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MEETINGS STAR AWARD 2021

Cankarjev dom played host to the online award ceremony of the Meetings Star Award. In case you missed the event, you can watch a recording of the event here.

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The Meetings Star Brochure 2021

We have summarised the key highlights of the event and the explanations behind the award winners in this article. If you want to see all of the Meetings Star finalists and find out more about the best destinations, hotels, venues and meeting professionals, we have prepared a special brochure for 2021.

In his introductory speech, Gorazd Čad emphasised: “Fifteen years ago, we started the Meetings Star project. At that time, this part of Europe was unknown to international meeting planners. We were recognised as a new, slowly rising destination. That is when our system of evaluating meeting destinations, venues and hotels began to develop. With extensive experience in measuring the satisfaction of congress guests, we created the hidden congress guest methodology. I was aware that this approach was the only way to evaluate destinations fairly and objectively.”

“In the beginning, I imagined our system becoming a sort of Michelin Guide of the meetings industry. It took a lot of time and hard work to transform our core idea into an internationally recognized award within the industry. It is one of the few awards of its kind based on comprehensive criteria and standards. We follow a simple philosophy when selecting hotels, convention centres and destinations. Our focus is on the region of New Europe. We wanted to create a benchmark and comparison of the best. That is why we also evaluate destinations outside the region. Our readers, who inform us of undiscovered destinations, also send us their suggestions.”

BEST MEETING DESTINATIONS 2021

The hidden guest assessors evaluate the quality of destinations based on the Meeting Experience Index matrix that includes 75 evaluation criteria.

The winning destinations are the best ambassadors of their countries and deserve recognition for their exceptional results. Thus, it is our honour to present the best of the best in 2021/2022 and congratulate them on behalf of the team behind the project.

XL MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host more than 2,000 congress attendees (36 evaluated destinations)

Winner: VIENNA, Austria, with a final mark of 4.75

Vienna has been placing first on our list since the very beginning of our evaluation. The recipe for their success lies in the close connection among attendees, organisers, and the city itself. There are cities in the world that can prove quite stressful for event participants, and then there is Vienna. It is a smart city that continuously grows while at the same time reducing its use of natural resources. During the corona crisis, Vienna has become home to numerous innovations in the meetings industry. Several start-ups have become trendsetters. Numerous events rapidly transformed into hybrid and digital formats. On top of a well-developed industry, Vienna is a smart city of the future and the best meeting destination in 2021/2022.

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L MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host up to 2,000 congress attendees (26 evaluated destinations)

Winner: TALLINN, Estonia, with a final mark of 4.52

Estonia has become increasingly known as a technologically-advanced country that is home to Skype, Hotmail and Kazaa. One of the best internet networks in Europe and a high level of digital literacy represent the backbone of the development behind Estonia’s meetings industry. It is no surprise that Tallinn claimed the top spot in our evaluation during the corona crisis. The combination of the old, historical and the new, dynamic Tallinn, directed by digitalization, is the city’s winning combination. Combined with a rich offer of congress capacities, diverse special venues, and the Estonian workaholic attitude, it makes sense why Tallinn won in the category of L-sized destinations. The city’s diversity, inclusiveness and world-class organisation can inspire more renowned destinations. Tallinn has become tough competition even for its larger competitors within the category.

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M MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host up to 1,200 congress attendees (26 evaluated destinations)

Winner: Dubrovnik, Croatia, with a final mark of 4.41

Dubrovnik is the flagship of the regional meetings industry and an exceptional mixture of nature and history. Dubrovnik will continue to stay the leading and most iconic regional meeting destination. The city is not just a backdrop for movie productions, as recent groundbreaking changes include renovating and improving the quality of its hotels and advancing services concerning sustainable development. Dubrovnik is a city that has a special flair and tradition and remains the Monte Carlo of the Adriatic. It is capable of hosting even the most demanding events. Cooperation at the destination is particularly praiseworthy and is another reason why the leading Adriatic meeting destination is head and shoulders above the competition.

