WHO IS WHO IN NEW EUROPE’S MEETINGS INDUSTRY
Since 2014, Kongres Magazine has been giving centre stage to the most influential people of New Europe’s meetings industry. When we prepared our first-ever list of influencers, our guidance was the following mindset. Would you decide to build a house without an architect or professional construction workers? The price you would have to pay for the amateur approach would be significant. Likewise, this applies to event organisation, one of the fields of expertise, where everyone seems to be an expert.
Thus, we decided to set structured criteria and requirements for nomination. Our list of influencers differs from similar competitions, as nomination has to come from a third party and not candidates themselves. We want the influencer list to be of help when you start organising events again, serving as a trustworthy directory of MICE professionals. This project is not a competition, but a serious platform that you can rely on. All nominees that were part of the voting process are presented in alphabetical order below.
I would like to sincerely congratulate the winners and all of the nominees on their impressive achievement and pledge to further develop and evolve the project in the following years.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021,
Editor in chief
TOP MEETING AGENCIES 2020
In alphabetical order
Michael ARGIRI, Conceptours Greece
Michael Argiri is the Managing Director of CONCEPTOURS Greece is the DMC of Greece and was founded in 1977. The company currently employs a full time multilingual professional staff of 14. Conceptours is renowned as one of Greece’s top Destination Management Companies specialising in the planning, designing and meticulous operation of major conferences, incentives, meetings, symposiums, and a distinct separate FIT department provides personalized services to leisure travellers. Conceptours has received numerous awards of excellence including from major international travel trade associations and the Greek National Tourist Organisation.
Natalija BAH ČAD, Toleranca Marketing
Natalija joined Go.MICE/Toleranca Marketing in 2008 with ten years of experience as a PCO behind her. Together with her team of MICE enthusiasts, she has proven that the organisation of a successful congress involves not just logistics, but also creativity and innovativeness. Conventa is one of the projects that she has been involved with from the very beginning and this concept of regional B2B events has also been successfully transferred from MICE to the Spa & Wellness industry, as well as the active tourism field.
Rudolf BUCHNER, Retter Events
Rudolf Buchner is the Managing Director of Retter Events, which is one of Austria’s leading event agencies in the B2B segment. With over 20 years of experience, the agency organises over 300 events throughout Austria and beyond every year.
Luka BULATOVIĆ, Explorer DMC
Luka Bulatović has been working in the tourism sector for more than two decades. In his youth, he was professionally engaged in skiing, and for the last 2 decades, he has been running a private company that provides a unique tourist product. His love for nature and national parks inspired him to combine a sense of comfort with untouched nature while respecting the highest environmental standards. Attractive and unique facilities within his company have the highest references in the country. His company is the winner of the greatest state awards for the best tourist product.
Christina DRAKOS, Drakos DMC
In 1982, Christina Drakos, at the age of 23, after finishing her studies in Economics and Tourism Management in France, had the vision to shake the travel industry on the island of Cyprus. By setting up Drakos Travel as a purely Destination Management Company she tapped into a then niche market of corporate and events travel. Being the first to book major conferences and incentives on the island meant a lot of innovation from the start. Something that is until today engraved in the company’s DNA.
Frantisek FABIAN, Tour4U
He studied management and political economy at universities in Slovakia and Hungary. He joined the travel industry after leaving consulting (BCG). With 10 years of experience in travel, he executes business development at Tour4U DMC, during which the company diversified and quadrupled yearly revenues. He has close ties with Slovak MICE leaders, hoteliers, politicians, venue owners, academic sphere, while consults national and local strategies. He is fluent in English and has a working knowledge of German.
Marek FARKAŠ, ENJOY SLOVAKIA DMC
Holds a Master Degree in Marketing from Comenius University in Bratislava and DMCP (Destination Management Certified Professional) certification. An entrepreneur with more than 17 years of experience in MICE tourism in Slovakia. He runs ENJOY SLOVAKIA DMC, the leading DMC in Slovakia. His vision is to put Slovakia on the map as one of the best countries in MICE tourism in Europe.
Ranko FILIPOVIĆ, Perfect meetings.hr
Ranko has been in the meetings and events industry for nearly 30 years, out of which last ten years within his own PerfectMeetings.hr. Also, since 2011 he has been running a non-profit Croatian Meeting Professionals Association which he co-founded with the colleagues from Croatian MICE sector.
Stefan HEISSEL, Inspiria
Stefan Heissel is a Tourism and Economic Development professional with over 20 years’ experience. Born and raised in Salzburg, Stefan studied international economics in Innsbruck, focusing on Tourism. Specializing in Destination Management services across Austria, he has played leadership roles in project execution across the European Community, often working closely cross-border with other DMCs. Focusing on programs serving up to 4,000 participants, Stefan has specialized in product presentations and roadshows for automotive, finance and other industries.
