ITCM talks with Maxime Tissot, General Manager, Marseille Tourist Office & Convention BureauMarseille is France’s second largest city, but by far the oldest. It can find itself in records going back over 2,500 years. The image that appears outside France in many people’s minds is one that probably comes more from old French films rather than a knowledge of the Marseille of today.
It has the old port, yes, and a fair amount of industry in the region, but if that’s all you know, then you should get in touch right away with the city’s convention bureau – the Marseille Office de Tourisme et des Congrès – so that they can bring you up-to-date.
‘Marseille is very well known all round the world’, says Maxime Tissot, the office’s General Manager, ‘but not the Marseille of today. We are working very hard to inform people of what Marseille has to offer. Fortunately, the fruits of our work are beginning to be seen. Marseille is on its way’.
In September 2012, in the very chic designer café called Sketch in Mayfair, London, Marseille was prominent at a workshop that brought Provence as a whole to meet the UK MICE market.
But Marseille had the big story to tell, as in January 2013 it starts its year as European Capital of Culture. At last, Maxime has his broader canvas on which to paint a picture of the real Marseille of today.
‘We are increasing the emphasis’, says Maxime, ‘on Marseille as a destination for MICE events and new venues and amenities are being introduced all the time.’
The impressive original building of an old silo in the docks has been converted into a concert hall named Le Silo. It has two spaces, the main hall seating 1,700 for a conference and the smaller one up to 136.
On the seafront the CeReM willopen in January 2013. Short for Centre Régional de le Mediterranée, the CeReM will be remarkable in having two main public areas, one of which has been constructed under the sea and the other seemingly suspended in the air.
Another January opening will see the J1 hosting exhibitions and feeding visitors. It is a converted warehouse at the Vieux Port alongside the ferries. People attending events in its 2,000sqm of space will also enjoy views across the port.
Symbolic of the changes taking place are further conversions, taking old buildings and giving them a new life as event spaces and visitor attractions. The FRAC is a new home for contemporary art collections and also an exhibition facility, whilst the Panorama used to be a tobacco factory and is now, from January, to be used for exhibitions and the presentation of contemporary art.
Of course, the Marseille Convention & Exhibition Centre must not be overlooked. With 120,000sqm of modern indoor and outdoor space, it is one of France’s major venues – and a 3,200-seat conference facility is now being added in the form of a mobile auditorium.
‘Marseille sees itself as a fun destination’, says Maxime Tissot. ‘Yes, it stages many serious, commercial international conferences and exhibitions, but it has another side. For example, just a few weeks ago it was the destination chosen to hold a gathering of the owners of Minis. About 15,000 enthusiasts came from all over the world and they were all accommodated in the Marseille area.’