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S MEETING DESTINATIONS
Destinations that can host up to 500 congress attendees (30 evaluated destinations)

Winner: BOHINJ, Slovenia, with a final mark of 4.05

Bohinj built its sustainable story step by step. The destination embodies five-star, boutique, and green destinations that Slovenia has become known for. With its latest hotel additions, Bohinj has proved to be one of the hottest, most appealing, and authentic Slovenian meeting destinations. If you are a lover of pristine nature and sustainable stories, Bohinj is where you will find one of the most authentic Alpine meeting destinations. Bohinj is a place created for sustainable conference programmes and active incentive experiences. It is a place where you can drink water from the public water supply and its clean streams without any hesitation.

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BEST IN NEW EUROPE
 The best destinations of the New Europe region

WINNER: PRAGUE, Czech Republic, with a final mark of 4,68

Prague’s congress story is reminiscent of Škoda’s automotive story. A decade ago, the company’s offer was a bit dusty and outdated. Today, however, it is becoming increasingly premium. Comfort, spaciousness, reliability, and technology is now associated with the manufacturer. The same can be said for Prague, which has recently become a founding member of the Hybrid City Alliance. After hosting an array of events, the city has proven it can adapt to the new reality. Its well-connected convention bureau has helped Prague strengthen its spot as the number one destination in New Europe. Prague is a city that ensures the best value for money, practicality, and modernity. These attributes helped Prague claim the top spot among all destinations in New Europe in 2021. Prague is already competing with the best destinations across Europe.

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BEST MEETING HOTELS AND CONVENTION CENTRES 2021

The foundation of our methodology is to focus on event planners, event participants and their needs. The evaluation takes place in two phases, including the venue’s self-evaluation and a visit by the hidden congress guest. The hidden congress guest’s task is to objectively evaluate the criteria and present opportunities for improvement. Hidden congress guests are experts with rich experience in event organising and extensive knowledge in the hotel business.

Our evaluation matrix for hotels and venues was named Hidden Congress Guest. The matrix includes 654 evaluation criteria, with average scores enabling hotels to improve in quality. Out of 333 evaluated hotels and venues in 2021, the certificate was awarded to 212 of them.

The winning destinations are the best ambassadors of their countries and deserve recognition for their exceptional results. Thus, it is our honour to present the best of the best in 2021/2022 and congratulate them on behalf of the team behind the project.

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And the winners for 2021 are:

CITY MEETING HOTELS
121 evaluated hotels, 78 hotels received certificates

WINNER: ANDAZ VIENNA AM BELVEDERE, Vienna, Austria with a final mark of 4,97

Hotel Andaz heralds a new era of city meeting hotels where the wellbeing of participants and organisers is prioritized. The hotel’s congress centre is a textbook example of what congress centres will look like in the future. Countless positive comments by satisfied hotel guests prove that investing in fantastic, sustainable architecture pays off.

Hotel Andaz has earned the top spot on our list of the best city meeting hotels because of its unmatched congress centre, easy accessibility, professional and kind staff, and the inspiring offer that shows the way ahead. Thus, it is our honour to pronounce it as the MEETINGS STAR in the category of TOP CITY MEETING HOTELS.

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RESORT MEETING HOTELS
57 evaluated hotels, 47 hotels received certificates

WINNER: GRAND PARK HOTEL ROVINJ, Rovinj, Croatia with a final mark of 4,97

Grand Park Hotel Rovinj is the culmination of Rovinj’s repositioning. The Monte Mulini area has, with the completion of the hotel, become a complete architectural and urban entity. With the addition of a congress hotel and the new marina, a breathtaking space for events has been created. The most ambitious hotel project in the Adriatic has been quickly noticed by international meeting planners. It is no surprise the hotel has hosted a series of the region’s most distinguished events. Grand Park Hotel Rovinj is proof that local experts have succeeded in creating the most luxurious hotel in Croatia and one of the most lavish hotels in Europe.

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SPA MEETING HOTELS
37 evaluated hotels, 21 received certificates

WINNER: LOISIUM WINE & SPA HOTEL, Ehrenhausen, Austria with a final mark of 4,88

The Southern Styria wine region is an excellent example of a land that lives and breathes wine tourism. There are four reasons why Loisium won in this category- firstly, the exceptional architecture. Secondly, the local-infused cuisine. Thirdly, the wine story that astonishes congress guests. Lastly, the wine spa centre differentiates the hotel from its competition. The congress centre is the hotel’s centrepiece, elevated by the elegant outdoor surface suitable for hosting events. Loisium Wine & Spa Hotel Ehrenhausen stands out from the crowd because it prioritises organising events. It is no wonder that hotel guests and, more importantly, event organisers have become enchanted by the hotel that has earned itself the top spot in our evaluation of best spa hotels.