Martin HODI, e+o Vienna
Martin Hodi is the Managing Director of e+o meeting, event & travel agency. Founded in 1984, the agency is a Vienna based full-service meeting, event and destination management company specializing in high profile business events and memorable travel experiences.
Nadja HORVATEK, Illustris Events
Nadja Horvatek is the General Manager & Co-Owner at Illustris Events d.o.o. and one of the most recognisable faces in the region.
Miro HRIBAR, Intours DMC
Miro Hribar is a Co-founder and Managing Director of Intours DMC. He has more than 25+ years of experience in the travel business and more than 15+ years of experience in running the destination management company covering the creative destination management services, incentive programs development, meeting and conference planning, event planning.
Andrew HULEWICZ, Mazurkas Travel
He is considered by many to be the forerunner of the industry in Poland. In 1990 he founded the Mazurkas company, whose activity was initially focused on the sale of F.Chopin concerts. Over the years he expanded and concentrated on Congress and Incentive Travel. Among his successes, he highlights EOS 2014 congress (over 2,000 delegates), Euromat 2015, IPSA 2016, delivering a series of meetings under the Polish Presidency of the EU. In 2016, Mazurkas received the status of the Main Partner of World Youth Day, during which organized a stay for 10,000 people.
Edgars KUZMANS, 3K MANAGEMENT
Being ahead of the curve has been Edgars and 3K approach since day one in the meetings and events business. In 2020 he has led his team to several award-winning online and live events and Latvia becoming the new phygital event hotspot in Europe. Edgars is also still active on both sides of the MICE curtain not only producing but also hosting events himself as moderator.
Cengiz KORKMAZ, Dekon PCO
Cengiz is actively working in the congress industry since 1994. Within his carrier, he worked on executive levels until he joined Dekon in 2000. He grew Dekon rapidly and he has done successful management purchases since 2004. Since then, Cengiz is the Chairman of the Board of Dekon which has turned into a group of companies and gained a strong position in the congress market. Cengiz is 45 years old, speaks German and English. He is active in different sector organizations and Vice President of the Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Center.
Tomaž KRUŠIČ, INK Conferences
Tomaž is in the business for 20 years, effectively running the INTOURS DMC company. In the beginning, MICE projects were organized only in Slovenia, but through the years the network of offices was spread also to Split, Dubrovnik and Montenegro. Together with his partners in the company and creative team, they managed to bring the INTOURS DMC among the best regional DMC’s. This is proven every year through numerous network of agencies and agents from all over Europe and the USA, which trust their projects to him and INTOURS DMC. Through all those Tomaž is years active in promoting the region, as well he gives a lot of effort in improving the quality of service of local suppliers and fair conditions for all involved partners in the whole process.
Wolfang LACKNER, Mondial
The Austrian based family-run company Mondial GmbH & Co. KG was founded in 1966. Mondial nowadays comprises four business divisions – Congress-, Destination- and Travel-Management, and Corporate Events & Incentives, with 172 team members in total. Daily room allotments in more than 750 hotels in Central Europe, in-house ticket office, tailor-made tours and transfer services – these are just some of the elements making up the portfolio of Mondial’s Destination Management.
Petr MARHOUL, C-IN
Petr Marhoul is the founder and General Manager of C-IN. His agency provides the highest level of services specialising in congress and association management, corporate events and special event production.
Daniel MARUŠIĆ, Dubrovnik Travel DMC
25 successful years in Meetings & Events made Daniel and his teams from Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split the no.1 DMC choice for Croatia. Sealed by Platinum AAA credit ratings and numerous other business awards, DT lead by Daniel remains as the safest DMC partner for many years ahead. As a passionated long-distance endurance athlete, he is implementing dedication in every step making DT also to go strong and long!
Ivan MIJOVIĆ, Congress Travel LCC
Ivan Mijović is the Director of Congress Travel LCC, which was established in 2007 as an agency for organising corporate events and conferences.
Eda OZDEN, Meptur
As the Director of Business Development at MEP Destination Business Solutions in Istanbul Turkey, Eda roams the world to build relationships and educate the world about Turkey as a destination. She also aims to raise awareness of the incentive travel industry through her work as a board member for SITE Global Association.
Breda PEČOVNIK,CD Congress Centre
Congress and Events Management Director of CD Congress Centre Ljubljana since 2006, Breda Pečovnik is currently a member of the Slovenian Convention Bureau’s Board as well as the professional international associations of ICCA and IAPCO. She also teaches congress management at a college and faculty in Ljubljana.
