Milano is where all delegates meet in northern Italy. The city has managed to combine a state-of-the-art business and innovation environment with a strong historical and cultural heritage, to create a unique and conducive network for events.
The Lombard capital has faced a radical urban transformation over the last decade, investing in urban reforestation, smart solutions (read the piece on “Sharing Cities” at HQ #102) and green energy. After all, Milano has always been Italy’s financial and industrial powerhouse, generating nearly €144 billion in total value − more than 10% of Italy’s GDP − and with a GDP of €397 billion − larger than 18 EU countries’ economies. An example of this is Fiera Milano, one of the world’s biggest players in international trade events for all key sectors, responsible for 80 trade shows, 160 congresses per year, and representing 36,000 exhibitors and 4.5 million visitors in the pre-COVID period. Living up to the model of any MICE city, here, business, large-scale meetings and lifestyle go hand in hand, bringing together the characteristics of an international hub, with an excellent transport network, a thriving hotel and restaurant scene, innovation, and – last but not least – la bella vita italiana. That’s the exact premise behind the campaign slogan “Not in Milano”, which rebuts stereotypes and clichés normally associated with business travel, to reshape the city's activity.
Milanese designer Rossana Orlandi, ambassador of the international campaign signed by YES Milano
In 2019, Milano attracted a record number of almost 7.5 million business and leisure tourists (11 million in the metropolitan area) spending at least one night in the city, a 9.4 percent increase over 2018. The city also has a clear vision for the legacy of its events. After hosting the World Expo in 2015, the fair grounds were converted into one of the most ambitious research centres in the world: Milano Innovation District − MIND and Human Technopole, focusing on biomedical research, big data, and preventive medicine.
As we all know the pandemic made us stop to reflect and make the best possible decisions. The Municipality of Milano responded to this challenge, last April, with the launch of a new CVB, meeting the needs of business tourism and MICE operators: The YesMilano Convention Bureau. “Never before have the city’s agents presented themselves as a united front, eager to showcase Milan’s strengths,” said Luca Martinazzoli, CEO of Milano & Partners. “The Milanese business community is very efficient and compact, constantly interacting with our key business assets such as Fiera Milano or MiCo (Milan Convention Centre).” In turn, these two cornerstones of the city also kept stakeholders constantly updated on what was emerging, even in the toughest months of 2020. Some took advantage of this period to update venues, infrastructure and equipment, while urban works advanced, making the city ready to receive business visitors in a conscious and sustainable manner.
Il Duomo di Milano
The vaccination campaign in Italy has significantly accelerated in recent months. “By the end of summer, we will have 75/80% of people over the age of eleven fully vaccinated. Despite the onset of Delta variant, today we have no saturation of intensive care units and hospital beds,” Martinazzoli tells us. Health safety protocols are still in place, applying together with the measures required to ensure that visitors meet the conditions of the EU COVID Green Pass. The director of the city’s promotional agency also confirms that during this year and a half, “many things have changed. Contracts with clients have become much more flexible, our attention was turned to solutions for hybrid events, or with additional costs in preventing contagion.” However, the city and its facilities are looking ahead with a win-win mentality that seeks a balance for all stakeholders.
Milano’s goals are well-defined looking through the 2022 window: Bring in new partners, new sponsors and new requests from potential clients. Unfortunately, there are also wounds to heal, minor players who have suffered greatly and for whom the vitality of the MICE sector is destined to trigger a much-desired recovery. “We are confident in building an increasingly hospitality community with a growing number of ambassadors who can become spokespersons on how productive it is to conduct business events in Milano,” adds Martinazzoli. In 2026, the city will host the Winter Olympics and, as part of Scalo Romana urban renewal project, the municipality plans to redesign the old railway yards located in key areas of the city.
Digital formats, technology and innovation are of paramount importance to capture rising market opportunities in this cosmopolitan city. With the aforementioned integration in the “Sharing Cities” programme and the ongoing urban rehabilitation, the so-called smart technologies are not actually a new thing here. “By becoming an integral part of face-to-face events, tech solutions will help make content spectacular, expand audiences and offer new experiences,” says Martinazzoli. For him, this means that venues’ infrastructure must be adequate, updated to the circumstances, without fear of implementing digital innovations that are becoming more pressing and crucial. Sustainability is also a path that the city, tradeshows and congresses had already started before the pandemic. For example, on the roofs of the exhibition centre, a huge photovoltaic system is about to go into operation, and MiCo is already certified as a Gold Healthy Venue, plastic-free, using only renewable energy. “This is an irreversible trend, attentive to the well-being of all and the protection of the environment that surrounds us. Ultimately, a legacy of the pandemic: the enhancement of ecological awareness,” concludes Martinazzoli.
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