Unfolding New Trends and Opportunities at Conventa 2024

Southeastern Europe's leading regional trade fair has returned with a host of new features.
22nd Feb, 2024
Conventa 2024, held in Ljubljana this week, outlined some clues about the regional direction of meetings and events to a large European audience.
As the event celebrates its sixteenth anniversary, the organisers have underlined the event's positions among the global events (IMEX and IBTM) and the smaller business forums (m&i Forums and MCE Forums), while remaining firmly among the sector's leading events (The Meetings Show, AIME, ITCM China). 
Since 2009, Conventa has welcomed 3,639 buyers and 1,975 exhibitors, who have held 49,263 business meetings. This year, the number of meetings held will increase by more than 3,500. Face-to-face meetings are described as the essence of Conventa, a fair that makes the Slovenian capital the heart of the regional meetings industry every February.

Conventa started 2024 with numerous innovations, including a redesigned and revamped Experience Zone, Special Venues Corner, and the educational platform Conventa Trend Bar. This year, the impressive lineup of industry stalwarts includes 100 exhibitors from the region and beyond and 160 handpicked hosted buyers, joined by stakeholders from the regional meetings industry.

More than 350 participants gathered at the fair from 20 to 22 February, including 112 exhibitors from 16 countries and 162 host buyers from 31 countries, who will be joined by a further 160 guests at follow-up events. Thus, five hundred participants - event professionals from the region between Helsinki and Istanbul and Milan and Baku - turned Ljubljana into the regional centre of the meetings industry.

The tradeshow is dedicated to promoting sustainability and innovation in the meetings industry. One of Conventa’s standout sustainability initiatives is its use of locally sourced Slovenian wood for all event stands, a tradition upheld year after year. By utilising ecological materials from the region, Conventa minimises its carbon footprint and supports local communities, encapsulating the spirit of sustainable practices.

Speaking on the 16th edition, Gorazd Čad, the co-founder of Conventa, said: “Conventa is like a marathon, where you have to be persistent, know how to stand out and be different and aspire to improve each year. The path to achieving results matters, too. The daily team effort and passion count the most. Our team also has a bit of teenage boldness and creativity, embodied by the song "Grow Old" by Aka Neomi, which participants will hear throughout Conventa.”

A revolution for sustainable events with Planet Positive Event

This year, the organisers rolled out Planet Positive Event, a tool developed by a group of leading Slovenian experts in sustainable event transformation. The organisers will go beyond measuring the carbon footprint by checking if Conventa meets ESRS Standards.

Every year, attendees have the unique opportunity to engage in one-on-one meetings where they can discuss business matters in depth. These sessions allow participants to delve into professional topics while getting to know each other personally. The organisers also encourage sustainability by inviting guests to bring their bottles back, which are then recycled. Additionally, the event features a gastronomic offering with a predominantly vegetarian diet, showcasing local and sustainable cuisine, adding to the overall enjoyment of the event.

In the Experience Zone, attendees could experience a host of captivating experiences. Walnut Grove presented guests with innovative event concepts like axe-throwing and painting, promising to spice up any gathering. Damn Plastic presented ingenious alternatives for reducing plastic usage while inspiring sustainable practices. Complemented by exhibitors like Go.Opti, KNOF, WEM, Woom Connect, and others, the Experience Zone offered a platform for exploring and learning different concepts visitors can incorporate into their business practices.

Gorazd Čad, captured the spirit of Conventa by describing its lively, youthful energy and comparing it to a high-spirited sixteen-year-old, referring to the event’s sixteen-year tradition: “Conventa is celebrating its sixteenth edition that we compare to a rebel teenager that is bold and creative. In two years, we believe Conventa will stride into adulthood as a responsible event with upstanding personal values, with sustainability its forte.”

Networking with the help of artificial intelligence

Among Conventa’s most important partners was the Austrian company B2match, a pioneering company that implements AI to enhance business matchmaking. In the past year, the company unveiled a slew of new functions based on AI that Conventa’s attendees can take advantage of.

New destinations and exhibitors at Conventa

Several new destinations and exhibitors presented their services at Conventa. Three Polish destinations have joined Conventa: Mazovia Convention Bureau, Poznan Convention Bureau and Silesia Convention Bureau. A host of new hotels also entered the Conventa circle too, including one of the region’s most luxury stays, the St. Regis in Belgrade, alongside Hotel Nomad Bjelašnica and Hotel Imperial Plovdiv. Conventa also hosted Air Montenegro, Slovakia Travel, Intercontinental Sofia, Bespoke DMC and the City of Novi Sad. 

Decision-makers forum CONVENTA Crossroads

Organised by the Slovenian Convention Bureau in cooperation with the Slovenian Ministry of Economy, Tourism and Sports, this exclusive event convened 37 decision-makers, including ten representatives of leading regional destinations. Concurrently with the event, a bilateral meeting took place between the Montenegrin Minister of Economy and Tourism, Goran Đurovič and the Slovenian Minister of Economy, Tourism and Sports, Matjaž Han.

The organiser of Conventa Crossroads, Fredi Fontanot, emphasised that there has, unfortunately, not been a platform that would connect representatives in the meetings industry with policymakers in politics and other decision-makers. “At the event, we wish to connect and empower stakeholders about economic, societal and regenerative effects within our industry. Moreover, we wish to present best-case examples from our industry and why the best meeting destinations are successful globally.” Fredi added: “We wish to prompt meaningful dialogue about the future.”

Ljubljana Talks press conference

The format of this press conference was different than usual. Gorazd and Jan hosted an in-person Ljubljana Talks session with Petra Stušek, Fredi Fontanot and Kamern Novarlič, who delved into the latest trends and tourist season 2023, as well as reflected on the future challenges for the industry. The speakers outlined that Ljubljana is progressing greatly with 82 international events hosted last year. Petra Stušek mentioned that AI has advantages and drawbacks, but event organisers must know how to use technology responsibly. On a final note, the speakers concluded that Slovenia is indeed a trendsetter in many ways, not least in its sustainability efforts.

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