Kongres Magazine talked to Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, CEO of Graz Tourismus, about the role of destinations in times of crisis. Dieter explained why human-centric cities such as Graz should focus more on cooperation than competition.

INTRO 1: How would you describe your destination if you could only use two to three words?

Graz? True Love!

INTRO 2: Which destination do you believe is your biggest competition?

On the one hand, there are other Austrian cities with strong Universities besides Vienna. On the other hand, there are European University Cities of comparable size and accessibility. I strongly do believe in “cooperation” instead of competition. Let’s share some clients among some similar destinations. Ljubljana would be one example of this.

Which destination is an inspiring role model to you?

Vienna is doing great but out of reach! Many Scandinavian cities are doing a great job. I like places where events of the meeting industry create a legacy in the place!

Q1: How do you see the recognition among the top ten meeting destinations evaluated according to the Meeting Experience Index?

We are very happy to be part of the list since we find ourselves among a fine selection of cities that do show competence and know-how in the field of the meetings industry. And although some capital cities are part of this list too, these places offer so many advantages that are highly appreciated by delegates as soon as they get there. For instance, how easy and convenient it is to get around!

Q2: What sets your destination apart from your competition, and what will ensure you have a competitive edge in the future?

We can offer the historic venue in the very centre of the old town, plus a modern centre with much space just a little outside of the centre but still within walking distance. Additionally, there are capacities at the Universities. The Universities and research institutions are key assets too. The know-how is just there. Last but not least, it’s a great place to visit anyway, and it’s still one of the best-kept secrets in European City Travel, combined with extremely friendly people and great hospitality. We do go the extra mile!

Photo Credit: Graz Tourismus

” I like places where events of the meetingS industry create a legacy in the place!”

Q3: We live in uncertain times; in the past two years, we have learned how to battle the crisis caused by the corona crisis and face the economic crisis caused by the war. How does your destination cope in such challenging times?

Small is not only beautiful because small also stands for flexibility. That did help a lot in the challenging times since March 2020. We were very positive that the association business – driven by our local Universities – would recover pretty quickly (like in 2008/2009), and that did become true. The researchers came back very fast.

Q4: How do you foresee the future of the meetings industry in the next decade? What topics must the industry address immediately?

Sustainability is one of the big topics, and the industry has to be honest. We already did a lot and will do even more in the future regarding lodging, catering, transport, adopting meeting facilities etc. But the travel from point A to point B will stay as a challenge, even when the cities have solved the last mile a long time ago. Online and hybrid meetings have shown their limits in efficiency and outcome and are not the solution. Combinations with pre/post-tours or vacation stays will give more sense to the use of flights.

Photo Credit: Graz Convention Bureau

“Not every trend has come to stay. Use your common sense, do believe in people instead of algorithms.”

Q5: How does your destination stay up-to-date with the turbulent changes sweeping the meetings industry? What is your advice for our readers?

Keep your eyes and ears open, and don’t panic. Keep cool. Not every trend has come to stay. Use your common sense, do believe in people instead of algorithms.

Q6: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals? What is your advice for young talents starting their careers?

Let us demystify our industry. We need to open the doors to the youngsters to give them an idea of what is really going on inside the meeting rooms and what is going on behind closed doors. They will find out that this is a fantastic, challenging, exciting and meaningful industry to work in.

Photo Credit: Graz Tourismus

” an event should leave attendees satisfied, and all those who followed it online or through media should be sorry they were not part of it.”

Q7: Where are you positioning your marketing efforts this year and the next?

Cooperating with the University Scene stays at the centre of the efforts. But also, they are engaged on both the national and international level and, therefore, it’s not so much about certain source markets but more on keeping the focus on the association business.

Q8: Your partners are possibly the most demanding meeting planners. What is it like to work with them and meet their needs?

Routine! No matter who needs services, 100 % dedication and red-carpet-marketing is our daily business!

Learn more about Graz Tourismus here.

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