positive diversity and an urban transformation of the city throughout layers of history. Košice seems pleasant for the accommodation and organisation of congresses and also seems a very tolerant city. A border location has greatly contributed to that, which has made residents more tolerant, but it is precisely this border diversity that defines the vitality and resistance of the city. The specific local identity gives the city its charm and soul, and it ranks it among one of the most promising Eastern European convention destinations.
GDANSK, Poland / 3,92
Gdansk differs markedly from other Polish cities because of the special at- mosphere in the old town and its many historical sites suitable for congress tourism. There is an attractive mix of west and east, of northern culture and of the old and the new, all adding to the city’s unique identity. Gdansk is known as a place of freedom, which is written into its genetic code and is reflected in the rich cultural heritage and current cultural and artistic production. As a result of the hyperactive Convention Bureau, Gdansk as a destination is in an extremely high position in comparison with other Polish international destinations. To achieve excellence Gdansk needs to focus on better regulation of its traffic and its accessibility, which is not yet at an adequate level, although the other infrastructure is excellent and comparable with competing European destinations.
VILNIUS, Lithuania / 3,86
Vilnius is a green and spacious city with a beautiful old city center where you can find over 40 churches. The three most important reasons for visiting Vilnius are architectural heritage, the city’s rich history and it’s specific urban atmosphere with very high air quality. Together with a very wide range of hotel accommodation and accompanying offer, which has developed in the recent years, Vilnius is an attractive tourist destination that is still largely undiscovered. Over the last few years Vilnius has polished its offer and was preparing for its entry into the international congress scene. The main congress provider in the city is LitExpo. With an active and well-organized convention bureau and broad-based marketing, Vilnius is becoming an important new European meetings destination.
TRIESTE, Italy / 3,85
Today, Trieste is mostly known for its coffee, rather than the meetings industry. The geo-political location could make Trieste a leading Adriatic congress destination, yet it is now being overtaken by less accessible and geographically located destinations. Solid infrastructure is a good foundation for development. The image of the city on the regional and world market needs to be improved. When key stakeholders on both sides of the border realize the potential of the city, it can become much more important than it is today.
SOFIA, Bulgaria / 3,83
Sofia is a typical transition convention destination, which needs some more quality of services and a connection of the meetings industry with creative industries. As a destination to discover Bulgaria Sofia has a lot to offer, yet it will have to internationalize its meetings industry and strengthen marketing. The biggest opportunity is in the added value of the destination unknown to the rest of congress Europe. Sofia needs to get rid of the image of a cheap congress destination of a lesser quality and become an internationally recognized congress brand. Sofia is a congress sleeping beauty caught between east and west.
PODGORICA, Montenegro / 3,76
For now Podgorica can rarely be found on the meetings industry map. Considering the outstanding potential it will over time come to have all that is necessary to be a true meeting destination. Among its advantages there is its strategic position, which enables easy access to the most attractive parts of Montenegro for incentives. Among the weaknesses we have to point out the current state of the meeting infrastructure and its transport isolation. Being an air travel destination it is highly dependant on the number of flight connections, including low cost ones. A convention bureau for the town would greatly help in positioning the destination, which it deserves as a capital city. The town is developing quickly and is looking for the right image, torn between the classic tourism flow and the idea of development into a meeting destination.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina / 3,72
The brand ‘Sarajevo’ is one of the strongest trademarks in the region. It gets its character from the dramatic juncture between East and West. In the meetings industry the brand and destination are completely unexploited despite their immense potential. With proper positioning and investments in the meetings industry Sarajevo can quickly catch up with other destinations in the region. A special asset for the development of the meetings industry is the attitude of the people of Sarajevo, who are known for their humour, tolerance and understanding.
NOVI SAD, Serbia / 3,66
Novi Sad maintains well its image of an advanced capital also with festi- vals such as Exit and others. Unfortunately, the tourism sector is lagging behind some of the most active destinations, especially the capital Belgrade, which is perfectly establishing itself as an important European congress destination. The question is why to organise a congress in the city, which is only 100 km away from the capital city of Serbia. The answer is in a different, perhaps more authentic atmosphere and hospitality, nu- merous possibilities of accompanying programmes genuine ‘salaš’, in short in the authenticity of the congress story of Novi Sad.
SKOPJE, Macedonia / 3,58
As the capital of Macedonia Skopje is at the crossroads of international paths and has all the predispositions to develop the meetings industry. It still has a long way of investing into infrastructure. A near neighbour is the Greek city Thessaloniki, which is far more developed and hosts up to 15 international congresses annually, in comparison to Skopje which only hosts 1 according to ICCA. In Skopje a convention can be organized with some effort, yet for a serious breakthrough it needs to look to its neighbours for a model of successful development – the Thessaloniki Convention and Visitors Bureau, which combines over 100 m
TIRANA, Albania / 3,42 (NEW 2016)
Despite the chaotic first impression, you can organise your event in Tirana without any problems and to the satisfaction of your congress participants. Albanians are in fact extremely proud, friendly, calm, excellent hosts, which outweighs any weaknesses in infrastructure. They like to help, are very sociable and stick to their words and promises, expecting the same in return. Tirana has enormous meetings potential, which could be improved with investment in hotel infrastructure. Due to their beautiful nature there are also untapped opportunities for incentive programmes, today marketed by only a few DMCs. For a faster breakthrough they will have to connect and establish a congress bureau.