Conventa Doesn't Want to Grow Old... or Too Big!

8th Apr, 2024

In a market dominated by global fairs and national business exhibitions, it's always worth highlighting industry gatherings revealing an inclusive narrative focused on regional thinking and collective progress. Considered by the organisers to be a bold industry rebel, Conventa was also a mature standard to follow in the discussion of AI, sustainability and urbanism.

Manuel A. Fernandes reports

This year's Slovenian show welcomed around 120 exhibitors and more than 160 hosted buyers, bringing together planners from 42 different countries. To date, Conventa has welcomed almost 4,000 Hosted Buyers and these buyers have met with more than 2,000 exhibitors, holding almost 50,000 meetings in these 16 years. More than five hundred event professionals turned Ljubljana into the place to be in the meetings industry, with several new exhibitors answering the call - three new Polish destinations, a host of new hotels and several regional industry heavyweights from Eastern Europe. Based on elevating sustainability and innovation in the local meetings industry, this tradeshow held in Ljubljana from 20 to 22 February raised the bar by promoting several new initiatives such as a revamped Experience Zone, a Special Venues Corner for one-to-one meetings, and the Conventa Trend Bar educational platform. On Wednesday 21 February, attendees flocked to one of the city's multifunctional venues, the Cankarjev dom, to watch the Meetings Star 2024 awards. The gala, which aims to be the "Michelin" guide to the meetings industry, recognised the best destinations, venues and individuals in fifteen categories that opened up to new geographies, markets and classifications.


Those in charge in conversation

At the Ljubljana Talks press conference, Gorazd Čad, co-founder of the show, was joined by Jan Orsic and Petra Stušek, respectively Head of Conventions and CEO of Ljubljana Tourism, Karmen Novarlic, Head of Department Business Communication at Slovenian Tourist Board and Fredi Fontanot, Director of the Slovenian Convention Bureau, strategic partners of this event and co-creators of a space that has been making a name for itself on the European scene. The two-day business meetings took place at the GR - Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre with the event spreading across different venues in the city - all 20 strategic partners, including catering companies, almost all the hotels in Ljubljana, DMC agencies, private transport companies, also show the cooperative ecosystem of the event. “Growing up alongside a teenager like Conventa was, from Ljubljana's perspective, a journey full of challenges and joys. It was one of the rare events that took place in 2020 and has continued and adapted in the years since. However, as the event grew, it also made a beautiful crossover that resulted in Crossroads,” said Stusek.

Organised by the Slovenian Convention Bureau in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Tourism and Sport, the Conventa Crossroads political forum brought together 37 decision-makers, including ten representatives of the main regional destinations, to discuss the importance and opportunities unlocked by business events from a social, economic and tourist point of view for this small European country. In fact, the meetings industry has previously been defined as one of the four leading products in Slovenia's tourism strategy until 2028, and is considered one of the products with the greatest potential for future growth. "At the event, we wanted to connect and empower stakeholders about the economic, social and regenerative effects on our industry, as well as demonstrate why the best meetings destinations are successful worldwide," said Fontanot, the seminar's organiser. Alongside the event, a bilateral meeting took place between the Minister of Economy and Tourism of Montenegro, Goran Đurovič, and the Minister of Economy, Tourism and Sport of Slovenia, Matjaž Han.


Slovenia's figures and strategies

When we look at recent history, 2023 was the first year that was completely open for business, which also means that competition grew worldwide. Ljubljana not only remained stable in the context of the meetings industry, but strengthened its position in the visitor economy by receiving approximately 1,110,000 arrivals totalling more than 2 million overnight stays. As a reference for 2019, this meant 1.3 per cent fewer arrivals and 2.3 per cent more overnight stays, which illustrates a shift in the Convention Bureau's strategy towards extending visitors' stays, whether in a leisure or business context. These figures reinforce the rapid recovery of Slovenian tourism in 2023 with 72% of overnight stays generated by foreign travellers, and an extensive investment cycle (accommodation, ski centres, public infrastructure) over the last two years, worth almost 360 million euros.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Slovenian Convention Bureau now has 73 members (including hotels, venues, service companies, DMCs and Tourist Boards) and aims to connect this interregional network and tap into the potential of other MICE hubs such as Bled or Maribor for the circular offer of large conventions, incentive groups and corporates. "In addition to the existing political strategy, it is important to emphasise the points concerning talent development and education, which are crucial for the next generations, technology and innovation, investing in the great technological race of the 21st century, and betting on the right data systems to help us have efficient decision-making for our future tourism development," said Mrs Noverlic. Among Conventa's most important partners is the Austrian company B2match, a pioneering company that has developed an AI network platform to improve corporate matchmaking and host in-person, virtual, or hybrid communities.


Planet Positive Event

As one walked through the centre's corridors and halls, it was impossible to ignore Conventa's sustainable record, visible in the recycling of materials, the reuse of resources and the organic decoration of the stands, a tradition maintained year after year. The event was the first to be evaluated by Planet Positive Event, an innovative tool developed by Toleranca Marketing and Arctur that impressed the audience with its excellent user experience, ease of use, technological advancement and complexity. Planet Positive Event is a holistic web app enabling event organisers to see whether their event complies with ESRS Standards, measure their event’s carbon footprint and learn how to organise events sustainably. The creators were among the first to combine a state-of-the-art carbon footprint calculator, precise criteria for sustainable events, a certification system and external evaluation following the ESRS standards for sustainable reporting, in order to classify the regenerative of a given event – a holistic approach to all the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. “To sustainably transform Conventa, we tested numerous tools, calculators, and methodologies - but something was always amiss or didn’t function properly. That is how we decided to develop our own solution. Planet Positive Event is the brainchild of Slovenian know-how, innovation and technology, developed by event organisers for event organisers,” said Gorazd Čad.

Five main sources of Conventa's carbon footprint:

  • 72.16% Mobility
  • 12.40% Energy
  • 10.47% Hotel accommodation
  • 2.48% Catering
  • 1.13% Waste and water

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