Adem Braco Suljic Meetex
Photo credit: Meetex

Kongres Magazine talked to several organizers of boutique trade shows on the nature of their business, as well as on the recent Corona virus and its effect on the business, the prospects, and solutions.


Adem Braco Suljić has 30+ years of experience in MICE, from family owned meeting support and organization company, over international career as GM at BRAHLER Spain handling projects such as Olympic games and conferences with 20.000 participants, followed by setting up and controlling distribution network for BRAHLER in SE Europe, all the way to planning and executing meetings infrastructure projects on three continents. Since 2017 he decided to make the best use of his-experience in destination marketing and knowledge transfer, in mutual efforts with CMPA Croatian Meeting Professionals Association.

Q: What does differ your trade shows from the competition?

What we with MEETEX tried to do is to help changing the common perception of Croatia as primarily a summer holiday destination into a serious MICE destination too. We fully respect and sincerely admire everything that has been done firstly by Conventa – as the only serious B2B tradeshow in the region – as well as other world famous shows like IMEX and IBTM, but we felt the need to help to smaller Croatian MICE market players, for which exhibiting at bigger shows is too expensive. And they all deserve the opportunity to show themselves to the world.

We also wanted to put accent on Croatia only, bringing hosted buyers that are truly interested in Croatia as MICE destination. Not Europe, not region, but Croatia. Opatija had its first international conference in 19th century, we have great professionals and good infrastructure which is constantly growing, and the country deserves to be presented in that way.

Q: How do you market and promote the host destination?

We are in this together with Croatian National Tourist Board and its Convention Bureau, as well as with other local Tourist boards and their Convention departments. We are also trying to use the most of digital promotion through specialized MICE marketing channels worldwide. We do not have big marketing budgets, but we are supplementing that with a LOT of work – mostly on pro-bono basis – and we see that MEETEX started gaining importance and visibility even only after its 1st edition in 2019. And if MEETEX is gaining visibility, so is Croatia, what means that our goal is achieved.

Let us all hope for the best, work as much as we can to preserve the industry and stay united.

Q: What are the conversion statistics for your show (conversion rate)?

After only 2 editions – and second one finished just a few weeks ago – it is obviously difficult to come out with specific numbers. We are working very hard to bring really serious Hosted buyers, and we all know that serious buyers are planning meetings 2 or 3 years ahead, so we are hoping that we could come out with some nice numbers in 2021 or later. We do however have very good response from our exhibitors, with some pretty nice conversion of some smaller but interesting meetings, above all incentives.

Q: Many fraudulent activities online are trying to trick trade show guests into getting money and ID from them by promising them data or other fake services. How do you tackle the problem of safety that arises with this kind of criminal activities online?

Honestly, we didn’t have any such attempt so far. We are really taking the utmost care about GDPR rules and regulations, and are extremely careful with any personal data which could be misused. Nobody ever offered us anything in exchange for databases, neither we accepted proposals for buying off databases from somebody else.

Q: To which event in the meetings industry do you look up to and why?

Obviously we were looking forward to IMEX, but as it was cancelled, we are now concentrating on IBTM for which we truly hope will be held in 2020. As MEETEX has practically just started, any kind of new networking and presentng the MEETEX is more than welcome, and there is no better place for that than those two shows, especially due to the fact that we are primarily focused on European emmitive markets.

Meetex Zagreb Croatia
Photo credit: Meetex

Q: Without a doubt, the current situation with Corona outbreak is one of the biggest challenges this industry has ever encountered  … how are you planning to save your trade show during and after the Corona crisis?

As the Corona issue started to develop much faster than anybody expected, we started serious preparations with regard to that well ahead. Honestly, we did have a bit of luck too as we finished the MEETEX 2020 only a few days before all the other shows – and even regular meetings and conferences – started with cancellations. We passed through some really stressful moments during the last week before the MEETEX 2020 started, but we have been in constant contact with our partners  – above all the National Tourist Board – and we didn’t want to make any decision without the mutual agreement with all of them. Along with that, we were not only strictly following the medical expert’s rules and advices as well as WHO guidelines, but we also implemented additional security measures even before those were adviced by health authorities. Today we are happy to say that MEETEX 2020 ended as Corona-free event.

What will happen with MEETEX 2021 or with any other trade show in 2021 for that matter is now obviously impossible to predict, but if the situation will not calm down and get back to normality, we will surely not risk anybody’s  health just to hold the show.

Q: Are you planning to stay the same size or to expand or …?

MEETEX is already bigger than what we expected it would become when we started planning it, as Croatia is a small country, so no, we are not planning to expand, at least not yet.

When video conferences were invented, everybody was saying that it represents the end of standard meetings industry, but we all know now that it didn’t happen …

Q: By your opinion, how will the industry’s character change or develop after the crisis?

It is a very good question about which everybody today thinks, but nobody can give the reasonably objective and secure answer. When video conferences were invented, everybody was saying that it represents the end of standard meetings industry, and we all know that it didn’t happen. Even today (or better to say until the Corona crisis), when those platforms are extremely user friendly and very cost effective, sometimes even free, the number of real, personal meetings is not falling down. In my opinion, it is in human nature to enjoy meeting others in person, and as long as it will not be dangerous for anybody’s health, it will continue in the same way.

If it happens that modern medicine will not be able to control this or any other virus, than everything will change; the technology for remote meetings of any kind or size is available, but I would rather stay optimistic.

Q: What steps should be taken (on local, regional, state, political, economy level, etc.) in order to preserve the industry and its employment?

That will surely depend on individual governmets and economic situation of each individual country. Croatian Government is trying to implement some measures, and we are all hoping it will help overcome the total failure of this spring’s Meetings season, but unfortunately nobody can say for sure how will the future look. Let us all hope for the best, work as much as we can to preserve the industry and stay united.