The Viennese meetings industry recorded its strongest ever performance in 2018: a new high for event numbers was matched by record highs in all key indicators. Never before have congresses, corporate events and incentives induced as much economic impact, attracted so many participants or generated as many overnights stays as they did in 2018. Vienna City Councilor for Finance, Economic, Digitalization and International Affairs Peter Hanke, Director of Tourism Norbert Kettner and Christian Woronka, head of the Vienna Convention Bureau, presented the latest results at a press conference hosted by the Vienna Tourist Board on April 1. Also in attendance, Markus Griessler, head of the Vienna Economic Chamber’s Tourism and Leisure Industry Sector emphasized the significance of meetings for the capital’s economy, and highlighted his organization’s initiatives designed to enhance the city’s already strong standing as a meetings destination.
Economic impact (contribution to GDP) up 63% in ten years
“What’s important is the bottom line: the Vienna meetings industry’s contribution to Austrian GDP increased once again, by 3%. In absolute terms, this means that the meetings held in Vienna during 2018 made a EUR 1.198 billion contribution to gross domestic product,” Hanke explained. The symbolic EUR 1 billion mark was exceeded for the first time in 2015 and economic impact has not fallen below that level since. Induced economic impact includes direct expenditure by participants, event organizers, exhibitors and accompanying persons, as well as income from upstream areas of the economy that is indirectly induced by the events (e.g. food and beverage suppliers, printers, construction companies, banks, insurance companies, communications companies, etc.). Since 2009, the contribution of the Vienna meetings industry to GDP has climbed by around 63%.
Meetings secure 21,500 jobs
“Vienna’s meetings industry is a dependable employer, securing over 21,500 year-round jobs nationwide. To put that in context: this is equivalent to the population of Amstetten, Hallein or Kufstein, and represents around 500 more jobs than in 2017,” said Hanke. “The record year for meetings in 2018 is a seamless extension of the capital’s outstanding overall tourism statistics – in all, the city reported 16.5 million overnights in 2018.”
Viennese supportive of capital’s role as a meetings destination
A sector that generates greater economic impact and more jobs year on year is looked upon favorably by the local population. In its ongoing survey of the local population’s attitudes to tourism (2018: 3,650 respondents aged 18-70), the Vienna Tourist Board also asked for their views on congresses in the capital. “We want to ensure that the growing tourism industry makes a positive contribution to this city’s development. 94% of Viennese have a favorable view of tourism. Feedback on meetings and congresses was highly positive, with three quarters of those asked identifying these events as an important element of tourism. 58% also felt that strengthening Vienna’s position as a destination for meetings was a key topic that the capital’s meeting industry should focus on more closely over the next few years,” said Hanke.
Boosting the city’s image as a business destination
“Institutions that host their congresses in Vienna are increasingly taking their content to the general public – information sharing plays a significant role in anchoring and raising awareness of Vienna’s role as an international-class meetings destination,” Hanke observed. “At the same time, meetings do much to promote the city’s image, helping to position Vienna as a location for business and research, which supports our efforts to attract international enterprises and provide a breeding ground for start-ups.“ The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (source: https://gtcistudy.com) currently ranks Vienna as the fourth most attractive city for global talent.
One in eight overnight stays in Vienna accounted for by meetings industry
The 4,685 events held in Vienna in 2018 comprised 1,544 congresses (540 national and 1,004 international), and 3,141 corporate events, meetings and incentives, (1,273 national and 1,868 international). “Vienna reported significant year-on-year gains in 2018, particularly in the international congresses category, where numbers were up by 25%. The number of national congresses grew by 5% during the same period. While the totals for international corporate meetings and incentives were down slightly, by 4%, the 58% jump in national events in this category more than made up for any lost ground,” explained Vienna Tourist Board Director Norbert Kettner. Congresses, corporate meetings and incentives again accounted for 12% of all overnight stays reported by the Viennese tourism industry in 2018, or one in every eight bednights.
EUR 331.57 million in tax revenue
Tax revenue from congresses, meetings and incentives in Vienna amounted to EUR 331.57 million (up 3%), breaching the EUR 300 million mark for the second time, having previously done so in 2017. Of this amount, EUR 216.94 million went to the Federal Government, EUR 40.44 million to Vienna and the remaining EUR 74.19 million to other federal provinces and municipalities. Induced economic impact and tax revenue is calculated according to the EVENT-MODEL-AUSTRIA, a constantly-updated method developed by the corporate advisor and Vienna University of Business and Economics lecturer Martina Stoff-Hochreiner.
