Have you ever wondered just who might be the top influencers in the Central and South East Europe Meetings Industry? As the industry rapidly evolves, it’s clear that some key influencers actually have the same reach and draw as big companies, so individuals matter in a way that has never been possible before.

Based on 460 completed surveys, Kongres magazine has analysed and shortlisted the TOP 45 most influential people in Central and South East Europe in 2016. They have all contributed to the development of the region and our readers have chosen the best of the best. We have also added 2 newcomers in each category, voted by our readers.

Izabela HELBIN, Ice Krakow

Director of the Krakow Festival Office, which operates the ICE Kraków Congress Centre. Her former positions include those of the Deputy Director for Marketing and the Krakow Promotion Director, as well as the Head of the Press Office of the Mayor of the City of Krakow. Cultural manager, producer, co-producer and coordinator of many international cultural and TV projects. She is a member of the jury of the prestigious EFFIE Awards competition, holds a seat on the Expert Council THINKTANK and lectures at the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University.

Tomo ČEH, Union Hotels

Tomo Čeh has worked for several years as a corporate director or consultant in the fields of real estate, marketing and tourism. Tomo has also been the Chairman of the Board of Istrabenz Tourism, lead the renovation project of the Palace Hotel in Portorož, director of the Postojna Cave and director of the agency Globtour in Globtour Praha. His management of various tourist and hotel companies has always been tied to specific requirements in connection with reorganisation and crisis management.

Renata BALAŽIĆ, Sava Tourism

Renata Balažič, president of the Management Board of the largest Slovenian tourism company Sava Tourism d.d. has worked in the tourism industry from the beginning of her career. From 1997 to 2011 she worked in Grand Hotel Union d.d., where she first established the new sales department and from 2005 on, she worked as Director of Sales and Marketing for Union Hotels. During this time, she was also actively involved in planning, marketing strategies and other marketing activities of the largest congress/convention hotel in Ljubljana. She has extensive experience and knowledge in the field of congress and event activities, marketing strategies and managing relations with guests. In 2008 she was awarded by the Ministry of Economy and the Slovenian Tourist Board as Top manager in Slovenia.

Živorad VASIĆ, Crowne Plaza

Živorad Vasić is the General Manager of Crowne Plaza Belgrade, Manager of the hotel and business premises of the Delta Real Estate Group. Mr. Vasić finished high school and university in Boston, USA. At Boston University he got two degrees: in Hotel Management and Finances. After 17 years in the USA he returned to Serbia and began working in the Continental Hotel Belgrade. He was the head of the team in charge of opening the new Crowne Plaza Belgrade, which today belongs to the InterContinental Hotels Group, the world’s largest hotel group. He has been running the hotel successfully ever since its opening and he is the winner of the Manager of the Year Award granted by the Serbian Association of Managers.

Gregor JAMNIK, Hotel Slon

Gregor is a supervisory board member of the British Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia and member of the supervisory board of the Ljubljana Tourism Board. Gregor also has proud memberships of several other important associations: YES (Young Executives of Slovenia), American Chamber of Commerce, German Chamber of Commerce and the Slovenian Managers Association. Gregor achieves great results at Slon with the highest occupancy rates among all of the hotels in Ljubljana, as well outstanding financial results within all of the Slovenian hotels. Slon has hosted many important and distinguished guests during Gregor’s management, with the highlight being the stay of American President Bill Clinton.

Josipa JUTT FERLAN, Double Tree by Hilton

A dynamic, high-performance executive with a 20-year accomplished career track record recognised throughout the industry for delivering and sustaining revenue and profit gains within a highly competitive regional market, she has broad hospitality experience with in-depth expertise covering hospitality management, controlling, international sales, marketing, PR and brand development.

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Georg UNTERKIRCHER, Falkensteiner Punta Skala

Having acquired different work experience from different positions and departments in F&B, Rooms Division and Sales & Marketing in Italy (South Tyrol and Sardegna), Spain (Mallorca), Czech Republic (Prague) and Austria (Tyrol, Carinthia, Vienna), then moving up as F&B Manager and later Resident Manager, before becoming Assistant General Manager of two Hotels in Vienna with his first pre-opening experience, he then became GM of the Falkensteiner Hotel in Carinthia for five years and since 2008 has been GM of Punta Skala Resort, overseeing a total of 781 units with approximately 500 employees during the summer months. In 2013 he was also Interim GM for Schlosshotel Velden***** on Woerther Lake.

Tomislav POPOVIĆ, Maistra Hotels & Resorts

With bold investments made in recent years, Maistra has managed to set-up a different meetings product, the peak of these being a new convention centre at the Lone hotel. In delivering this, Maistra has placed Rovinj on the market as a high-quality business venue, which in terms of design and experiential value has no equal in the region. With the support of events such as the Weekend Media Festival it has become the focal point of the new, creative meetings industry of the future.

Irina TOMIĆ, Hotel Budva

In post as General Manager of Hotel Budva, Montenegro, for the past 1.5 years, she started her career in tourism 14 years ago, when she finished at the American College of Management and Technology in Dubrovnik in 2002. Irina was then working in the Sheraton and Westin Zagreb Hotels for 6.5 years, coordinating all the activities within the sales and marketing department, from selling and organising accommodation and banquet capacities to everyday contact with clients and coordination of all the events in real time with assistants in order to deliver the agreed “five star” services.

Nikola AVRAM, MK Mountain Resort

Nikola Avram, general manager of MK Mountain Resort and co-owner of 88 Rooms, was born in 1980 in Rijeka. He graduated from the prestigious American College of Management (RIT) and continued professional development in the Disney hotel in Florida. Nikola Avram has many years of experience in managerial positions gained through the hotel industry in Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. From 2010 he has been a CEO of MK Mountain Resort, where together with his team he is responsible for the revitalization of the largest hotel complex, as well as the destination of Kopaonik itself. Business success and a leadership position have earned him much recognition in the field of the tourism industry.

Newcomers in 2016, voted by readers

Sandi Kovačevič

Sandi KOVAČEVIČ, Hotel Cubo

Mr. Sandi Kovačević comes from a family of hoteliers and he always knew that he would be working in the hotel industry. He gained experience in the family hotel, later on the cruise ship and then in his early twenties as the founder of Hound Dog, a well-known rock club in Ljubljana. He then implemented previous experience to hotel Domina where he was a head of the congress department. All this expertise in catering and event organisation led him to Austria trend hotel and later to hotel Slon to the position of an fnb manager. He gradually worked up his way to a manager of a hotel Cubo, that opened in 2011. The rule that he lives by in Hotel CUBO is not to follow trends in the industry but to set them.

Gabriela DITETOVA, Radisson Blu Old Mill

Gabriela Ditetova, born in the Czech Republic, replaces Thomas Swiec as the head of the Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel in Belgrade. With more than 20 years of experience in the hotel industry, Gabriela brings to this position a wealth of experience in sales and marketing, management and operational management. Prior to her arrival in Belgrade, she built her career in a number of management positions in hotels in Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. She arrives in Belgrade from a senior management position at the hotel Park Inn by Radisson Nevsky in St. Petersburg, Russia. Ditetova will be responsible for the operation of the hotel with a focus on the growth, development and future of the company in Belgrade.