Somewhere in a wonderful southern city, in a conference centre whose name I do not care to remember, not long ago…
Once again a prestigious industry journal has published figures from one of our members alongside the statement that, in 2014, they hosted “almost 500 events, 63 of which were congresses, conventions and professional conferences…”
With figures like that, what can we do but welcome the news and express our admiration for a venue which is amongst world leaders, doing better than cities like Vienna, Paris, Berlin, London and Singapore and far better, of course, than little cities like Madrid and Barcelona?
There are currently around 80 conference centres operating in Spain and, although the recession has brought many projects to a standstill, others are waiting in the wings, ready to emerge as soon as the economy picks up.
The majority of these buildings were publicly funded and in many cases, the authorities which did so thought no further than the initial investment required to construct them, without taking into account the high operating and maintenance costs. To cap it all, they even encouraged competition between cities located in the same province which, objectively speaking, should have complemented, not competed against each other.
There are also a whole host of other facilities (in hotels alone, around 85% of four and five-star establishments have meeting rooms) offering event tourism. Accordingly, many meetings are held in these buildings, in universities, in the facilities of professional associations, as well as in marquees, convents, theatres, wineries, country estates, cinemas, museums, stadiums, and other singular buildings which, in some cases and incidentally, do not seem to be “entirely fair competition” (VAT, free services, Corporation Tax…). There are even rumours of the possible appearance of “boutique garages”.
I wanted to want to believe it… but I couldn’t.
At the association’s last assembly in Madrid, the idea that 2013 had been a bad year for business at the venues we manage was put on the table for the first time. In the corridors, people were even acknowledging that some had had “the worst year ever”, that this had been going on since 2012 and that 2014 wasn’t looking much better. So, to provide an objective perspective on the situation, we agreed to put out a message of tranquility which was fully justified by the general economic situation.
Imagine our surprise when we began to see statements involving huge hikes in business activity, completely exorbitant economic impact estimates, buildings that were technically insolvent with disproportionate figures, venues with accumulating deficits that had had millions injected into them but were crowing about their successes (companies’ financial figures ought to be in the business register incidentally…).
The New Year is a time when we make many voluntary resolutions and also face many challenges because, whether we like it or not, in a globalized world what’s “out there” affects us all. At the moment, we are being bombarded with terms like liquidity, credit, debt, reductions, trust and capital, all rather abstract terms on the face of it, yet they all point quite simply to the need to work out new ways to relate to each other, And what’s at the heart of this new form of networking is Human Capital. PEOPLE.
Looking outwards, we need to get closer to our clients. We need to generate loyalty, to secure and retain our clients by anticipating their needs and requirements. We need to provide the best possible customer service and treatment, to get to know the client and their tastes and preferences with a view, in our case, to creating made-to-measure events rather than standard products.
In this regard, APCE is innovating through the use of new tools to bring us closer to event organisers and make their work easier either by providing information about the current situation in the industry (programme of events and up-to-date information), or by creating tools that will facilitate the search for the ideal venue (Venue application form).
The term long-tail was coined by the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson. It refers to businesses that sell very specialized products to clients with very different needs and whose business is only viable thanks to new technologies and the internet.
If we transfer this concept to our own field, it invites reflection on how conference centres have managed to gain ground in comparison to other venues in a world offering a wide range of options through specialization and versatility and by allying themselves with new developments in technology to supplement traditional face-to-face meetings with new ways of holding “experiential” events using virtual tools.
It is as part of this culture of diversity with its new business models that conference centres have become the benchmark for the organisation of large meetings and there are many studies which attest to the leading role of these venues in the organisation of more complex meetings.
One of the headlines in the media over the last few days has been the death of one of the key technological figures of our time, Steve Jobs, the “alma mater” of Apple.
Although Jobs is no longer with us, his boundless contributions to design and innovative creations, which took Apple to the summit of the computer product world, will remain with us forever in the pages of the company's history.
In parallel, the appearance of conference centres in Spain also revolutionised the traditional world of event venues. These centres, built by prestigious architects, have been the driving force behind the transformation of urban landscapes and the creation of new leisure and service areas, as well as attracting knowledge to their various locations across Spain. As our anniversary video shows, a conference centre is more than just a meeting point — it is another type of agora for companies, science and social encounters.