Jolanta Beniuliene is the Head of Tourism and the Convention Bureau at the Official Business and Tourism Development Agency of the City of Vilnius. Working in the Meetings Business and Tourism on the city side for 11 years, Jolanta previously worked for the City of Vilius’s International Relations and Protocol Department. Education: Philology, German Language Studies. Additional languages: English, German, Russian and Polish.

Q: Does your city have any strategic subvention plan for conferences?

Indeed, the City of Vilnius has a strategic plan in order to develop the meetings business, part of which is to create a foundation to help implement a competitive subvention programme that should put the city in a stronger position within the meetings business and encourage its development in terms of investment attraction. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to say that Vilnius doesn’t already support events; as a convention bureau we offer a lot of help to event organisers at the bidding stage and on site as well.

Q: What kinds of subvention does your city offer and for what kind of events?

In terms of supporting event planners, any intermediation with suppliers, providing contacts for potential partners, facilitating individual site inspections and many other things are critical at the early stages if we want to attract international events to Vilnius, and we are happy to save conference organisers both time and money by offering first class support and the highest level of professionalism for this. Even after an event has been confirmed, we continue to support organisers up until every detail has been resolved. The welcome desk, tailor made proposals for spending free time, brochures, communications support and many other services offered by the city create great value for event organisers.

If we are to talk about conference budgets, financial subvention, which is offered by some destinations, shouldn’t be the major factor influencing the financial side of a given event. The value for money at the destination should be the main factor in the budget planning structure.

Q: What is the most important part in applying for subventions?

It is important to see the big picture of a destination and its developments, to understand priority sectors for investment and its knowledge economy. If the city wants to boost the economy and multiply the effect of the meetings business, subventions could play an important role. From the destination side we need to understand certain criteria: why are we going to invest money, what do we want to achieve by offering subventions? From the event or conference planner’s side it is important to understand if the specific event is able to create added value for the destination over the long term. This is the win-win model, when money can be converted into growth for the destination and success for a given event. The era of only calculating ROI with the number of occupied hotel rooms has gone.

Q: Are subventions the latest big thing in the meeting industry or should they be considered as the very last option for a destination to win an association meeting?

There are no goods for free. Even if the destination offers local transportation or the venue for free, it doesn’t mean there are no expenses related to these things; somebody has to cover the service fees, use of electricity, food and drink etc. There is no line between getting anything for free and being subsidised. As Vilnius doesn’t have a foundation for subsidies, we can’t offer benefits like venues or transportation, free reception or similar advantages. We are happy to promise and deliver things like the brochures, city maps and marketing tools that we already own.

Q: Tell us something about your latest success story and about subventions from your city?

Depending on the destination, there might be more important factors than something like a subvention. For instance, value for money at a given destination should be an important consideration for meeting and event planners. After all, added value benefits both the meeting planner and the destination.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
The bravest thing I’ve ever done was to start organising CONVENE, the Baltic Sea Region’s Exhibition for Meetings, Events and Incentives. Organising this event means taking a personal risk in terms of the success of the project, which ultimately involves the whole supply chain in Vilnius and official bodies like the Ministry for Economy and the Vilnius City municipality. Now it’s about making sure the event becomes part of the long-term strategy for the city’s development and that of the entire Baltic Sea Region.