International congresses: shortest duration so far…
One striking development in 2018 related to the length of international congresses: at just 2.78 days, events of this type had the shortest average duration on record. This was due to the very high proportion of one- and two-day international congresses – they made up 53% of the total in 2018 – compared with previous years. The average duration of national congresses remained unchanged year on year at 1.85 days.
…but highest economic impact
“International congresses are still the cash cow of the meetings industry. For years now they have had the single greatest impact on the bottom line,” Kettner explained. Accounting for 21% of all meetings, international congresses contributed more than half of all participants (56%), over three quarters of overnights (77%) and the lion’s share of induced tax income for Vienna (82%).
Congress participants spend nearly twice as much
With a daily outlay of EUR 541, the average congress guest spends more than twice as much as other visitors to the city (EUR 266). Expenses include hotel stays, registration fees, restaurant bills, admission to cultural attractions, shopping and transport.
EU Council doubles proportion of political congresses
Accounting for 41% of all the bednights generated by congresses in Vienna, the human medical segment is the single largest contributor, followed by events focusing on natural sciences, with a 12% share. Austria’s presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2018 is reflected in the share of the economy/politics segment, which almost doubled from 9% of all overnights in 2017, to 16% of the total in 2018. “The Vienna Convention Bureau attributed around 270 congresses to the EU Council,” Kettner explained. The United Nations accounted for 8% of the total in 2018, with the remainder split between other areas.
130 green EU meetings at the ACV
The Austria Center Vienna (ACV) served as the permanent conference facility for the EU Council, hosting around 130 events with a total of over 20,000 participants. These included numerous high-level political conferences, which attracted a lot of media coverage, besides calling for increased security measures. All of the European Council events were hosted as green meetings – virtually paperless, with locally-sourced catering and Vienna spring water fresh from the taps. Direct access to the underground network also played a key role.
Meetings a core element of the visitor economy
In fall 2018 the Vienna Tourist Board kick-started preparations for its strategy up to 2025, which brings together objectives and insights related to destination marketing and destination management for its main focus, the visitor economy. “The challenges of city tourism can only be solved if we work together, which is why we are not only including tourist industry stakeholders in the strategy determination process, but also all of the relevant players in the city,” Kettner explained. “As one of Vienna’s proven strengths, the meetings industry has a special place in the new destination strategy.” Representatives of the Vienna Convention Bureau, accompanied by Ben Goedegebuure, General Manager of international agency Maritz Global Events and member of the international strategy committee, sat down with their counterparts from the Viennese tourist industry to discuss how the city can position itself even more distinctively over the coming years. The www.strategie2025.wien.info microsite provides an initial overview of Vienna’s new destination strategy, ahead of its presentation in fall 2019.
Airport: new welcome point for meeting participants
In March, the Vienna Tourist Board opened a new Tourist Information in the arrivals hall of Vienna International Airport to act as a first port of call for visitors arriving in the city by air. “More than three quarters of meeting participants – 76% to be precise – travel to the city by plane. Our new welcome point allows us to reach out to participants more directly and play a part in creating a positive first impression for new arrivals,” Kettner said.
VCB acquiring new business all over the world
Christian Woronka, head of the Vienna Convention Bureau, is looking ahead to a busy year in 2019: the bureau will welcome around 200 international organizers of congresses and corporate events during the year. The VCB’s calendar for this year currently includes appearances at more than 60 leading international trade fairs, workshops, sales trips and networking events all over the world. The VCB has also officially extended its cooperation with Maritz Global Events and has a partnership with leading meetings booking portal Cvent. It also works with global meetings procurement and site selection leader Helms Briscoe. Woronka wants to adjust the focus of Vienna’s digital communication activities to place an even stronger emphasis on the capital’s modern sides and its role as an innovative location for science and research.
Innovation, internationalization and modern thinking as new assets
“Vienna is known all over the world for its hospitality, premium-quality services, consistently high standards, excellent safety record, first-class infrastructure and compact size. I would like to take these existing strengths and add assets such as the city’s ability to innovate, its international outlook and modern mindset to the mix. With around 200,000 students, Vienna is the largest university city in the German-speaking countries and the expertise associated with that is something we want to highlight more in future, working with our partners to reinforce the capital’s strong reputation in the international scientific community,” Woronka said. Working with organizations responsible for promoting economic development, research and development institutes and the university sector, the aim is to attract more events to the city that dovetail with Vienna’s local expertise such as biotech.
