According to the current ICCA ranking, Vienna is the leading conference and meeting destination. Gerhard Stübe, the president of the Austrian Convention Bureau, knows exactly why. In an interview, he explains what makes Austria such an attractive event destination and reveals how small companies can also benefit from Austria's expertise in holding conferences.
Vienna, July 2022: 15,000 radiologists from all over the world gather in the Austrian capital to educate themselves on the latest medical findings available. Coming to life again after more than two years of living through the pandemic, the conference city is seamlessly building upon its expertise of the past decades. That’s because Vienna – together with the entire event destination of Austria on a country level – has long been considered the leading meeting destination for international congresses and conferences. According to the rankings published in June by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the meeting metropolis of Vienna holds 1st place in the worldwide overall ranking for 2021. Insight into the performance of individual countries is given in the ranking of the Union of International Associations (UIA): Here, Austria holds 7th place, also worldwide.
But why exactly Austria? What do cities like Vienna, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck offer participants that explain the quantity and quality of first-class international events? We asked Gerhard Stübe, the president of the Austrian Convention Bureau (ACB).
Austrian National Tourist Office: Austria is considered to be the leading conference destination. Why do so many international events spanning across key sectors like human medicine, research and development, or technology take place in Austria?
Gerhard Stübe: One of Austria's core competencies has always been the bringing together of people from different cultures and industries. The art of hosting runs in our blood, so to speak. Besides that, we have numerous successful research projects from the most diverse universities around the country that are recognised worldwide. This is a union where relevant content merges with general conditions par excellence. And that is one of the guarantees of success for meaningful encounters.
Austrian National Tourist Office: Austria is a big player in the international meetings industry. How can small companies or teams benefit from Austria's experience in the conference industry?
Gerhard Stübe: Looking at the results of the Meeting Industry Report Austria (MIRA), it is apparent that between 100 and 500 participants take part in most conferences. Besides the big cities, event centres and hotels profiting from this, so, too, do medium-sized and smaller destinations, companies and teams. This diversity makes Austria that strong conference destination globally, something it has proven to be time and again for many years.
Event organisers particularly value Austria’s broad and varied spectrum of offerings. Our nine federal provinces present different kinds of event sites – modern, historical, extraordinary – plus landscapes, cuisine and culture, right up to outdoor activities.
Austrian National Tourist Office: Meanwhile, green meetings and sustainability play a vital role in the conference sector. When compared internationally, how well does Austria position itself as an event destination?
Gerhard Stübe: Austria has a crucial role as a forerunner in the European market. Industry and government recognised early on that the conference sector can make a significant contribution towards climate neutrality. In cooperation with the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) and the Ministry of Life, criteria and measures were developed within the Austrian Ecolabel initiative, which have for many years now been the guiding principles for the "Green Meetings” and “Green Events" national environmental label.
Since 2020, the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) and the meeting industry in Austria have been working closely with the German Environment Agency, too. Our neighbouring country wants to further develop its “Blue Angel” certificate based on the model of our “Green Meetings” ecolabel. The long-term plan is to use this to develop a Europe-wide ecolabel for the conference and meeting industry.
Austrian National Tourist Office: And finally, a personal question: In your opinion, what attributes should the perfect conference city have to offer?
Gerhard Stübe: Conference participants need to feel that the meeting destination works in a collaborative and emphatic manner. That makes them feel very welcome, enabling them on the one hand, to concentrate on the essential meetings they have at the conference, and on the other hand, to also get engaged in an exchange with people on-site. Generating added value materially and intellectually is one thing, and the important social impact at the destination, is the other.
Modern conference and trade fair centres in the best locations throughout Austria
Vienna: Three conference centres in the federal capital cover all the needs of major events. Vienna Convention Bureau
SalzburgerLand: Infrastructures that can be used flexibly for all kinds of events. Salzburg Convention Bureau
Upper Austria: Trade fair and conference centres for individual event needs. Upper Austria Convention
Tirol: Extraordinary meeting centres, modern locations and green meeting expertise with a view of the Alps. Convention Bureau Tirol
Lower Austria: Locations for major events with a diverse mix of modern and historical features. Lower Austria Convention
Styria: Conference centres for major events in the green heart of Austria. Styria Convention
Vorarlberg: Space for innovation and inspiration: convention centres and event centres in western Austria. Vorarlberg Convention
Carinthia: Conference centres for every type of event in southern Austria. Carinthia Convention
Burgenland: Easily accessible conference centres located away from big cities. Burgenland Convention