Who influenced the meetings industry the most in 2019?

The 5th edition of Kongres Magazine’s “Most Influential People” segment is here, analysing who influenced the meetings industry of New Europe the most in 2019.

Our editorial board has been carrying out the competition since 2014, constantly adding new recommendations from reputable European meeting planners. We assessed more than 185 influencers in Central and South East Europe after reviewing highlights from the meetings industry in 2019. Our assessment was based on several key criteria, such as:

• Achievement of the best financial and other multiplier effects of the meetings industry in 2019, (significantly deviating from the average);

• Implementation of the most demanding improvements and innovations in their field, which also includes successfully implemented projects that have defined the year 2019;

• Help in enhancing the reputation and profile of the meetings industry in 2019;

• Innovations that facilitate the work of meetings organisers, or in their way have pointed the direction of the industry in the future.

Based on 1273 individually completed surveys and 5559 total individual visits, Kongres Magazine has analysed and shortlisted the TOP most influential people. We have also added 2 newcomers in each category, voted by our readers.

The candidates have been divided into 6 categories


The meeting agencies with the most votes are:


Izabela HELBIN
Director of the Krakow Festival Office – operator of the ICE Krakow Congress Centre

Izabela Helbin is the Director of the Krakow Festival Office, which operates the ICE Kraków Congress Centre. Her former positions include those of the Deputy Director for Marketing and the Krakow Promotion Director, as well as the Head of the Press Office of the Mayor of the City of Krakow. She has worked as a cultural manager, producer, co-producer and coordinator of many international cultural and TV projects. She has received numerous awards for festivals, one-off events, as well as innovative campaigns and publications.


Management Board Spokesperson of Austria Center Vienna

The graduate in business education, certified public accountant and financial analyst initially worked as a tax and business consultant and subsequently worked in the Federal Ministry of Finance as a consultant to several ministers and as a department head for tax policy and taxation. As of December 2012, she became a member of the board of the IAKW-AG, who is responsible for the preservation and administration of the Vienna International Center and the operation of the Austria Center Vienna. In 2013 she also took over the representation of the Republic of Austria in the Joint Committee for the financing of major repairs and renewals at the headquarters of the International Organizations – Vienna International Center.


Chairman of the Board at Sava Hotels & Resorts

Sava Hotels & Resorts, the largest tourism company in Slovenia, manages six tourist destinations in Slovenia. Renata Balažic has been since her beginnings in the tourist sector 20 years ago closely related to the field of MICE. She started in Grand Hotel Union where she established MICE department and later progressed to the position of the Director of marketing and sales. Currently, as the President of the Sava Hotels & Resorts’s Board, she is actively involved in the Group’s MICE development.


Director at GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre

Iztok Bricl, M.Sc. was in 2010 appointed Director of the GR – Ljubljana Convention and Exhibition Centre. Prior to that, he excelled in his work at the most senior positions where he demonstrated excellent managerial and organisational skills in the Slovenian food industry. As the director of a leading event centre in Slovenia, his greatest achievements are the modernisation of infrastructure of the centre and the introduction of new fair events, in particular the development of congress activities and international exhibitions.


Kathrin NOLL
General Manager of Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras

After her apprenticeship as a hotel manager at the Panoramahotel am Jägerhäusle in Freiburg, Kathrin gained important professional experience in Germany, England and Switzerland before joining the Kempinski Hotel Airport Munich as Assistant Banquet Sales Manager in 1999. After five years in Munich, where she quickly became Assistant Food & Beverage Manager, she was drawn back into the distance. At the Kilimanjaro Hotel Kempinski in Tanzania, she took over the position of Food & Beverage Manager for more than two years, which she then filled successfully at the Kempinski Hotel Ajman, not far from Dubai. Since 2012 she works as the General Manager of Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras.


General Manager at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (SI)

Global hotelier with more than 13 years of multi brand leadership experience in hotel operations at premiere, full-service luxury hotels & resorts. Successfully led Rooms Division, Engineering, Food & Beverage, Culinary, IT and Security teams for MGM Grand, Global Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts in North America, Middle East, Europe and Asia. He has been the GM to InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in Ljubljana, Slovenia, since May 2017.

General manager at Best Western Premier Hotel Slon Ljubljana (SI)

Gregor Jamnik counts among his several memberships also a position of supervisory board member of the British Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia and member of the supervisory board of the Ljubljana Tourism Board. Gregor achieves great results at Slon with the highest occupancy rates among all the hotels in Ljubljana, as well as outstanding financial results within all of the Slovenian hotels. Slon has hosted many important and distinguished guests during his management, with the highlight being the stay of American President Bill Clinton.

General Manager at Hotel CUBO and CUBO Diners golf course Ljubljana (SI)

Sandi Kovačevič has been general manager at Hotel CUBO since 2010. He has more than a decade of experience in hospitality as well as in meetings industry. With his leadership, hotel Cubo increased its visibility and it has become one of the most important business meeting points in Ljubljana.