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BOUTIQUE MEETING HOTELS
62 evaluated hotels, 37 received certificates

WINNER: WINE & HERITAGE HOTEL ROXANICH, Motovun, Croatia with a final mark of 4,96

Boutique hotels that consider meeting planners in the design phase are rare.
We dare say that Wine & Heritage Hotel Roxanich was created for smaller business events and incentives. The hotel’s attributes result in an excellent story that we named the Roxanich Experience and seems embedded in Motovun itself. Wine, cuisine, architecture, and the art of living are the reasons why the hotel is fully booked even in corona times. The wine story is the icing on the cake – an experience that guests will surely remember because of the special and unique wine story. The hotel is memorable and exceptionally Instagrammable. Staying in the hotel is a “road movie” through the culture and history of this part of Istria.

CONVENTION CENTRES
38 evaluated convention centres, 29 received certificates

WINNER: ICE KRAKOW CONVENTION CENTRE, Krakow, Poland with a final mark of 4,96

ICE Krakow’s smart design can be interpreted as the ideal combination of congress halls with a fixed setting and multifunctional halls. Projects such as Krakow Network Protocol have placed ICE Krakow on the very top of our list. Only a handful of congress centres around the world have proven such agility and resilience to work in the interest of the entire industry.

The congress centre’s architecture, the excellence of the main hall and the fantastic team impressed us most. Indeed, there are more spacious and larger congress centres out there. However, the entire package of ICE Krakow is incredibly balanced and convincing. It is no coincidence that ICCA chose ICE Krakow for its world congress in 2022.

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BEST LARGE MEETING HOTELS IN SLOVENIA
40 evaluated hotels, 35 received certificates

WINNER: KEMPINSKI PALACE, Portorož, Slovenia with a final mark of 4,96

Kempinski Palace Portorož is one of the most famous hotels in the Adriatic, the flagship of Portoroz’s tourist development. There are several reasons for its domination. Firstly, it is managed by the esteemed Kempinski hotel chain. Secondly, the hotel’s design is a textbook example of impressive hotel architecture from the turn of the 20th century that has become embedded in Portorož’s architectural brand. Kempinski Palace’s gastronomy will satisfy the needs of gourmets and is unmatched by any other hotel on the Slovenian Coast. The hotel’s core is its congress and hotel offer. To put it simply, Kempinski Palace is a superb 5-star hotel that proudly boasts the title of the best meeting hotel in Slovenia.

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BEST BOUTIQUE MEETING HOTELS IN SLOVENIA
15 evaluated hotels, 12 received certificates

WINNER: SUNROSE 7 – HERITAGE BOUTIQUE HOTEL, Bohinjska Bistrica, Slovenia with a final mark of 4,95

If we were to judge by Hotel Sunrose 7, Bohinj is set for a tourism resurrection. With the addition of the hotel, the destination shifted focus to authentic tourism with a high added value. The hotel succeeded by implementing countless details that tell the tale of its history and destination. The hotel deserves the top spot in our evaluation because of the youthful and highly professional staff. The signature local breakfast is another reason on its own to visit the hotel. The hotel does not offer classic conference halls. Instead, there are many spots, like a wine cellar, magical garden, cafe and lobby, which seem to have been made for unconventional meetings. Hidden gems like Sunrose 7 can positively transform an entire destination and blow the whistle on unsustainable mass tourism.

