Ursula Winterbauer of GCB tells how it is doneIt must be very satisfying to be the continuous bearer of good news. At The Meetings Show in London I met Ursula Winterbauer, Head of International Business for GCB, the German Convention Bureau. She is able to report that for 10 years in succession Germany has been Number One country in Europe in ICCA’s table of association gatherings. Second in the whole world, Germany, with 722 association events last year, is even catching up on the Number One, USA and leaving Number Three, Spain, further behind.
‘Last year’, says Ursula, ‘we welcomed 12.6m business tourists to Germany, of which 55% were for meetings and events.’
GCB doesn’t just sit around and sudy statistics. It is an important driver within this sector. For four years it has been following a strategy that is obviously effective. ‘We now have a planned approach to take us up to 2030’, adds Ursula.
GCB, a non-profit organisation founded 40 years ago, has three main sponsors: The German National Tourist Board, the German Railways (Deutsche Bundesbahn) and Lufthansa. Much of its revenue comes from fees paid by its 200 members that represent about 450 services and facilities. These encompass the convention & visitor bureaux in about 30 cities, convention centres, hotels, PCOs and DMCs.
The strategy has been created from detailed research into what advantages Germany has to offer, matched with which countries and organisations would be most attracted by them. ‘We have pinpointed key industry sectors’, explains Ursula, ‘and we have identified their counterparts in other countries.’
The industries include transport & logistics, energy, medicine, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, financial services and so on. These have been matched with similar sectors in markets such as the UK, the USA, Russia and China. Very evident results are the plan to set up an office of GCB in Beijing and the fact that the GCB website is available in Chinese.
By linking the content of a conference with a destination, added appeal is created to attract event organisers. This regional strategy has proved itself over the past four years.
Coupled with this approach is GCB’s research into mega trends into the future. ‘We have researched’, explains Ursula, ‘into the factors that are going to exert an increasing influence on the type and flavour of MICE events. We are taking into account sustainability questions, of course, as well as demographic change, diversity of topics and even feminisation, as women play a bigger and bigger role in all sectors.’
GCB sees itself as the focal point for the whole of German business tourism to keep abreast of trends and new ideas. ‘In Mannheim later in the year, for example,’ says Ursula, ‘we are hosting a brainstorming meeting on the latest technology for events. It will be attended by up to 30 representatives of hotels, venues and service providers. We will share what we know, what we think will happen next and what organisers are going to require.
‘We can’, she adds, ‘use our strategy to bring venues and organisers together so that events are held in Germany, but all the events must show that Germany always offers value for money, the right infrastructure and level of service. For that reason, too, we are concentrating on training, teaching the people who interface with foreign delegates in hotels and wherever what they need to know about intercultural factors.’