Bestival 2022: Freedom, Innovation & Change

22nd Aug, 2022

Bestival is the new gateway for event experts and MICE planners into Berlin’s recovery.

This business festival taking place on 25 and 26 August is included in a package of 13 measures for the next two years to help Berlin’s events industry emerge stronger from the pandemic disruption. We caught up with Marco Oelschlegel, Director of Conventions, and Manuel Wrobel, Head of Business Development, to unravel the topics of this Summer event.

As with last year’s premiere, this cross-industry event will focuse on personal encounters and unique experiences, this time around five different experience areas: Sustainable Berlin; Glamour and Lifestyle; Wild Berlin; Art & Music; and Innovative Berlin.

1) What kind of Berlin can we find in 2022 that we didn’t have in 2019?

Marco Oelschlegel: A Berlin that has adapted to the changes and to a new scenario that we have not yet fully achieved. After the pandemic, our attention has focused on people’s lives, how they live, how they interact socially, how they work. How we can make the different working arrangements more flexible for them. So, it is a Berlin that has adapted but is still reflecting on the different options to be taken. I am sure that we will not have just one option, there will be several ways of working. The city is used to this dizzying change and the constant evolution of time, so I can’t wait for what the future will bring.

2) What purposes do you set out to fulfil with this 2022 edition?

Manuel Wrobel: The end-goal is to bring direct business to Berlin. A lot of Berlin-based travel and MICE suppliers do not have capacity, time or people to travel around global tradeshows like this. The idea is not to brand it as a local exhibition like IMEX, but to make it part of our DNA by promoting Berlin in a creative way, adjusting it to our local industry. The festival last year had 300 visitors and this year we aim to triple the number. Our industry is no longer limited to hotel stays or direct turnover, but is moving forward with new content and stories to meet the clients’ needs. If you look at our programme, you can find five distinct event topics with attractive elements like “Wild Berlin”, where we look at our dance subcultures and party scene.

Of course we will put our sustainability planning in there, as there will be lots of green activities happening by partners. But it’s much more than that − we’re trying to get visitors to experience the various facets of the city without resorting to long formal presentations. On the second day, we will let visitors select their own tailor-made programme. You can choose to follow the fixed programme or create your own city tour. You will receive a free transport pass from us to book as many appointments as you like between venues, hotels, ongoing events, etc.

3) How do you plan to combine the Worlds of Experience you have in store for Bestival with future events and conferences?

MW: Last year we set up a live event and an online event which actually translated into two different events − however, we quickly realised that we cannot offer the same experience. To be honest, we faced some difficulties simulating the same kind of experience and so we skipped the online event completely this year. We are marketing the destination to people who in turn will try to convince their clients about its potential and features. Keeping this message in an online format while trying to recreate the on-site experiences is counterproductive and almost impossible. We conducted a survey among all participants and also received this feedback from online visitors − if you compare an hour in front of the screen with a full day at the destination, respondents have no qualms about choosing the latter. Our belief is to create our own event, our own experiences and network. However, we are using digital resources such as matchmaking tools to arrange meetings, exchange messages, organise agendas to complement an on-the- ground experience.

4) Intellectual capital, legacy impacts and knowledge building are increasingly topical concepts iin bidding for association events. What attention has been paid to these issues in Berlin’s recovery?

MO: We are one of the biggest science hubs in Europe and one of the best student cities in the world. Considering these links with our key industries and institutes, we have followed the strategy of our Berlin city government and our supporting agency − Berlin Partner − which have focused on five different pillars that are key for future conferences. Our goal as a convention bureau is to become one of the most innovative, sustainable and reliable destinations in the world. To achieve this it is essential to build support and strengthen the economy, but also to think strategically about what kind of business we want to attract and what we can extract from these events. And when I say we, I mean society as a whole. Legacy is a very important draw because we are working more and more on the quality of the events we bring here. If an event comes to Berlin, for example, it’s not only the numbers that count, but above all how we can grow as a society from it. By getting more knowledge, by getting new connections and networks, and this is crucial on the path we are on.

5) Is it difficult to make this triage of events that are really worth hosting in Berlin?

MO: It’s a different approach to doing business. Satisfying the supply chain is only one side of it, but if you go to a deeper level, then you have to consider getting in touch with scientists, institutes, politicians, new economies, NGOs, etc. Personally, I find this challenge even more exciting than before, as you can tap into a huge amount of information and knowledge both for your benefit and for your city and communities. It is an unusual path for many convention bureaux, but well worth it.

MW: We live in a world where everything is changing and to keep up with these changes we need to adapt very quickly. To make a difference when it comes to clients and especially event participants, we have to offer experiences. Even because today we are not competing with other international destinations, but with hybrid and online events. If so many people are falling for these online events, we have to create motivation and extra benefits to convince them that Berlin offers something unique and inimitable. A win-win situation for everyone between the local economy and communities, but also for delegates and participants.

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