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BEST CONVENTION CENTRES IN SLOVENIA
10 evaluated convention centres, 6 received certificates

WINNER: CANKARJEV DOM, Ljubljana, Slovenia, with a final mark of 4,90

Without Cankarjev dom and its team, the Slovenian meetings industry would not be what it is today. Slovenia’s cultural and convention meeting point is where Slovenian history was written. Cankarjev dom has been the heart of creative congresses and events in Slovenia for the past four decades. Our last evaluation has shown that it has brilliantly adapted to the new corona reality. Regardless of the crisis, the convention centre continued with the renovation and implemented new digital services. With the latest refurbishments, all halls are now more diverse, comfortable, appealing and, more importantly, adapted to modern technological demands. Congress and event attendees can enjoy the rich cultural offer anytime. That is why, according to our evaluation, Cankarjev dom belongs to the top five convention centres in this part of Europe.

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MOST INFLUENTIAL MEETING PROFESSIONALS 2021

This year’s award ceremony marks eight years of our influencer selection. The most influential people in the regional meetings industry will be awarded the Meetings Star for the first time.

Our selection has earned recognition from the international meetings industry through Kongres Magazine’s partner network. Only individuals that meet strict criteria are selected.

Influencers are divided into several comparable categories. That is one of the reasons our selection has become a serious and professional platform. Our colleagues like to say that the list has become an overview of Who is Who in the regional meetings industry.

The two-phased selection concluded with online voting. The list of influencers was viewed by 6.832 people, while 1.711 people cast their votes. Our competition focuses on the overall mark and quality of the nominee rather than the number of votes.

Gorazd Čad explained: “I am proud to say that since the start of our evaluation, we have not received any complaints regarding the methodology. In my opinion, our project boosts the development of the entire meetings industry.”

“Which hotel or destination do I consider to be the best? A question I can hardly avoid. For me, it is all about the team’s professionalism. Above all, it is crucial to understand the needs of meeting planners and the meetings industry. This approach is evident on several levels. This year we selected 217 individuals. They prove that the regional meetings industry is resilient and highly agile. I want to emphasise that the Meetings Star award cannot be bought but has to be earned. That is what makes the Meetings Star competition stand out from other awards. You can find out more yourself by reading interviews with the winners that signal a bright future for our industry. ”

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MOST INFLUENTIAL MEETING INNOVATORS (MARKETING, MICE SERVICES)

WINNER: Nadin Kenderesy, Pr in Hungary, Turizmus.com with a final mark of 4.56

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MOST INFLUENTIAL MEETING SERVICE PROVIDERS 

WINNER: Zsolt Kassai, Special Effects Ltd., with a final mark of 4.78

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MOST INFLUENTIAL CATERING SERVICE PROVIDERS 

WINNER: Dada Jerovšek, Kaval Catering, with a final mark of 4.71

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MOST INFLUENTIAL HOTELIERS (HOTELS AND VENUES)

WINNER: Kyriakos Pozrikidis, Helexpo, with a final mark of 4.81

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MOST INFLUENTIAL MEETING AGENCIES (DMC, PCO)

WINNER: Tanja Bogdanov, DMC Vekol, with a final mark of 4.82

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MOST INFLUENTIAL DESTINATION REPRESENTATIVES (DMO, CVB)

WINNER: Dušan Borovčanin, Serbia Convention Bureau, with a final mark of 4.49

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MOST INFLUENTIAL CREATIVE AND LIVE MARKETING AGENCIES 

WINNER: Ziya Artun, Atolye Group, with a final mark of 4.86

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON 2021

Ziya ARTUN
General Manager of Atolye Group, Turkey
FINAL SCORE: 4.86/5

Ziya is a professional from head to toe and embodies the new generation of event organisers. His list of award-winning projects is lengthy and features projects recognised throughout Turkey. Ziya’s work and effort have been, likewise, noticed by colleagues across Europe. Perhaps what defines him best is his ability to step into the shoes of his clients and event attendees. It is no surprise he swiftly adapted to the new digital event reality and co-founded the virtual platform Alive. The evaluation board selected Ziya as the top influencer in 2021 for his creativity, professionalism and innovativeness that helped him overcome impediments during the corona crisis.

To learn more about why Ziya earned the recognition read his interview for Kongres Magazine: https://kongres-magazine.eu/2022/02/ziya-artun-our-industry-is-always-one-step-ahead/.

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The organisers plan on hosting Conventa Week in August in person. You are welcome to join meeting planners for the B2B event, Conventa Experience, and festival of live marketing and events, Conventa Crossover in Ljubljana!