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The Warsaw Voice » Business » January 9, 2008
Special Section TOURISM
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Business Travel in Poland
January 9, 2008   
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Business travel, or business tourism, is travel for work purposes, be it for business meetings, conferences, trade fairs, training sessions or exhibitions.

Business travel has been growing slowly but steadily. This form of tourism is highly specialized and profitable, and contributes significantly to regional and metropolitan development. The importance of business travel is best illustrated by the fact that travel agencies derive more than half their income from it. Large commercial organizations spend copious sums on conferences and business trips, giving a boon to hotels.

Not only is business travel the primary source of income for many hotels and conference organizers, it helps even out the seasonal nature of tourism. Poland is becoming a more favored destination for domestic and foreign business travelers alike.

More than a quarter of the tourists who come here are business travelers and Polish firms spend an estimated zl.10 billion on business travel. Domestic business travel has been broadly estimated to generate zl.15 billion of income annually. Sixteen million tourists come to Poland every year, according to the Institute of Tourism, and the number is growing 3-5 percent annually. More than three quarters hail from neighboring countries, with other EU states excluding Germany making up the majority.

More than 4 million tourists come to Poland a year on average on business, more than 3 million for recreation and sightseeing, and just under 3 million to visit friends and relatives. Most business tourists come here from the "old 15" EU member states.

Transit visitors account for 2.5 million, while 2 million come here to shop. Reasons for visiting Poland vary greatly depending on nationality. Thirty-five percent of business travelers are from the "old 15" EU countries, excluding Germany, 25 percent from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and 19 percent from the new EU member states.

More than a quarter of the foreign tourists here are on business. According to the Institute of Tourism, nearly 2 million of the foreign business travelers who come to Poland are German, followed by Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians, with just under 1 million.

Of the 760,000 EU business travelers who come here excluding Germans, 130,000 are Dutch, 100,000 Austrian, 100,000 British, 85,000 Swedish, 75,000 French, and 60,000 Italian. Visitors from the new EU member states make up 390,000, while non-Europeans constitute 150,000, of whom 70,000 are U.S. citizens.

The number of business tourists here from Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and Belarus is above average.

Over 30 percent of business travelers represent corporate interests, while 33.6 percent are self-employed. Eight percent of business travelers come here for conferences, while a mere 2.3 percent come to trade fairs and exhibitions.

Business travelers account for more than $1 billion, or some 31.1 percent of Poland's income from tourism every year.

Trade fairs and exhibitions attract 100,000 foreign tourists every year, according to Institute of Tourism figures. A recent survey shows that their average length of stay is 4.3 nights, compared with 2.9 nights for business tourists generally. Only 17.5 percent arrange their bookings through travel agencies. Some 92.8 percent stay in hotels, motels or boarding houses, against 73.1 percent for business tourists in general. The average number of visits is 2.7 as against 4.1 for business tourists generally. Ninety-five percent visit large cities such as Warsaw, Poznań, Cracow and ŁódĽ, while the most frequently visited provinces are Mazovia, Wielkopolska, Małopolska, Lower Silesia and ŁódĽ. Criticism is at the lower end of the scale for business travelers. Some 13.4 percent complain about sanitation, compared with 16.8 percent overall; 6.3 percent complain about services, compared with 8 percent overall; and 11 percent complain about accommodation costs, compared with 22.9 percent overall. A whopping 53.5 percent, however, complain about travel conditions; 95.4 percent arrive by car, and 87.2 percent have college degrees.

How can Poland attract more business travelers? Trade fairs are a must, given the world is in the middle of a trade boom. Poland needs to get behind trade fair supremos like Brazil, Russia, India and China. There's no way Poland can compete with Germany's 140-odd fairs with over 160,000 exhibitors, half of them foreign. Nor will Poland be attracting 10 million visitors anytime soon, but it should be able to double its present figures over the next decade. Let's just hope we get those freeways built in time for Euro 2012.

Several new facilities scheduled to open shortly may lure some more business tourists. New buildings to host fairs and exhibitions are in the planning or construction stages, while some old ones are being refurbished and adapted. The Centrum Expo XXI international exhibition center in Warsaw, which opened in September 2001, is a case in point. The center, which covers 10,000 sq m, is the capital's first state-of-the-art trade center. Two-hundred events, drawing around 700,000 visitors, are organized annually. A new trade center, the MT Polska Warsaw Trade Fair and Congress Center, is due to open in 2008. The first stage will comprise a 10,000 sq m exhibition hall with an adjacent 600 sq m entrance hall, a 600 sq m conference center, and a 2,000 sq m open-air exhibition area. The new center has been designed with the latest safety standards, equipment and telecommunications infrastructure to stage world-class exhibitions and will have plenty of parking both above and below ground. The center will be able to accommodate 10,000.

Categories of business travel and events

n Business travel and tourism is a broad concept. There are 15 categories of business travel and events with or without accommodation. These are: local or regional conferences and meetings; international congresses and conventions; training; fairs and exhibitions; incentive travel; promotional events; short-term stays for work purposes; exchange trips for students and academic staff; trips connected with new product launches; delivering goods; military visits; charitable visits by nongovernmental organizations; diplomatic visits; individual business trips; daily commutes.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), business travel is the third most popular form of traveling, after visits to friends and relatives, and recreational trips.

The European Union classifies different types of travel on the basis of duration. Trips shorter than 12 consecutive months are further divided according to purpose. This might be attending a conference, meeting, congress, seminar or trade fair. Trips longer than 12 consecutive months or those that involve commuting to work are not counted as tourism.

Konrad Bagiński
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