The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » Monthly - April 19, 2016
Poland - Meetings Destination
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Meetings Industry in Poland: A Sector with a Future
   
Conferences, conventions, exhibitions and other business meetings constitute a well-defined and powerful sector of the economy in highly developed countries, accounting for up to 6 percent of their GDP. In Poland, meetings are a rapidly growing sector of the local economy, yet the industry eludes official statistics.

The meetings industry in Poland provides tens of thousands of jobs and generates billions of zlotys in sales. It is a sector with a future, one offering quality service and high intellectual value. Last year Poland’s Ministry of Sports and Tourism estimated that the sector accounted for 2.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

A number of state-of-the-art convention and conference centers have opened in Poland in recent years. Most of them are located in the country’s largest cities and are interlinked by an efficient network of new freeways, expressways, railroads and airports. Top destinations such as Warsaw, Cracow, Poznań and Katowice have recently been joined by Kielce, a city 200 km south of Warsaw with its buoyant Targi Kielce exhibition center, and by the historic eastern city of Lublin with its brand-new LCK convention and conference center. Many meetings are also held in the northeastern town of Ostróda, picturesquely nestled among several lakes. Businessmen and local governments nationwide have discovered that the meetings industry is a tremendous business opportunity that is worth investing in.

Meetings industry professionals from across Poland gathered at the fourth Meetings Week Poland convention at Warsaw’s PGE National Stadium venue March 14-18. Held annually since 2013, the event took place at the stadium’s conference center, drawing around 1,500 professionals, including organizers of conferences, conventions, exhibitions and other business events.

As in previous years, the Meetings Week Poland kicked off with a Poland Meetings Destination conference organized and hosted by The Warsaw Voice. The conference was opened by Sports and Tourism Minister Witold Bańka, who said that the prospects for the meetings industry in Poland were very promising. He added that his ministry would “support all initiatives aimed at fostering the industry’s further development and increasing its contribution to the country’s GDP.”

According to Juliusz Kłosowski, Poland Meetings Destination Program Director and CEO of The Warsaw Voice Multimedia Platform, topics discussed on the first day of the conference were “of strategic importance to the development of the meetings industry in Poland.” This year, conference participants and guests debated the status of the meetings industry and inbound business tourism as well as the role of the industry in Poland’s development. They sought to answer questions about the benefits that the industry’s faster growth could bring to the Polish economy and how this could change Poland’s image abroad. The discussed topics also included the promotional effects of investment in the meetings industry and its impact on other sectors of the economy. Finally, conference participants talked about policy tools that should be used to back the industry.

The meetings industry helps create jobs both directly and indirectly. It stimulates sales and exports, encourages creativity in companies and promotes knowledge and culture. The industry is a powerful drive for other sectors that work with it.

The meetings industry plays a major role both globally and locally given that meetings are a key part of human culture and civilization. In 2012, the industry provided almost 2 million jobs in the United States and its contribution to the U.S. GDP totaled $115 billion. It also injected around $28 billion into the U.S. federal budget in tax money. In Britain, the meetings industry accounted for 3% of the GDP in 2011, or around £58 billion. Britain’s meetings industry gives jobs to 500,000 people, which is twice the number of those who work in the telecommunications industry.

Poland’s meetings industry has huge potential for further growth. The Polish economy would get an extra boost if the industry’s contribution inched up to around 3 percent of the GDP, which is the average level in other developed EU member states. The question is how Poland is supposed to achieve this.

Those taking part in the panel discussions during this year’s Poland Meetings Destination conference agreed that one way of doing this would be to invest extra funds in local tourism products. Cities and regions should be given opportunities to launch extensive campaigns to promote themselves abroad, according to members of local convention bureaus in Warsaw, Poznań and Wrocław. Funding could come from local tourism fees modeled after those popular in other European countries as well as the United States.

Delegates from several convention bureaus agreed to join forces to lobby for regulations to enable Polish local governments to collect a daily fee of 1 euro or so from hotel guests. The funds would be specifically spent on tourism services related to the meetings industry.

According to the Polish sports and tourism minister, it is vital for politicians, government officials and local governments to have a better understanding of the meetings industry’s importance to regions and cities. “This will benefit them all and, as a result, the country as a whole,” said Bańka.