Dekon Group, an International PCO, has announced the opening of their new offices in Ljubljana directly in co-operation with GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (GR). The news hasn’t come as a complete surprise, though, as the successful Turkish PCO group has already organised some successful congresses at the GR in Ljubljana, such as the EuroGeo Conference (EuroGeo6) and the 34th FIMS World Congress of Sports Medicine last year. The joint company has entered the market under Dekon.SI.

Michael Kern, Dekon Group, Executive Director

Q: Why did you choose Ljubljana as the location for Dekon Group’s new PCO offices and GR as your partner, rather than entering the Slovenian market independently?

We had already been monitoring Slovenia for some years, both its development and its increasing importance for the MICE industry. When the time came that we had to move some congresses due to raised security concerns in other destinations, Ljubljana immediately came to our mind. While organising those first two events with GR we learned about their professional approach and way of doing business, which very closely matched our own. And entering a market with a local partner gives the advantage of established local contacts and market know-how.

Q: What are your strategy and plans for the Ljubljana office?

The DEKON Group is a globally operating PCO, so we go where our clients want us to go – we are running a conference this week in Antwerp and in the coming week in Los Angeles. We are spreading the word that we have touched base in Slovenia, so we expect some of our recurring clients to choose Slovenia in the future. Regarding the Slovenia office, we are starting now with a sales focus, but look forward to growing as the business flows in. And one more thing: although GR is our partner and we really like working with them, we will still promote every venue that wants to cooperate with us when it’s good and best fits our clients.

Q: How satisfied were you with the two congresses held last year at the GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre – the EuroGeo and the 34th FIMS World Congress of Sports Medicine?

As mentioned before, our experience with GR has been excellent otherwise we wouldn’t be bringing more congresses this year and going into partnership with them. Of course, it’s never easy to change destinations for an event, especially at short notice, and Ljubljana has also some shortcomings, such as the bottleneck Ljubljana airport or the shortage of hotels beds. During our congresses this resulted in unfavourable rates, but I do believe that the local players understood that we’ll all benefit if we cooperate; the MICE business isn’t a one-shot business.

Q: What kind of changes is the congress industry currently experiencing and what do you think will be the future of congress tourism?

Technology adoption is a must for any meeting planner, as it is for venues. As an example, if you host a bigger event in a congress hotel today you must be able to transfer the Wi-Fi bandwidth from the bedroom floors to the meeting level in the morning, otherwise your network speed will drastically drop with participants carrying up to three devices with them. And, of course, terrorism and the outbreak of global diseases are always in the minds of meeting professionals nowadays. But the good news is that after years of the ‘virtual meeting’ hype client feedback has shown that they cannot substitute for the value of face-to-face meetings.

Q: In which areas do you see the best potential for Ljubljana and perhaps its not yet recognized possibilities as a congress destination?

Professional marketing has for some time now made Slovenia very visible on the international MICE stage, and therefore also Ljubljana. The interest in the destination is obviously rising, but that also means that all the representatives of the destination – politicians, media, DMOs, local MICE players – all need to support it, coordinate and cooperate. On top of that, Ljubljana is a beautiful city with a lot of tourism already, so it has the high potential for much more congresses and larger events than today, but there are the previous mentioned shortcomings that need to be addressed in a strategic way.

Q: In your opinion what are the main advantages of Slovenian Congress tourism?

A Slovenia Convention Bureau that operates professionally on a small budget and is understaffed, but a motivated Ljubljana CVB that works hard to still support its clients. The staff in the hotels and venues is professional and most are willing to work together to make Slovenia great. When it comes to the destination itself, it’s an amazing country offering such a diverse variety of beautiful sites and great venues, giving it the perfect ingredients to take its place in the front line on the MICE stage.

About Michael Kern:
Michael Kern likes to call himself a ‘world citizen’. Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, he found out early that there is a big world out there. After traveling extensively in his younger years, he left his hometown permanently almost 20 years ago and has been to more than 60 countries. Before settling many years ago in Istanbul, he was based in Miami and St. Louis. He still likes travelling, and when visiting a new country, he prefers to experience it like a local rather than a tourist – sitting in a café, reading a newspaper, watching the people pass by and chatting with people at the next table… Over the years, he has changed his business focus several times – coming originally from a local jewellery business he later became COO of a worldwide association with 200,000 members, before the final change ten years ago from the client side to the supplier side when he joined the team of the DEKON Group as their Executive Director.

ANA BOŽIČ, GR, Sales Manager of Events & Congress Department

Q: How has the co-operation between Dekon Group and GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre been so far?

We have known each other since 2014, when we met at one of the large trade shows. Since then we’ve had a good relationship and last year we finally managed to do some business together – Dekon brought two congresses to the GR in September 2016 and the cooperation between both companies went so smoothly that we immediately knew there would be something more we could do together.

Q: What were the main reasons that Dekon Group decided to partner with GR instead of entering the Slovenian market independently?

As I said, the cooperation between us went smoothly – that was for sure the first reason. On the other hand, you can also imagine that it’s not easy to start up a business in a market that you don’t know well. GR, as a member of the Slovenian Convention Bureau for the last 10 years, has a very good relationship with all the partners from Slovenia, which helps a lot to expand the services we can provide together with Dekon now – ‘strengths in unity’, I could say.

Q: What does the new PCO bring to the Slovenian market and directly to GR? What do you expect from the partnership?

Dekon Group is a large international PCO, organising 60 congresses per year all over the globe. They are members of all the important associations from our industry, such as IAPCO, INCON and ICCA. That already says a lot about them. We don’t yet have such a company in Slovenia, which is why having Dekon next to us is a big opportunity for the region to increase the number of congresses not just in Ljubljana, but in Slovenia.

Q: What will be the biggest challenges of the partnership?

The challenges that we expect from the very beginning are the culture differences and long distance coordination…but we will definitely meet the challenges and any others that we have not yet thought of. We are fully aware of that and we are not afraid of anything. As professionals on both sides we expect a very good relationship.

About Ana Božič:
Ana had a dream as a little girl, always wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps to study at Ljubljana University to become a civil engineer. That dream, however, has turned into a completely different life, as she never followed that path as her heart was taking her towards the world of events, congresses and traveling, ultimately a better life for her. After finishing Tourism Management at university and working for 4 years in hospitality, she has already been working in the MICE industry for 9 years at GR. Communication and building business relationships with the international market, associations and Professional Congress Organisers gives her great satisfaction and she regularly attends ICCA events as well as AWC, IMEX, IBTM, The Meetings Show UK and Conventa trade shows. Bidding for congresses presents a new challenge for her every time, but she always treats given situations in a positive way, as she works with a highly qualified, enthusiastic and professional team that always supports her in achieving the clients’ objectives. Working for Dekon.SI is an upgrade to her knowledge – her ‘dream job’, as she says.

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