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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » July 29, 2009
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July 29, 2009   
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Katarzyna Ratajczyk, director of the City Promotion Department of the City of Warsaw, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

What are the main promotional plans for Warsaw for the next 12 months?
First of all, we are gearing up preparations for the 2010 Year of Chopin celebrations. We have prepared an audiobook tour guide for mp3 download, which is on our website www.um.warszawa.pl and www.itunes.com as podcast. It is a sonically guided tour of the Warsaw of Frederic Chopin's youth and provides an intimate glimpse of 19th century Warsaw and the early years of the world famous composer. There are 14 Chopin places that people can physically go and visit around Krakowskie Przedmie¶cie St. We are also making a film about these places, which will be on our website soon.

While we have a long-term promotional plan for Warsaw, it in a sense sets its own agenda. We will host a Special Olympics in 2010. In 2011 we have Poland's EU presidency, which for Warsaw and for Poland means many meetings at various levels and that also translates into tourism and promotion of the city. That is also the year in which we will start promoting the Euro 2012 soccer championships. And it is also the year when the final selection will be made for the European Capital of Culture in 2016, for which, of course, Warsaw is competing.

What is being promoted in that competition as unique to Warsaw?
Firstly, Varsovians are active people in many fields, there are many non-government organizations working here doing interesting things. In the cultural sphere a lot is happening in Warsaw, including a large number of festivals. Another interesting phenomena of Warsaw is that it is a city that has had to recreate and redefine itself many times, after World War II, and earlier in 1918 when Poland gained its independence, and most recently in 1989 when Poland regained its freedom. Culture in Warsaw is a good vehicle for showing that; we have a large number of theaters, shows, exhibitions and creative events, including music of every genre. We have here many foreigners and tourists, and the fact that we are at the East-West crossroads is also important with a big potential for promotion of culture.

How do foreigners perceive Warsaw?
That is a difficult question. We don't have specific research in this area. However, I can definitely say that a Western European who hasn't been to Warsaw associates the city with World War II and communism, and apart from that knows little about our capital. On the other hand, those foreigners who come here and look around the city are positively surprised: that it is a big city, a modern city, that there are a lot of good restaurants, so many places to see, and so on. The clash between their previous perceptions with what they see when they get here is a great eye opener. They are surprised that there is so much here, that it is a vibrant, exciting modern city.

Does that imply that Warsaw ought to be promoted more abroad?
This is gradually changing. Currently no one can afford to adequately promote in all the European countries at the same time. Promotion of a city is not like that of say, television sets. Not everything can be covered with promotion and advertising. The fact that former Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek has been elected to lead the European Parliament is more important for Poland's image than 50 advertising campaigns. And it is similar in the case of a city-one important event in which many people are involved is priceless. Such an event that builds a city's brand is for example the Olympic Games. And we have the Euro 2012 soccer championships, which also work in a similar way. Of course, that is not to say that we do not conduct regular promotional campaigns, but they are in line with our financial means. The brand of a city or, as it was known in the past, a city's reputation, is built over many years; it is not an overnight process.

How does your department cooperate with the Warsaw Destination Alliance?
We are developing a good working relationship with the Warsaw Destination Alliance. For example, the WDA's most recent offer of special weekend packages with LOT Polish Airlines and 5 star accommodation in Warsaw hotels was discussed with us, which means that having such information I could further promote this offer at a recent City Break exhibition that I attended in Gothenburg, Sweden. I am certain that our close relationship will continue to bring good tourism results for Warsaw.
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