‘You can’t explain what I have experienced’, say visitors to the Wadden Sea area. After visiting this region from 14–15 October, specifically Esbjerg, Ribe, Fanoe Island and the Wadden Sea National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, I’d like to share with you what particularly impressed me and in my opinion made this experience so one of a kind. This was our visit to the Wadden Sea, which, according to UNESCO ‘is one of the last remaining large-scale, intertidal ecosystems where natural processes continue to function largely undisturbed.’ Furthermore, the date of our trip was intentionally selected to experience the Black Sun phenomenon, which is an extraordinary natural wonder to witness in autumn and spring.
In my previous post highlighting this newest MICE destination of Denmark—the Wadden Sea Area—, I shared with you the background about Meet & More, which forms part of Business Esbjerg, and their scope of venues and activities for corporate events. As the name indicates, there is more to the meeting element, and in the Wadden Sea National Park, there are several activities that you can take part in that make for an outstanding, once-in-a-lifetime experience that can’t be enjoyed anywhere else and will add much ‘more’ to the business event.
In June of this year, I attended a corporate event in Italy for the first time. It was in Trento, a mountain destination close to Switzerland and Austria. I visited some highly unique venues (one was previously a tunnel, the second a museum), had the best pizza I’d eaten in years, took coffee breaks highlighting Italian’s best espresso, and loved the warm hospitality of local people, some of whom couldn’t speak English, but I always found a way to handle the situation. This business trip was a short getaway, but it felt like holidays and not a conference. I set for myself a goal to explore Italian’s MICE destinations further.
Strong international growth for Italy
Fortunately, this opportunity already materialised this year when I attended an event organised by ENIT (the Italian National Tourist Board) on 22 October at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. This event was part of the annual roadshow in three German-speaking countries, and after Zurich continued to Munich in Germany and Vienna in Austria. This year marks the 100-year anniversary for ENIT, which is responsible for promoting Italy internationally as a travel destination. Since 2016, ENIT has had a new business structure that optimises resources in order to increase the efficiency of expenditure and promotion to foster the growth of key geographical markets. Its promotional activities have been proved successful, and in 2018, Italy surpassed France in international overnight stays, and it’s catching up with Spain. Italy also has very strong performance in the association meetings market, and according to the 2018 ICCA rankings, it ranked sixth internationally and fifth in Europe for the number of meetings that took place.
Event Planners are constantly on the lookout for new and emerging MICE destinations that will exceed the expectations of even the most well-travelled and experienced business travellers. Such meeting destinations should be yet unexplored, but at the same time easily accessible, have modernised infrastructure and diverse offerings for incentive activities that can be organised alongside the business programme. I’m thrilled to introduce you to the newest meeting destination of Denmark, located on the South Western coast, Esbjerg, with the surrounding Ribe, Fanoe Island and the Wadden Sea.
From 14–15 October 2019, Thomas Loris and I visited Esbjerg with Meet & More, which forms part of Business Esbjerg, to experience first hand what this region has to offer for corporate events and to relaunch the concept of Meet & More. The name in itself is self-explanatory, meaning that this is a meeting destination, but when event planners choose to host their event in Esbjerg, there is much ‘more’ to this. Event planners can integrate an experience into nature, explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Wadden Sea National Park or take a short ferry trip to Fanoe Island. And furthermore, an important aspect is the strong industry focus and the core business areas of Esbjerg, which are strongly linked to the energy sector.
Recently, I’ve been asked what trends I see for the MICE industry for 2020. One of these trends, in my opinion, is the rise of the 2nd– and 3rd-tier MICE destinations. These are the rising stars of the MICE industry; they are smaller, affordable and offer good value for money but are still under the radar for the particularly large conventions. The 2nd– and 3rd-tier destinations have matured to serve the local and national MICE markets and developed rapidly to win international congresses.
After visiting some of the most surprising off-the-beaten-path destinations this year including Mainz, Starnberg, Karlsruhe, Calgary and Trento, on 12 September 2019, I was in Kassel on a business trip to attend the Illerhaus Marketing MICE Branchentreff event, where I was an exhibitor; I met local event planners and shared information about the upcoming Event Planners Talk Conference from 27–30 August 2020 in Bern, Switzerland.
Back in June, I attended Traverse, a conference dedicated to content creators and the blogging industry. Each year it takes place at a different destination, and this year it took place in Trento, Italy. The event has established itself as the most important gathering for content creators, and after attending last year’s edition in Rotterdam, I decided to attend again. One of the highlights of this concept is that it doesn’t have the usual ‘conference’ format, but rather a festival-like atmosphere with an extensive pre-conference programme and social activities, taking place during the week, with an educational conference being held on the weekend.
I purchased an early bird ticket, and until the very last moment, I was hesitant whether I should go because this period turned out to be a very busy time of the year. After many considerations, I decided to go and was very glad that I did because it exposed me to useful educational content, and I got to visit a new MICE destination. Unfortunately, I had to skip the pre-conference activities and could come only for the conference on the weekend, arriving Friday night and leaving Monday morning. The good thing about this event was that the overall programme provided an immersive experience of the city beyond the conference venue, so I still got to see enough of it to get a rounded destination experience.