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My bewildered colleagues in Varna and Bucharest keep asking me why I make the effort to promote Eastern-European destinations; why devote energy to a region that‘s condemned to remain at the periphery of meetings and events industry?

After a short consideration, I answer with an anecdote from the former Yugoslavia: in 1918, American president Woodrow Wilson admonished King Alexander, warning him that the prerequisite for the development of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was the formation of a new nation: the Yugoslavians.

Looking at this statement from the perspective of the meetings industry in the New Europe, the prerequisite for a bright future is the formation of the newest, the most creative meetings and events community in New Europe. For more than a decade, this has served as our guiding principle and motivation in building Conventa, and it sounds good, but there are many reasons for the slow implementation.

The differences in the region are vast

The first one is an immense desire to host events. Such as you find difficult in more developed destinations. Accordingly, hosts will put extreme effort into making the guests happy.

The second is genuine hostality. We cannot find hospitality like that anywhere else in Europe and after all the conflicts in the 90s, it is immensely attractive to tourists from all over the world. Mostly because it is real, it is not fake.

The third, more rational one is the ratio between price and quality. At the moment, it is the best in Europe and maybe even beyond. This does not mean this is a cheap destination, but that for every euro invested into this event you will get the most out.

The fourth feature common to all the destinations is that they are still rough diamonds. Each destination is missing something for its perfection. However, this does not mean that they are less attractive, it may even mean that they are more interesting and that, with development of the industry, will become even more attractive.

At meetings with colleagues from the “New Europe”, the idea of a new congress association seems utopian, but the fact remains that this is a matter of necessity, not of ideals. The customers, quite simply, see the region as a whole. This is especially pronounced with congress organisers from USA or Asia. Whereas Yugoslavia was a utopia, an ideal, the New Europe is a perfectly real story and one that we could realise very quickly. Several agencies have already saddled up and they are rapidly expanding their networks in the region. Among them is Conventa, which has become something of a nexus of the regional meetings industry.

I almost always conclude by treating my colleagues to an illustration that uses Bosnian coffee, one of the cultural specialities of the region, as a metaphor. Could you imagine Sarajevo without the Bosnian coffee? Kafa is more than just coffee; drinking it is a flashback to childhood, it is a social event with friends, one you have to take your time for. Preparing kafa, or kava, is special as well; you need to put your heart into it. It is all part of the event and in the New Europe, this is something you can do. Not every coffee is the same, of course; depending on its significance for the guest, it is called one of several names. “Dočekuša” is coffee brewed when guests arrive. »Razgovoruša« is brewed during the conversation and the third, the »sikteruša«, signals the guest that it is time for them to head back home.

Conventa traditionally invites you for coffee and Ljubljana will once more be the centre of New Europe from 23rd to 24th January 2019. We are pleased that key national and city bureaus, leading congress hotels and above all buyers that believe in the advantages of New Europe will join us. Every year more Hosted Buyers are coming and every year it is easier for us to convince them of our advantages.

In the new decade, we connect destinations with a new branding based on apples, with which we will present the region in the future. The part of Europe that is still undiscovered, is waiting for meeting planners and invites them with its rich offer, freshness, creativity and special energy. The symbol for all of this is the fruit of the gods, the tree of life. Once you reach for the forbidden fruit, there‘s no going back!

Conventa is, therefore, a celebration of the regional meetings industry and there is still time for you to join us!