Elisabeth Van Ingelgem (Director of the Convention and Association Bureau at visit.brussels) and Jean Vandamme (President of Brussels Special Venues) answer some questions and concerns you might have about your upcoming meetings in Brussels.
From November 2015 onwards… It seems that we have been beset by distressing events and indeed, it has been a tough time for Brussels, Paris, Nice and many other European cities. What can we learn from this period in Brussels?
Elisabeth | visit.brussels. It is true that risk prevention has increased and confidence has fallen in many destinations. And our city was not left unscathed. In Brussels, the immediate—and relatively short-term—effect was the decrease of overnight travel. Safety and security questions were on everyone’s lips, and impacted the convivial atmosphere of the functions taking place last year in our capital city. At visit.brussels, we took immediate measures to support and reassure our clients and we launched a worldwide communication campaign .
Jean | Brussels Special Venues. To tell the truth, our venue members and meeting organizers had to face a short-term decrease in bookings and participation levels. And everyone in the industry knows that participants are key!
Brussels Event Venues managers all noticed a significant change in their functions: Their roles were expanded to provide guidance in increasing involvement, and to create and ensure conditions that would allow the greatest diversity of people and organizations to participate. Therefore, we have learned how to help meeting organisers promote their own events.
Do you feel we are in this situation for the long haul? What about the MICE industry in Brussels today and tomorrow?
Elisabeth | visit.brussels. Fortunately, we maintain Brussels as a MICE destination on a long-term basis. As meetings are activities that are planned well in advance, it has partly minimized short-term cancellations and knee-jerk reactions.
If the average hotel occupancy rate decreased by 10% in 2016 in Brussels (61% in 2016, against 71% in 2015), from September 2016 we saw a strong upturn and we expect the situation to be back to normal for the coming months. Last year, 58,60 % of the total number of overnight stays were professional stays (44,1 % MICE and 14,5 % for other professional reasons).
As far as the international meetings are concerned, Brussels is ranked as Europe's number one convention destination, and second worldwide (according to the Union of International Associations). To give just one example, the impact of the 657 gatherings that took place in 2015 gave rise to total revenues of 632 million euros per year, and kept over 18,000 people employed.
Today, many factors are playing a positive role in MICE perspectives for Brussels. These include the general stability of our country, our fast growing number of international organizations based in the city (surpassing 2500 associations), our newly created Association Bureau, the forward-looking industry sectors that are attracting more and more business travellers to Brussels, the most promising countries representing meetings travellers in Brussels – France, England, United States, Germany, and Spain – and the new city ambassadors that represent our city abroad.
Jean | Brussels Special Venues. Choosing a destination and a venue is one of the most delicate decisions an event professional faces. Brussels’ popularity as a meeting centre continues to strengthen: it is the number one European city for association congresses, and looking at the wider meetings and events market, Brussels ranks firmly in the top ten destinations in Europe.
As the largest not-for-profit organisation in our field, our role is more than ever to keep Brussels at the forefront of the events sector and to provide meeting planners with free resources that will help them better organise their meetings. This is why we have launched a new venue finder focusing on planners’ needs and dedicated to put the facts at your fingertips, quickly and for free.
The good news: New opportunities are closer than you think! The outlook is optimistic!
It seems that we have all learned that zero-risk does not exist. But despite the attacks around the world and subsequent dips, the travel and tourism sector is one of the world’s largest industries and always rebounds!
Meetings will always exist, and Brussels preserves its position as a top business destination. We look forward to the city achieving its ambition of reaching 10 million hotel overnight stays by 2020 (compared with 7 million in 2014).