pecovnik todorovic kregar
Photo credit: Cankarjev dom - CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana

Slovenia was together with Cankarjev dom and city of Bled chosen as the location for IAPCO’s Annual Meeting & General Assembly in 2024. Cankarjev dom – CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana will, thus, host the world’s leading meetings industry planners. The location was chosen at the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) on the 15th of February.

Kongres Magazine spoke to Director of the Congress and Commercial Programme at Cankarjev dom, MSc., Breda Pečovnik, to Senior Business Development Manager, MSc., Dušica Todorović, and to Congress Management Senior Expert, Alenka Kregar, about what does this win mean for Cankarjev dom and Slovenia, how was it achieved, what they expect, and what is their experience of organising IAPCO in the past.

breda_pecovnik
Photo Credit: Tina Ramujkić

MSc., Breda Pečovnik, Director of the Congress and Commercial Programme at Cankarjev dom

Q: Slovenia was chosen as the venue of the next IAPCO in 2024. What does that mean for Slovenia?

The decision to host the 2024 Annual Meeting and General Assembly of the International Association of Professional Congress Organizers (IAPCO) in Slovenia will raise the destination’s visibility to the level enjoyed by countries benefiting from large financial resources and years-long investment in targeted promotion. This is because Slovenia will host 150 professional organizers from the MICE industry – the world’s leading professionals operating on a global scale who will get the opportunity to experience Slovenia’s finest assets, everything that our country has to offer to a highly discerning visitor, congress delegate, business and leisure traveller. We will give substance to the saying “your reputation precedes you” so that our guests recognize Slovenia’s smallness and loveliness, its natural beauties, safety, five-star experiences, as well as quick reachability from Vienna and Venice, as something exceptional. Slovenia is celebrating its 30th anniversary of independence and its natural beauties rank it in the world’s top 100 sustainable destinations.

Q: And what does that mean for Cankarjev dom who will host the event together with Bled?

As Slovenia’s only member of the International Association IAPCO, Cankarjev dom prides itself on submitting the bid single-handedly, as well as meeting IAPCO’s strict criteria. For us as IAPCO members, being chosen is a great honour and a privilege at the same time. We will demonstrate our knowledge, expertise and infrastructure, as well as position our brand alongside equivalent large PCOs. Situations like this always remind me of a commercial about “a small car with big car attributes” and, in our business, the fact that size doesn’t matter is as indisputable as a mathematical theorem.

In hosting this event, both the venue and destination, as well as all other contributors to the event, will gain visibility. Of course, on condition that the event is implemented with utmost expertise and that Slovenia’s entire tourism industry, both congress and leisure, is involved. IAPCO Annual Meeting attendees are people who have experienced virtually everything the world has to offer. In hosting these knowledgeable guests, we will have to show much more innovativeness and imaginativeness, ingenuity in creating experiences, in order to bridge the gap between ‘almost everything’ and ‘everything’.

Q: What are you expecting and what are you hoping for in regard to outcome of the event for Slovenia, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana?

Our wish is for the PCOs to recognise Slovenia as an attractive destination and that each delegate organises a congress or event in our country, thus – if we use economic jargon – “bringing in the business”. We would like each member to choose Slovenia as a destination for their holidays and explore, with family or friends, its natural features, try its cuisine, meet its warm-hearted, friendly and smiling people, and visit the cultural attractions of Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana, which lies at the intersection of all routes and can serve as an interesting starting point for any traveller. As I have already mentioned, Slovenia, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana and Bled will gain greater visibility on the global tourism map. All of us might even be in for a bit of additional surprise.

dusica todorovic cankarjev dom
Photo credit: Cankarjev dom - CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana, Tina Ramujkić

MSc., Dušica Todorović, Senior Business Development Manager of the Conbgress and Commercial Programme at Cankarjev dom

Q: The announcement was made during the first virtual event by IAPCO on the 15th of February. Were you expecting to win the bid?

