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MICE Pros Meet in Warsaw
May 7, 2015   
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Poland is steadily working its way up league tables that compare countries in terms of how attractive they are to investors, how business-friendly they are, and what quality of services they provide to international businesses. In some areas, Poland is ranked near the top. That’s not yet the case with the meetings industry.

Compared with some other EU countries, Poland hosts far fewer international conventions, conferences and business fairs—considering the total number of meetings held in the country. Does this mean that Poland and its major cities, where most such events take place, are not attractive enough? That does not in fact, appear to be the case.

Warsaw, for example, has made good use of EU funds, which, combined with the city’s investment-friendly policies, has produced state-of-the-art infrastructure and an overall climate that favors events of this kind. According to Mateusz Czerwiński, director of the Warsaw Tourism Organization’s Warsaw Convention Bureau, the problem is that too few professional conference organizers around the world are aware of what Warsaw has to offer. Over a year ago, Czerwiński and Monika Białkowska, managing director of the Warsaw Tourism Organization, started pondering ways to bring more international events to Warsaw. They discussed the matter every day and ideas were thrown around to start an online campaign, invite more foreign journalists to come on study tours of Poland, and give Warsaw a promotional boost at a major international trade event like IMEX in Frankfurt. One new idea was to invite to Warsaw a large group of “hosted buyers” from around the world, those with the biggest potential to bring conventions to Poland. This may have been an ambitious goal, but it was not too far-fetched. However, hosted buyers are busy professionals and they need more than just a personalized invitation or an ordinary recommendation—especially as their knowledge and experience of the city they would be visiting could usually be summed up as “Not enough information.”

Besides, the cost of hosting around 100 potential buyers and event organizers would be high. Then, it suddenly dawned on Czerwiński: what’s needed is a well-known international meetings industry event held in Warsaw. Such events are widely advertised by trade organizations, which helps spread the word of the new destination to a much wider audience.

One such major event is MCE Central & Eastern Europe, an annual conference combined with workshops and networking and organized by the Europe Congress company. First held five years ago, MCE CEE brings together people whose primary objective is to gather as much information as possible about new destinations, do so in the shortest possible time, and attend as many meetings as they can.

MCE CEE is usually attended by a carefully selected group of buyers and organizers of conventions, conferences and other events. It is one of Central and Eastern Europe’s most important business-to-business promotional events for the MICE sector.

Alain Pallas, Managing Director of Europe Congress, says the organizers thoroughly check the market position and experience of every hosted buyer interested in participating. “For a host city the MCE CEE is an investment, and the authorities expect a return on their investment in the future. Hence our teams put in a lot of time and effort to ensure that the event planners invited have the potential to bring events to the region,” Pallas said.

Judging by previous conferences, good results were guaranteed, as shown by the examples of Prague, Budapest and Bucharest.

MCE CEE had never previously been held in Poland, although it had been organized in other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The idea to bring an international group of hosted buyers to Warsaw turned out to be a success for both the Polish capital and other locations in Poland. Held in February, the two-and-a-half-day event with a packed agenda drew representatives from other Polish cities, including the largest ones keen to see the Polish MICE market grow. They clearly felt satisfied with the event. The conference, which featured around 30 meetings for every participant, became a major promotional opportunity for Warsaw. For most of the almost 100 MICE industry professionals from around the world in attendance, this was their first time in the city. And most of them were pleasantly surprised by what they saw. Their positive impression of Warsaw was further strengthened by visits to places such as the Palace of Culture and Science, the National Stadium, the Expo XXI convention center, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and several high-end hotels in Warsaw. These included the recently refurbished Sofitel Victoria, an icon among Warsaw’s hotels and the main MCE CEE venue.

Czerwiński says this was the first time in the history of Poland’s MICE industry that a single event drew so many meeting planners from abroad. Likewise, none of the previous four MCE CEE conferences managed to gather such a large number of Polish meetings industry professionals, Czerwiński says. Warsaw was represented by 20 MICE businesses and organizations. A total of 250 Polish and foreign participants took part in the event.

“All in all, as predicted, this year’s MCE CEE really did prove to be the most successful yet and the feedback and congratulations from participants have been extremely positive—both about the event and about Warsaw, the host city,” says Europe Congress’s Pallas.
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