Svetlana PILEVA, MACO Congress
Svetlana Pileva is part of the International Agency of Congress Management (MAKO) – professional organizer of scientific and business events.
Vesna PRITCHARD, Globtour Event
Vesna Pritchard runs Globtour Event, an agency specialized in business travel management, organization of meetings and events and destination management. She manages a team of 50 employees in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia, where she has implemented the standards of the leading global business travel management company CWT, being their exclusive partner for over 20 years. She promotes corporate social responsibility in all business segments and as a result, the company has already received several sustainability awards. She is a board member in several industry associations and often speaks as a guest lecturer at colleges and universities. In response to the crisis caused by the pandemic, she founded the first AV studio for the organization of virtual events and conferences in Zagreb.
Annamaria RUFFINI, DMC Events In & Out
She is SITE Master Motivator Award for holding «the highest standard of excellence in creating or executing motivational events». For her outstanding contribution to the Italian tourism she received the Global Award of the World Travel Market and the “Green tourism national award” for her hands-on manual “Ecoeventi” SITE Italy President, International Board of Directors of SITE 2013-2019 and SITE Global President in 2018. She has been recognized among the 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry – She is a worldwide Keynote Speaker and the only Professional to address a Parliament on the topic of the Incentive Travel.
Mirjana ŠALETIĆ, Miross
From the beginning of her professional career, during her studies, Mirjana fell in love with tourism. Especially in Congress Tourism while working for the UNKTAD and Conference of the non-aligned movement which was the biggest event in the history of her country. Before the pandemic, her company fully transformed their business into a digital online agency and they are proud that they have executed more than 600 online and virtual events in this year and are continuing while waiting for the face to face events to return.
Jarmila PIPKOVÁ ŠKORÍKOVÁ, Maxin Prague
Jarmila studied tourism economics and in 1999 she founded her own agency specializing in MICE business, especially in the Czech Republic & Central Europe. Today, Maxin PRAGUE works as a family business: the older son Matus takes care of SEO and online marketing tools, the younger Jakub works in the position of Head of Sales. Thanks to their innovative approach, they also managed the pandemic year 2020, when Jakub, in particular, was responsible for moving teambuilding programs to the online environment.
Snežana VEJNOVIĆ, Talas Montenegro
Snezana Vejnovic is a dedicated professional who has devoted half of her life to position Montenegro among successful meeting destinations. Since 2001 she is CEO of Talas-M DMC where, together with her team, she is creating fairytale stories for her clients. It took a lot of enthusiasm, energy, passion and love to prove that Montenegro has enormous potentials as a MICE-destination and to make local partners understand great advantages of the meeting industry. The most demanding projects and satisfied clients are interweaved into a story of her success.
Sanja VUKOV COLIĆ, Spektar putovanja
Sanja Vukov – Colić wields more than 35 years of experience in the Meeting Industry. She is the founder and manager of Spektar putovanja’s PCO department, and Deputy CEO from 1994. The global Covid-19 epidemic served to clarify the real and relevant industry players. Over the years, Sanja Vukov-Colić has assembled a team of able professionals. Their dedication to the adoption of new technological tools and processes coupled with their tenacity and proficiency has succeeded in proving that the skills, knowledge, and experience of professional congress organizers reign supreme in the Meeting Industry.
Stjepan ŽUNIĆ, Penta PCO
Stjepan Žunić is the CEO of PENTA – Meetings, Conferences & Events Agency from Croatia. He has been a noticeable meetings industry player throughout his career.
HOW SELECTION AND VOTING FUNCTIONS
Candidates were assessed on the following key criteria:
• Achievement of the best financial and other multiplier effects of the meetings industry in 2019/2020 that were significantly above the average;
• Implementation of the most demanding improvements and innovations in their field, including successfully implemented projects that marked the year 2019/2020 as a special one;
• Help in enhancing the reputation and visibility of the meetings industry in 2019/2020;
• Innovations that facilitate the work of meetings organisers, or have shown the direction for the future.
Based on the criteria, we prepare the list and invite readers of Kongres Magazine to vote. The voting lasts for a month (this year from 13th November to 14th December 2020). In each category, we highlight five influencers with the most votes, while the rest of the nominees are presented equally according to alphabetical order. Each year, colleagues that received less than 2% of all votes are excluded from the list. The 2% was set as the threshold for being placed on the list (52 votes in 2020).
The selection is prepared by the editorial board of Kongres Magazine, consisting of five members. The editorial board ensures a comprehensive overview of nominations and oversees voting results. Thereby, the editorial board assures voting credibility. On request, individuals have the possibility of examining the selection results.