VCB uses event showcases to demonstrate what’s possible
“Vienna is a global player in the congress sector and our job is to maintain this position. Vienna’s image as a destination for corporate events is also very close to my heart,” Woronka explained. The VCB wants to work with the city’s meetings industry to create a platform for some of the new and more unexpected aspects of the city. As a first step, the VCB is previewing “event showcases” on its website, giving Vienna’s event industry the opportunity to present inspirational event set-ups that go far beyond the norm.
Year of anniversaries for Vienna’s meetings industry
In 1969 responsibility for operating the Hofburg conference center was officially transferred to Wiener Kongresszentrum Hofburg Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H. (known as Hofburg Vienna). In 2019 the former imperial residence will celebrate its 50th anniversary as a leading destination for meetings, fairs and exhibitions. Messe Wien, which has a history dating back to 1921, will also mark 15 years since its official relaunch as a purpose-built, contemporary convention center in 2004. The European Congress of Radiology (ECR) took place at the Austria Center Vienna for the 25th time this year, from February 27-March 3. One of the largest medical congresses in the world, it has consistently attracted more than 25,000 participants in recent years. The Vienna International Centre (VIC), referred to locally as the UNO City, celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019. Vienna is the site of one of the UN’s four headquarters, alongside New York, Geneva and Nairobi.
Vienna Convention Bureau turns 50
The Vienna Convention Bureau will also celebrate a special milestone this year: April 11 marks its 50th anniversary. The VCB has been acquiring congresses, corporate meetings and incentives for the city all over the world since 1969 with the support of the City of Vienna and the Vienna Economic Chamber. Even then, international experts ranked Vienna among the world’s leading congress destinations. The latest rankings published by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and Union of International Associations (UIA) confirm Vienna’s enduring status as one of the world’s top meetings destinations, with respective second and fourth places for the capital in 2017. The 2018 rankings are due to be published in a few weeks’ time.
Third runway provides foundation for further growth
“Vienna’s success as a meetings destination is, as the figures presented here today confirm, heavily dependent on international congresses and, as such, the city’s international flight links. To help Vienna defend its leading position in the international congress rankings, we need to fulfil the necessary infrastructure requirements through the rapid completion of the third runway at Vienna International Airport so that tourism in general, and the meetings industry in particular, can continue to grow,” emphasized Markus Griessler, chair of the Vienna Economic Chamber’s Tourism and Leisure Industry Sector.
More than 100 hotels equipped for meetings
“As far as infrastructure is concerned, I would like to highlight the ongoing investments in the hotel sector, as they serve to constantly strengthen Vienna’s standing as a meetings destination,” Griessler added. “More than 100 hotels, or around a quarter of the total, offer meeting facilities. These businesses have a major role to play in preserving Vienna’s status as a state-of-the-art as a meetings destination. So, our thanks go out to them,” Markus Griessler said.
Sharing economy: same rules for everyone – including at the national level
“The City of Vienna’s decision to break off negotiations with online booking platform Airbnb was necessary from a commercial point of view“, Griessler explained. “While hotels have a lot of responsibilities and are subject to various statutory requirements, the sharing economy is largely unregulated. The City of Vienna’s ruling on local taxes sets a precedent. What is important now is to reach agreement with the individual provinces and the federal offices involved on non-bureaucratic, nationwide compulsory registration. This will establish a legal basis for the authorization and registration of private accommodations, as well as a duty of disclosure and obligation to provide information for Airbnb and the like, and to ensure that there are adequate means in place to ensure that these requirements are being met. A nationwide solution represents a significant step towards establishing a level playing field. Specifically, this involves introducing the same rights and obligations for all participants in terms of taxation, levies, social insurance and statutory requirements. This legal grey area has also led to housing shortages, particularly in major urban centers, raising numerous legal issues relating to residential rights and tenancy agreements.”
Expanding event infrastructure and expertise to safeguard high standards
“Today’s trade fair and meetings guests are highly discerning. Nowadays, the range of entertainment options on offer before, during and after a meeting, congress or trade fair matters almost as much to participants as a positive experience at the event itself. Which is why it is so important for event infrastructure to keep pace with the growth of meetings infrastructure. And other measures are called for, too: the introduction of an Event Board – a pool of experts focused on acquiring and supporting new events for the capital – is just one of the necessary steps that I will be pushing for. At the moment, we are working hard on the introduction of a new vocational qualification (Eventkaufmann), which will be an indispensable part of professional training for the next generation of event specialists,” Griessler revealed.