Germany is becoming increasingly popular as an event destination. But with a sharper profile regions and cities could notch up far better performance.
The German meetings industry closed the business year 2011 on an absolute high, with altogether 338 million participants attending 2.72 million events. This lifted the number of events by 1.2%, while attendance jumped another 4.5% in comparison to the already very positive previous year. International attendance held steady, edging up just 0.1% to 5.9% of the total.
So much for the results of a survey of 3,900 German service suppliers – event centres, conference hotels and special event venues seating at least 100 people in rows in the largest hall – and more than 12,500 meeting and event planners worldwide (corporates, associations and agencies). The response rate averaged 4.2%. Initiators of the study are the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC), the GCB German Convention Bureau and the German National Tourist Board (GNTB). The 6th Meeting & EventBarometer was conducted by the Europäisches Institut für TagungsWirtschaft (EITW) at Harz University.
In terms of the number of events, the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) ranking shows the US as the only country to host more international congresses than Germany. All told, the experts counted 577 international association congresses in Germany, 35 more than in the previous year. Berlin likewise maintained its outstanding fourth place on a global comparison of city destinations. The German capital notched up 147 international association congresses, a year-on-year increase of nine meetings.
Top of the world
But when it comes to popularity as a meetings and event destination, the Meeting & EventBarometer 2012 rates Germany top of the world – ahead of the United States. Bavaria heads the list of most popular German regions, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg. By this reckoning the top five German regions are unchanged on the previous year.
Among the cities, too, the organiser survey revealed constancy at the top. As in 2009, Berlin is the most popular conference city, ahead of Munich and Frankfurt am Main. Hamburg moved up two places and now ranks fourth. Among the German metropolitan regions, the Berlin/Potsdam conurbation maintained its year-earlier lead. The Rhine-Main region slipped to third place after the Bavarian capital. The regions Stuttgart and Dresden-Leipzig-Chemnitz have gained ground, now occupying sixth and seventh position on the list of most popular locations for meetings and conventions.
Rural locations also attractive
But an outstanding scenic location with good transport links also makes rural areas attractive to international organisers. Of the coastal regions, the Baltic coast is way out front in planners’ favour. The Bavarian Forest leads the field in the middle mountain regions, and in the Alps and pre-Alps Upper Bavaria around Munich is the region of choice.
“Once again this year Germany has underpinned its position as the number one meetings and conference destination in Europe and the number two globally,” Matthias Schultze, general manager of the GCB, says of the results of both studies. “But competition is getting constantly tougher, so we must take advantage of this upward trajectory to identify future trends at an early stage, to gear our services and marketing to this and to create synergies. Only then will we be able to maintain our position going forward.”
Businesses are main organisers
The main users of events in Germany are businesses. 51% of all congresses, meetings and events are organised on behalf of companies. Associations, clubs, organisations and private individuals are the second most important customer category (15%), followed by cultural institutions (13%). Scientific and academic institutes and organisations come fourth (10%). Almost 60% of all corporate meetings in Germany can be allocated to the sectors banking and insurance, medical, chemical and pharmaceutical firms, commercial and service companies and the automotive industry.
Roughly two-thirds of all events are booked directly from the provider; indeed, companies book almost three-quarters of their corporate meetings without using an agency as an intermediary. 40% of planners said their budgets were higher in 2012 than in the previous year. Only 18.5% had to cope with reduced funding for their meetings and events. Considerably more organisers than in 2011 report very generous budgets, with 20.7% of the organisers polled commanding funds of between € 1 and 5 million. (+4.2%). 10% could even draw on more than € 5 million (+4.3%). At the other end of the scale, more than half of organisers had to make do with € 500,000 maximum.
The incidence of seminars and meetings showed a particularly steep increase last year: their share rose from 64% to 68%. Most of the conferences, meetings and events organised in Germany are small: 65.9% register attendance of 100 maximum, 28.7% 101 to 1,000 attendees and only 5.4% audiences in excess of 1,000.
Increase in supply
The past two years’ uptrend has also driven an increase in supply. At the moment the country has 6,614 meeting and event venues to offer, up 3% from last year – with exceptionally strong growth in the number of special event venues by 4% to 1,758. Conference hotels – by far the largest supplier group in Germany– can point to a 3% jump on the previous year, with 3,268 properties. The lowest rates of increase (+2%) are to be found among congress and event centres, which form the smallest numerical group with 1,588 facilities. “The expanding supply of special event venues serves as a good indication of the economic strength of the meetings market in Germany. New, innovative, climate-friendly facilities equipped to the latest technological standards heighten German meetings destinations’ appeal. But in addition we must also take care to ensure that regular investment keeps our entire portfolio of meeting venues competitive,” EVVC President Joachim König insists.
93% of suppliers and 82% of organisers are convinced of the growing importance of networking organisers with the specific local industry expertise located in a meeting destination. Yet so far a scant 29.2% of destinations communicate these specific skills in their marketing. By sharpening their profile here, German cities and regions could generate more events. “Event venues need to focus even more on becoming competent partners for local industry and science so that, in pursuit of common goals, they can boost the entire destination’s clout and visibility. The statistics from the Meeting & EventBarometer are clearly telling us to develop new strategies in this regard and to approach the leading business players in our destinations,” König comments.
Six areas of expertise
Together with specialists, the GCB has defined six areas of expertise in which Germany’s destinations put down markers the world over, creating a perfect environment for events in the respective sectors. These are medicine and healthcare, transport, logistics and traffic, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, technology and innovation, energy and the environment, and financial services. “By presenting these various economic and scientific skills that Germany possesses, in its areas of expertise strategy the GCB specifically courts the custom of suitable meetings and congresses,” Schultze explains. “Towards this end the GCB establishes contacts with world-leading companies and the most important associations and organisations in the respective industries. Additionally, our new website features considerable content on the areas of expertise in Germany’s various cities and regions.”
Over the last year the percentage of suppliers that have integrated a sustainability management system into their business climbed by 10 to 37.7%. More than one in every three service suppliers has thus firmly enshrined their sustainability effort in their organisational structure. About one-third have their commitment in this field audited by independent certification bodies. With this performance Germany has continued significantly to expand its competitive edge in the sustainability stakes. 86% of planners are convinced that the importance of Green Meetings will hold steady or even increase further.
Organisers take a positive view of the future for meetings and events. 98.5% and 96.6% respectively expect meetings and conventions to gain in significance or hold their present level. And fully three-quarters (79.6% and 76.3% respectively) of the organisers interviewed also predict good times ahead for events and incentives.