That’s right. On IAPCO’s first virtual day in 2021, attended by over 250 participants, Slovenia won the bid as the destination for IAPCO’s 2024 Annual Meeting & General Assembly. You know, we submit each of our bids with the intention of winning it… We always hope and strive for victory and success, and this also holds true for this bid… It is hard to imagine the overwhelming and indescribable joy all of us felt when we learned that after a gap of 22 years we would again host IAPCO AM&GA. Hosting the leading meetings industry players is a great honour, as well as a privilege.

Q: How did you prepare for the bid, what did the candidature include?

This was one of our highly challenging projects that took a few years to realize. The first condition is, of course, having an active membership in the IAPCO International Association. For two to three years, before submitting the bid, I was merely doing research (preparing the ground), gaining information and lobbying the International Association. It was only after all those preliminary steps that we submitted the candidature. We won the bid at our second attempt; Israel was chosen on our first try. The rules relating to candidature submission are very complex and stringent, because IAPCO’s expectations and standards are higher. In addition to all the data concerning the destination, the following aspects had to be highlighted: Unique selling point of our bid, Sustainability, Local Legacy Project and support of UNSDGs, clear actions to support IAPCO’s Mission and AIMS, Budget with indication of registration fee, Social programme and activities, Sponsorship plan, and Outline of programme including themes, speakers and subject matter. We paid particular attention to selecting themes that are ideally suited to our country and present Slovenia as a green and ambitious destination.

Q: Which Slovenia’s and Ljubljana’s stakeholders will be involved in the organisation of the event?

Esteemed partners supporting the realisation of IAPCO AM&GA 2024 are: Ljubljana Tourism, Slovenian Tourist Board, Slovenian Convention Bureau, Bled Convention Bureau, Grand Hotel Toplice Bled, Jezeršek and Vivo catering, Postojna Cave and many others business partners. Cankarjev dom, CD Congress Centre, will perform two roles, as a professional congress organizer and the venue, providing the premises and technical manpower for IAPCO’s 2024 AM&GA.

We are extremely grateful to our partners and all stakeholders for recognizing the importance and weight of the project and supporting us in our pursuit of excellence. The entire event will do wonders for Slovenia’s promotion, especially after these challenging times…

Q: How are you planning to cooperate with Bled?

IAPCO’s Annual Meeting is always accompanied by pre and post Council Meetings. While preparing the candidature we partnered, among others, with Bled Convention Bureau and Sava Hotels Bled, which expressed strong interest and also supported the candidature. The delegates will thus enjoy a three-day pampering in Bled. I am extremely pleased that the IAPCO Council will be held there, in addition to Ljubljana, because Bled, apart from being a well-known and highly attractive destination, also provides congress facilities. The two-day post Council Meeting will take place in Ljubljana under the auspices of Ljubljana Tourism.

alenka kregar cankarjev dom
Photo credit: Cankarjev dom - CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana, Tina Ramujkić

Alenka Kregar, Congress Management Senior Expert of the Congress and Commercial Programme at Cankarjev dom

Q: You were a project manager at the first IAPCO AM in Slovenia. What is you experience of the event and its impact on the positioning of Slovenia to a world congress map?

I still have many pleasant memories, but the general impression was that as an exceptional event IAPCO AM greatly boosted the positioning of Slovenia also thanks to the delegates’ assessment of the event.

Q: Why?

The programme consisted of very interesting and relevant topics, good speakers, and amazing social events. I learned that IAPCO pays great attention to choosing topical issues and putting new developments in the industry on the agenda. Professional knowledge-building topics are always included. Meetings must always be perfectly implemented but people mostly remember the deviations from – let’s say – ‘the average’. A social event intended to present Slovenia as a green and sustainable destination brought us both fame and notoriety (which we enjoy to this date). We were on our way to Postojna Caves deep in the Notranjska region when our troubles began. The bus filled with leading IAPCO members ended in the snow in the middle of nowhere, but as luck would have it, Slovenia is a small country and friends are everywhere. So, we managed to organise a private brandy party in one of the local inns. Of course, things didn’t go according to plan, but this adventure is still the talk of the town…

Q: What you personally gained from meeting the prominent PCOs – your colleagues and sometimes rivals?

Exchanging views and experience in our field. How to deal with clients and what is the most important role of PCOs. The importance of organizing meetings in the best possible way for clients and attendees. This is still my motto.