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Cooperation is Key
May 7, 2015   
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Żaneta Berus, CEO of the Expo XXI Warszawa meetings and exhibitions center, talks to the Voice about what Polish cities should do to host more international trade fairs, conferences and events.

What is the hardest part of the process of attracting international events?

Every international tender comes with strict selection criteria. The challenges related to such a project are best exemplified by one recent major event called the FTTH (Fiber to the Home) Conference. In this case, we had to closely meet the organizational and technical requirements of the FTTH Council Europe organization. So we decided to take advantage of our potential and show it off internationally with the idea that we were completely on a par with other European capitals and venues. After a long bidding process we faced the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, in the finals. We won because we managed to turn what the organizers initially viewed as our weakest point—insufficient access to broadband fiber-optic networks in Poland—into a success. In Bulgaria, broadband fiber-optic networks cover 80 percent of the country, while in Poland it’s less than 20 percent. Therefore, together with our partners, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of telecommunications projects involving high-speed internet access that were planned over the next four years. The study clearly showed that Poland is set to make tremendous progress in this area and is thus an ideal partner for organizing conferences on this subject. Finally, as the only bidder, from the very beginning we supported the FTTH Council Europe and the organizer, the BBDO agency, in issues related to logistics, technical aspects, and the conference agenda.

Does Expo XXI Warszawa use the help of outside partners with such projects?

At the stage of making our bid to host the FTTH Conference we benefited from the help of the Orange company, which compiled documentation related to access to fiber-optic networks in Poland, and when organizing the event, we also benefited from the support of our subcontractors. But the most valuable assistance, from the city authorities and tourism organizations, is still in its infancy. We can see that the situation is slowly changing and that there is a growing awareness of the potential that such events have for the city and the country—an awareness of the role they play in promoting tourism destinations and stimulating tourism. Therefore I hope that we will soon manage to translate this dialogue into joint action and that venues and organizations supported by their cities will seek international tenders, following in the footsteps of venues such as Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Munich and Dusseldorf. There, special signs are posted along access roads, at airports and in train stations during exhibitions and conferences, and participants are eligible for discounts on public transportation and to cultural attractions, and the organizer receives support in promoting an event. In Poland, cities such as Kielce, Poznań, ŁódĽ and Gdańsk stand out positively in this area. They are not only active in making bids, but are also eager to promote events in their publications.

What kind of advice would you give to those who want to host international conferences and trade fairs?

The key to Expo XXI Warszawa’s success is in each case the excellent preparation of the venue and an experienced team of people, both employees and partners. Today we host 40-odd large, several-day fairs and conferences every year. Around 20 percent of these are international events, and a further 30 percent are locally organized events attracting foreign exhibitors and visitors. But there was a time when we too had to take our first step, gain valuable knowledge and experience. That’s why we would tell other venues and organizations that they should go ahead and take part in international tenders without having any hang-ups about it. This is the only way they can ensure the development of their company and take the plunge into the international meetings industry.
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