Welcoming the world

// Johanna Müdicken

Meetings amid Alpine scenery, congresses in vibrant cities and sustainability a priority: Austria is a versatile meetings destination with a clear vision.

The Pioneers event took place at Hofburg for the eighth time. Photo: Pioneers/Aron Suveg

The Danube Sail is to make its debut at an event in February 2020. Photo: IAKW-AG/

On the fast track. “Our many national and international guests appreciate us not only for our hospitality, but above all for the excellent quality of our services and innovative strength of our businesses,” says Petra Stolba, Managing Director of the Austrian National Tourist Board, about the pulling power of the Alpine republic. The latest Meeting Industry Report Austria confirms the country’s meetings expertise. In 2018 Austria hosted 21,000 events. The number of guests and overnight stays is constantly rising.

Vienna is well-equipped to handle crowds of visitors, especially with the Wien Holding Arena: The capital is building a new landmark for itself and business events. It will be located in its third district – Neu Marx. Mayor Michael Ludwig describes it as a “beacon project for the next few decades”. The ground-breaking ceremony is slated for 2021. Large events with 20,000 people will probably be hosted there from 2024. Boasting 45,000 sqm, the versatile arena is to be a magnet for corporate and association events.

Vienna’s pulling power is already confirmed by the 2018 figures for the Viennese meetings industry: A total of 4,685 congresses, corporate events and incentives meant more guests and overnight stays than ever before. In the statistics of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the Danube metropolis once again ranks second.

Numerous major events are also scheduled for 2019. At Cytokines 700 delegates will meet from 20 to 23 October in the historical festival halls of the former imperial palace Hofburg Vienna. The Pioneers Festival last May brought together 2,500 guests from the start-up scene.

The country’s largest convention centre, Austria Center Vienna, hosted the European Congress of Radiology with 20,000 delegates in spring 2019. In addition to other major events, the #danubeSAIL modernisation project now takes centre stage. Until 2022 a further 4,200 sqm will be added for events in either closed or open formats. The largest construction project in the company’s history costs around 32 m euros.

New sails have already been set at Vienna Convention Bureau. In February, Christian Woronka replaced long-serving Head Christian Mutschlechner. Woronka’s focus is also on further developing the Vienna brand within the meetings industry.

Salzburg remained the second most popular Austrian federal state for meetings in 2018 after Vienna with 3,575 events. International events will again make Salzburg one of the main destinations for meetings in 2019. At Renexpo Interhydro 2,500 experts will discuss the expansion of hydropower at Salzburg Exhibition Centre in late November.

Salzburg Convention Bureau (SCB) focuses on discourse. “Togetherness in Diversity” is this year’s motto, which is to be used at events. Among other things, there are plans for a poetry slam.

With its regional initiative, the SCB is already highlighting the diversity of its offerings beyond city/regional borders. “Our core task is to make planners aware of the high-quality offers in the Salzburg region and get them interested in organising their next event here,” explains SCB Director Gernot Marx. To this end, there were already two “Open Venue Days” last spring. In autumn there will be a Business Speed Dating event in the Salzburg Residenz.

Be it city or countryside: “Green meetings” and hence projects with a focus on sustainability take centre stage for Salzburg’s meetings industry. In the village of Werfenweng, for example, “soft mobility” with bicycles and electric vehicles is particularly encouraged and used for events. During the “Break the Ice” customer forum at Travelcharme Mountain Resort Werfenweng the concept was presented to 100 delegates. IONICA, Europe‘s biggest green event, once again focused on e-mobility at Zell am See last June.

Tyrol focuses on its USPs. “We build on our unique capability to integrate nature and mountains into congresses, meetings, seminars and incentives,” says Veronika Handl, Head of Convention Bureau Tyrol. With its snow-capped peaks and lush valleys, the region also serves as a perfect setting for green meetings.

Alpbach with its ski and hiking region is known as the “Tyrolean Green Meeting Village”. The eponymous convention centre has been awarded the Austrian eco-label and helps planners organise sustainable events. With a space of 2,000 sqm, it is suitable for congresses such as the European Forum Alpbach from 14 to 30 August 2019. Under the slogan “Freedom and Security”, 5,200 attendees from over 100 countries will meet for discussions.

The restaurant of Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens has received an additional floor after a construction period of 7 months. The latest event space of “Daniel’s Crystal Worlds” offers capa­cities for 120 guests.

In the Kufstein region locations like the Kala Alm at 1,400 metres above sea level offers events with a view for 130 people. Kufstein Convention Bureau recently launched an online tool on its homepage to make selecting a venue easier. Enter your criteria in the “Kufstein Convention Bureau Planner”, and the CB team will provide matching proposals.

In Styria, suppliers attract visitors with regional and seasonal food. In the “Green Heart of Austria”. Indulgence takes centre stage at events. The new “Gärtnerei” at Garden Hotel Ochsenberger in Sankt Ruprecht offers a modern restobar concept with regionally sourced ingredients. The restaurant can be rented exclusively for functions with 60 guests.

Almost 40 times as many visitors (2,400) go into Congress Graz, the Styrian capital’s convention centre. Graz hosted 174 conventions with 56,283 delegates in 2018. The university city is especially popular for scientific congresses. Interspeech 2019 will take place at the exhibition centre from 15 to 19 September. 2,000 international delegates are expected. They will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the expertise, quality and warm hospitality of the Austrian meetings industry.