PARIS OF THE EAST
With its imposing urbanism and a thunderous history under the leadership of the former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian capital has not changed much since our last visit in 2009. Acting as a gristly remainder of tough socialist times, Bucharest is still a concrete jungle with a distinctly eastern European presence that is very slowly fading, but somehow impossible to fully shake off. Not much has changed in the field of the congress industry either. The congress scene is mostly run by foreign hotel chains, filling up their spaces with great success. Sadly, a big part of Bucharest’s incredible congress potential is yet to be capitalized on, mostly due to a lack of connectivity in the offer and almost non-existant destination marketing. Bucharest can therefore be marked as a city with one of the most untapped potentials for the development of congress tourism in New Europe.
Secession – Recession – Depression – Regression
Romania lies deep in Eastern Europe and with that come many stereotypes. Today, it is supposed to be living a life of democracy and human rights, and a quarter of a century after the revolution a life of economic growth. At least that is what the official statistics says, but looking at the huge billboards concealing decaying buildings underneath them, a life of prosperity and growth seems more like an illusion, especially understood against the fact that almost 2 million Romanians have left the country to find a job. A more thorough inspection shows that Romania has actually become a colony of western corporations, with numerous shopping centres that overpower Bucharest’s suburbs. Endless streets of apartment complexes full of jumbo-commercials and accommodation space that clearly can’t cope with the fast population growth just adds to the equation. Behind the neoliberal facades are extremely kind and welcoming faces living in the Romanian capital and the initial feeling of mistrust quickly grows into a friendly relationship, a link so often abused in the past by occupying forces and dictators. Despite mixed feelings left by the city, the kind-hearted nature of Romanian people is a great asset for the future.
Urban Generation Y
The Romanian urban Generation Y with the latest iphone in hand is skillfully mastering the terrain of informational technology and seems completely distanced from their Eastern European character and Romanian stereotypes, including those of secret services still controlling Eastern European countries. When talking to the locals, a different vista opens up and you start to see that Romania is actually in some sort of caste division, most noticeable in the schooling system that has become accessible only for those with money. Bucharest truly is a city of mixed emotions, torn apart by communism and a turbulent history. It is somehow unable to rid itself of the bad image, but in the last couple of years it has been starting to get back on its feet. It is the young generation that is raising hope there and I believe they will be the ones that will reorganise the city and move it forward.
A lively night life
Numerous restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs are sprouting up like mushrooms in the old city centre. Among them are also some cool conceptual stories that can easily be compared to those in more reputed destinations and they will definitely capture your interest. Most of the bars are open into the early hours, attracting eager party travellers from all over the world. Bucharest is becoming known as a city with one of the most unforgettable nightlife experiences, which is a pleasant surprise compared to our previous visit. This can certainly broaden your congress visit, but for a more authentic experience you will have to find hidden nooks that only the locals know about. There is no lack of those in Bucharest and currently one of the most popular ones is definitely in craft breweries, offering local craft beer and great food.
White elephant is a name the locals like to use when speaking about the imposing Palace of Parliament. It is actually quite hard to avoid in almost every description of Bucharest, as the building is truly monumental, towering over the city like something out of a fiction movie. It is the second largest building in the world with the Pentagon taking first place. It was built on the land of the former Uranus neighborhood, from which all of the residents were removed and the buildings demolished. The statistics about the palace are stupendous: from kilometers of hallways and the longest curtains and rugs to vast spaces that have remained empty to this day. Looking at the sheer size of both the palace and the museum of modern art, it seems that an even bigger congress centre than the current one could be placed inside. But don’t be mistaken: the existing International Conference Centre, founded in 1994, is already colossal, offering 13,125 sqm of space, 8 congress halls and all the necessary accompanying facilities. The congress centre has been the host of numerous conferences at the highest level and is, at least in the field of international associations, the driving force of all events in Bucharest.
Congress Vox Populi
City avenues, fountains and magnificent historical buildings quickly remind a visitor of why Bucharest is known as the ‘Paris of the east’. The largest city between Berlin and Athens is slowly waking up from its transitional congress slumber and becoming an international congress destination. A vivid creative scene and a brutal fusion of modern and socialist architecture makes for an easy comparison with the scene in East Berlin at the start of its transition. Aside from its typically wide boulevards, the romantic charm of Paris perished during the socialist times, but Bucharest was just starting to strengthen its iron character. Right now, the capital is developing with impressive speed, offering equally impressive congress venues including the mind boggling Nicolae Ceauşescu palace, housing the congress centre. Big international congresses are a rare occurrence in Bucharest, despite the fact that it has excellent air connectivity and a rich tourist offer, both of which could transform it into a strong and developed congress destination. In addition to better marketing, connecting individual congress providers is what Bucharest has to do if it wants to escape its overwhelming existence in the congress shadow. In times of rapid digitalization, the electric city seems to be living in isolation from trends in the international congress scene.
BUCHAREST INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2017
MTLG INDEX / 2017 EDITION
- The number of 4* and 5* category hotel rooms: 3,640
- The number of 4* and 5* category hotels: 91
- Banquet hall maximum capacity: 800
- The largest hall in the city (in m2): 5,110 m2
- Destination population: 2,106,144
- Maximum hall capacity in theatre style: 2,100
COMPARISON WITH THE REGION
Bucharest is a city of contrasts, and that can be said for its congress scene as well. Giant palaces and modern congress hotels on one side and a poorly recognizable trademark and unconnected congress offer on the other. This is one of Bucharest’s main drawbacks, compared to more active cities like Belgrade and Sofia. That aside, Bucharest is still one of the most reasonably priced congress capitals. With a little effort you will be able to find anything you need for all kinds of events, and the kindness of the staff in the hotel sector is way above-average. It seems that the city just needs a little bit more energy to position itself next to destinations in the first congress league. Looking at the pace at which Bucharest’s congress development is going, it is where it truly belongs to be. Last year, Bucharest took 81st place on the ICCA scale with 32 congresses, but we think it could do much better, since it has all the available conditions in place to do so. From the time we last visited Bucharest has seen major improvements in air accessibility and the public infrastructure is also getting better every year. The quality of living as well as the overall atmosphere for congress participants also took a turn for the better.
The most popular drink in Romania is made of plums, apples or peaches, and is as strong as whiskey.
BEST INCENTIVE IDEA
Teams representing countries with specific customs and identities must get into the role and put in place, right down to the smallest details… attractive cafés! Customers from all over the world will set foot in the recently opened cafés and will appreciate the originality of the services and products.
|BUCHAREST INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2017|
|Natural and cultural factors:||4.31|
|General and transport infrastructure:||4.55|
|Numbeo quality of life Index:||2.46|
|Numbeo Safety Index:||3.96|
|ACI Airport Connectivity Index:||4.14|