INTRO 1: How would you describe your destination if you could only use two to three words?
Charming, picturesque, lively.
INTRO 2: Which destination do you believe is your biggest competition?
If you asked me two or three years ago, I would have named a couple of cities without hesitation. As external events and circumstances have been changing rapidly in recent years, we must be ready to observe the destination’s popularity and competitiveness changing just as fast. That also means that the biggest competition can be anywhere now.
INTRO 3: Which destination is an inspiring role model to you?
It may seem surprising, but it was the city of Bangkok, very distant from Central Europe, which impressed me greatly with its performance in the 2022 Global Destination Sustainability Index, jumping into the top 30 and showing strong resilience for the purpose.
Q1: How do you see the recognition among the top ten meeting destinations evaluated according to the Meeting Experience Index?
Prague has placed better in previous years, but the differences in scores are so minimal that there is only a 0.17-point difference between the 1st and 10th positions. Again, this is another factor proving that it is impossible to name a few other destinations as a competition when, in fact, it can be dozens. We see all destinations in the top ten as evidence of very intense competition among the destinations and also Prague’s position as a strong motivation for the next year.
Q2: What sets your destination apart from your competition, and what will ensure you have a competitive edge in the future?
I have already mentioned that the differences among various successful destinations are still very small, if any. These days, it is reasonable to build on timeless values, such as the preserved character of the monumental old town and the overall atmosphere in the destination, while, at the same time, keep on building and strengthening local alliances with research, science, technology or creative industries institutions to assure that the city is attractive for the world-class experts to bring their meetings.
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?
Although, according to our statistics, the number of meetings that have taken place in Prague in 2022 reaches only up to 68% of the 2019 (last „pre-Covid“ year) result, it is already twice as many as we had in 2021. We can see the impact of the war and of the price inflation has not halted the recurrence of meetings, and the full effect might only manifest itself this year. But after the initially hesitant attitude, even the overseas clients show their growing interest in taking their meetings to the city of hundred spires in the coming years.
In 2021, Prague City Assembly approved a memorandum on increasing the tourist tax to CZK 50 (approximately EUR 2) per person and night. The accommodation fee has thus doubled starting in January 2022, but what is most important: the finance raised for the taxes will be reinvested in improvements and support to tourism, and a part of it will be allocated directly to the meetings industry. Hopefully, this will contribute a great deal to facing any future turbulences successfully.
Q4: How do you foresee the future of the meetings industry in the next decade? What topics must the industry address immediately?
During the pandemic, virtual events allowed people to meet despite physical distancing, and they even very often gave rise to new connections. Nevertheless, human nature makes us long for in-person meetings. We should embrace emerging technologies and use them to make meeting experiences more attractive for the participants. The balanced combination of human and technological elements is the key to success in future years.
Sustainability is another matter of fact: there is no doubt that in ten years, the social and environmental impact of every single meeting will play a major role when planning an event and selecting a destination or a venue.
Q5: How does your destination stay up-to-date with the turbulent changes sweeping the meetings industry? What is your advice for our readers?
Generally said, it is vital for most organisations in all industries or areas to keep their finger on the pulse of the times. As a convention bureau, we need to reflect on the changes in the destination just as swiftly as we have to react to developments in the meetings industry. And we need to be ready to identify potential opportunities and take decisions almost immediately. For example, when the Hybrid City Alliance was launched to support hybrid meetings around the world in December 2020, Prague became one of its four founding cities. At the same time, we seek collaboration with partners in the city, such as science and research organisations or technology institutes: together, we are stronger.
Q6: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals? What is your advice for young talents starting their careers?
The meetings industry demonstrates intrinsic characteristics that make it very attractive, and we should focus on communicating this to new potential talents: it offers countless opportunities for networking, benefitting from working on multicultural projects with new technologies and meeting top professionals from various areas of expertise. Prague Convention Bureau has been collaborating with universities delivering lectures at meetings and management courses to share our experience and present the potential of the industry.
Our young colleagues should know that success in the meetings industry revolves very much around people skills and teamwork. Therefore, it is vital for every individual to find the right team they resonate with and establish stable relationships with you can build their future careers.
Q7: Where are you positioning your marketing efforts this year and the next?
With the rise of hybrid and online events, we have been presenting and will continue in our efforts to present unique features of the city, especially of the places and organisations relevant to meetings, worth seeing and experiencing in person. We will also work towards aligning our strategies with the documents the city municipality has been preparing and shall be finalizing in the coming months.
Q8: Your partners are possibly the most demanding meeting planners. What is it like to work with them and meet their needs?
When working with meeting planners, you more or less automatically expect they will be detail-oriented and have demanding expectations. You can meet these only with a strong and experienced team, and in synergy with your local partners. The more demanding a project is, the more rewarding the results are!