Executive Director of Mona Hotel Management

As an authorized representative of Pegasus, he has been organizing congresses and introducing reservation systems in hotels in Serbia, and in 2005 he joined the company Mona d.o.o. which then starts investing in the hotel industry. He served as sales and marketing manager, hotel manager, Mona Zlatibor, sales, marketing and development director, and CEO. In 2016, he became the Executive Director of Mona Hotel Management, which owns and manages the Mona Plaza hotel in Belgrade.


General Manager at the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel

Ivica Max Križmanić is the General Manager at the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel in Croatia. In 2012 he has been entrusted to supervise the operations of the most prestigious 5-star deluxe property in Zagreb and to oversee the quality of the services that his team provides. His success story started almost 24 years ago when he came to the Hotel as a fill-in for a doorman and it was then that he “fell in love with the hotel”. During 24 years of experience at this hotel Max worked in almost every department and progressed steadily. He perfected his skills and knowledge which helped him determine his interests, abilities and values, and steered him in the right direction.


General Manager of Regent Porto Montenegro

Kai started his career in Germany, working for many of his native country’s famous hotels, including Brenner’s Park Hotel & Spa and Grand hotel Schloss Bensberg. Working his way up the hospitality ladder, he soon rose to become Front Office Manager at London’s St James’s Hotel and Club; Rooms Division Manager at Grand Hotel Park, Gstaad in, Switzerland, gaining valuable experience in different departments along the way. With 19 years of extensive experience in the luxury hospitality industry, he has worked for some of the most well-known names in the hotel business and is now the General Manager of Regent Porto Montenegro.

Cluster General Manager at Hilton hotels in Zagreb / General Manager at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Zagreb. (HR)

Josipa Jutt Ferlan has beent the CEO and General Manager at DoubleTree by Hilton Zagreb Hotel since 2015 and the Cluster GM at Hilton hotels in Zagreb for a year. She has 20 years of experience in the industry, delivering revenue and profit gains within a highly competitive regional market. She also brings broad hospitality experience, covering international sales, marketing, PR and brand development.


Živorad VASIĆ
General Manager of Crowne Plaza Beograd

Since 2016, Živorad Vasić is Vice President of Delta Holding and in 2017 he became the youngest regional director of the InterContinental Hotels Group. During his career in Serbia, he was the General Manager of the Continental Hotel in Belgrade. He also managed the entire Delta portfolio for the hotel and business units and is now the regional director of Crowne Plaza in Belgrade and InterContinental in Ljubljana. He is a passionate music lover and plays the piano. He is also not impartial to sports, where he favours American football.

Newcomers in 2019, voted by readers


Director of Sales and Marketing at Adriatic Luxury Hotels 

Katija Jerković is a hotel industry professional specialised in overall sales and marketing as well as the MICE industry. She started her career in the hotelier segment in the operative, as a Hilton meetings manager. Currently and for the past 11 years she is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Adriatic Luxury Hotels, the leading luxury hotel management company in Croatia.


Director of Sales at x-bionic sphere

After obtaining an education in Business Administration, David took on the role of Senior Sales Manager at the Jacob Fleming Group. After 4 years he transitioned into the hotel industry, as the Director of Sales for Austria Trend Hotel Bratislava and later as Director of Sales and Marketing at the Crown Plaza Bratislava. Since 2016 he is part of the x-bionic sphere family and has been in the current role of Director of Sales for the past 3 years.


Julia FRANZ, Imlauer Hotels
Georg HECHENBLAIKNER, Congress Centrum Alpbach
Roland HEITZENEDER, Parkhotel Portschach
Nenad IKONIĆ, Hotel Izvor Serbia
Katarina LILIĆ, Solaris Resort
Ivana KLARIĆ, Hotel Cornaro
Christian MAYERHOFER, Congress Messe Innsbruck
Corrado PERABONI, Fiera Milano
Goran RAŽNJEVIĆ, Ilirija Hotels
Georg UNTERKIRCHER, Falkensteiner Punta Skala
Irina TOMIC, Adriatic Tourist Resorts
Dragan BARIČIĆ, Hotel Park Split
Matej RIGELNIK, Union Hotels
Milan SAJOVIĆ, HIT Alpinea
Milena PERKOVIĆ, Arena Hospitality Group
Marilka TOVARAC, Valamar Hotels Dubrovnik
Sanjin ŠOLIĆ, Jadranka
Tomislav POPOVIĆ, Maistra Hotels & Resorts
Ursula MELCHER, Hotel Karnerhof
Borut SIMONIČ, Bernardin Group
Riccardo ZANELLOTTI, Savoia Excelsior Palace
Lenka ZLEBKOVA, Prague Congress Centre

Would you like to nominate an influencer for 2020?

Please tell us why your nominee should be among the TOP Meetings Industry Influencers in 2020 in the online form.

Newcomers in 2018, voted by readers