Gernot Marx

Q: Can you describe your start in Meetings Industry?

After my trainingship in my early twenties, I was transferred to London by Starwood Hotels & Resorts to work in the groups and events department. So my very first job was in the Meetings Industry already. And I got adopted by so many great people there, that I didn’t even think of any leisure tourism at that time. I still remember those years as the most exciting and shaping times in my live.

Q: What attracted you to Salzburg?

A: It was the level of quality the destination represents. I never wanted to work for an employer who’s not aiming to be best in class. I’m okay if it sounds snobbish, but I think you shouldn’t compromise on the level of service you give a guest or client. And in terms of quality I also worked for some of the best hotels in the world. In this way, Salzburg offers me the freedom to live and work for what I belief in.

Q: According to you what is the perception of Salzburg among meeting planners in Europe?

If people think of Salzburg, they think of the city of Salzburg. But Salzburg is one of the nine Austrian states and its capital city Salzburg is identically named. So this is somehow confusing, but you find regions like Zell am See – Kaprun, Saalfelden-Leogang and others in the Salzburger Land, too. Many people don’t know that we offer such large capacities. When we speak to people or welcome them to product experience weekends on site, they know that we can do the large, but also the exclusive stuff as well. We are the unrivalled number two in the Austrian Meeting Industry after Vienna. We have a market share of approximately 20 percent. Vienna has more than 40. The other 40% is shared among the 7 other states of Austria. This makes us proud and confident to tell people why Salzburg is a fit for their events.

Q: Who are your main competitors in Austria and Europe?

It depends on the kind of events and regions in our state you want to compare. However, we compete with large XL destinations as well as the small hide-aways. We are in competition with metropole cities, trendy up and coming destinations and the Mediterranean. If you market a destination like Salzburg, with so many world renown assets and alpine resorts, it will be hard to drop names you compare with as there are many. The more important question we ask ourselves is: Does the client know, which destination to choose to make their event a success? And we aim to help them finding the answer. Even if it sometimes is not in our favour.

Q: What is your vision and what hopes do you have for the future of Salzburg?

We are marketers with an option to form the industry. So “hope” is not a factor to rely on. Having said that, we belief in Salzburg as a stage with pre-set backdrops of stories told by architecture, culture, nature and its population. More hotels will come and venues will be built, but this is not our core vision. Nine out of ten tourism businesses in Salzburg are family-run. They are forming a broad economic foundation and a specific appeal, continuously investing in their products. The vision is organic growth in all fields and keeping that personal touch.

Nobody would build a conference venue, if associations and corporates wouldn’t understand the importance of meeting people in person.

Q: Can you tell us about the variety of special venues that Salzburg offers?

Again, this depends on the event and client you talk to. For some the high-end, luxury venues are just good special enough. But others consider a chalet in the middle of nowhere as a once in a live-time experience. So what I want to say first is, that special does not always mean luxury, XXL venues or the maximum of AV equipment you can put into a location. In Salzburg you can stand on a locations terrace in 3.029 metres, meet at lake side event resorts, or experience products at dedicated automotive event spaces. We are also the only destination in Europe with airport hangars, purpose built for events. But we have the large congress venues for thousands of delegates and international chain hotels with hundreds of bedrooms in Salzburg, too.

Q: Where would you take someone to “feel” the vibe of Salzburg and what is your best incentive idea in Salzburg?

If you really want to feel a destination, you have to go where the locals go. Salzburg is a social micro-cosmos so it would be a few stops. We would start at the historical city center of Salzburg at Café Tomaselli, which is the oldest coffee house of Austria. Dinner at one of the many roof top restaurants. Or we go up the mountains to Mama Thresl, a quirky hotel, with an Ibiza-like mountain club called “Hendlfischerei” on 1.800 metres. Again, the best incentive idea depends on the region you select, the delegates backgrounds and how brave the planner is.


Q: Is there a certain formula for a good meeting destination?

Personality, Passion, Know-How. We unite those things with a very strong and individual personality of the locals driving our values, a great passion for their destination, but also sending kids to our world leading tourism-schools to become the best serving the best.

Q: How is the meetings industry encouraging greater diversity and inclusivity?

I admire London for their idea on the #LondonIsOpen campaign and was positively surprised that equality of women became a subject at last years’ ICCA congress and this years’ IMEX. However, the industry is good at talking diversity, but very slow executing it. One year we pilgrim over bridges to a congress, the other year we go to destinations where those claims and values are totally neglected. I miss a little honesty in the discussion of social responsibility. Let’s say it like it is: With the financial capacities and economic dependencies of some in the industry, it will stay hard calling for diversity more forceful.

Q: How are you viewing the state of modern meetings industry?

My vision is a meetings industry that is impact driven. An industry, that give’s itself a bigger meaning by understanding the source of its business. It does not exist because of infrastructure. Nobody would build a conference venue, if associations and corporates wouldn’t understand the importance of meeting people in person. So the supplier side has to understand why people want to connect, learn and speak to each other face to face. It is our job to empower people to communicate in the best possible way and deliver what’s necessary.

Q: Do you switch off when travelling?

Oh, yes. Usually you see me wearing headphones at airports. And I sometimes just wear them with no music on to just enjoy the silence for a moment. We are a creative industry and need to take our time to let the mind wonder to come back with great ideas again. Silence is a great way to let this happen.

Q: Is music important part of your life?

It always has been. I play instruments and was a DJ for quite some time. It still helps to unwind when I get home or deejay on weekends. Music should also play a bigger role at conferences and congresses. I still do not understand why the concept of business festivals isn’t adopting any quicker. Sensorial marketing would be very important for us, but this would be another discussion.

Q: Where do you go when you need to take a break?

I either go on city trips or stay close to home. In summer we go to the lakes and mountains district and rent a house there. People always look very doubtfully at me, when they hear that I stay so close to home for my holidays. But I travel all the year and why go to a beach when you have such a picturesque landscape right at your doorstep? The same applies for winter as of the ski resorts in the Salzburger Land. For our city trips we go anywhere in the world really. Flights are perfect from Salzburg, event if we have to connect at some European hubs, but I love to discover the local vibes of other cities.