Elisabeth Van Ingelgem, director of the Convention and Association Bureau at visit.brussels, tells CMW what the future holds for the MICE industry in the Belgian capital. She notes that industries, from life sciences to the media are fast evolving in the city, helping to power new demand for conferences and meetings over a range of sectors.
What does the visit.brussels convention and association bureau do?
Our mission is to attract conventions to Brussels. One of the best ways to do this is to foster and promote entrepreneurship in Belgium’s innovative and fast-growing industry sectors. They contribute exponentially to the development of Brussels as an international MICE destination.
Last year, visit.brussels developed a new Association Bureau to serve as a one-stop-shop for associations headquartered in the city. Jan Lichota, former legal advisor for The Brewers of Europe in Brussels, joined the team last winter, helping steer the focus toward anything associations need to set up or run their organization, from human resources to meeting facilities.
We also Focus on international partnerships. The new Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP) links the European capital with Destination DC, Dubai Association Centre and Singapore, giving associations a more global reach and presence, in addition to helping them grow on an international level.
We hear the bureau has plans to co-operate more closely with the science industry?
Indeed. Whether they are start-up developers, aspiring entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers in hospitals, academics, mid-size and larger companies, or even international associations, keeping up with the rapidly changing professional world is a must. We have a dedicated task force designed to assist these sectors in Belgium move into the spotlight on the international scene, by attracting existing congresses and conferences in their fields to Brussels.
What kind of ambassadors do you have and how does the programme of co-operation with them operate?
They’re influencers who, in front of an audience of academics, doctors, European policy makers, deans of universities, chairmen and board members of international associations based in Brussels, scientists, hospital directors and other destination partners, have been able to land major international events for Brussels. Our role is to help Belgian academic and economic spheres focus on the importance and the advantages of having an international event on their specific field take place in Brussels. These ambassadors have organised, annually, 66 trade fairs, conventions and sports events, each with over 800 participants. These events, in total, welcomed 500,000 participants and 9,472 speakers over the past 3 years.
Of course, we wish to develop our services further, so that we can increase the added value that we bring to your events and social legacy is one of them.
We don’t just measure our legacy in terms of overnight stays or delegates’ spending. That’s one aspect, of course, but it’s not a lasting legacy. What we do is measure the outcome of a meeting in terms of quality of care.
Last but not least: visit.brussels is in the process of creating a formal international Association’s Club providing associations with a place to meet, chat and network – this is where visit.brussels’ Association bureau can be translated into something ‘concrete’. Another valuable tool for associations is the annual peer-to-peer European Association Summit — the premier networking forum for international association executives — taking place 30 – 31 May at SQUARE.
Which sectors help form the city’s DNA and what are the fields that are providing current conferences and those that are likely to bring future congresses to the city?
Brussels hosts events from all kinds of sectors, although some of the more popular are life sciences and bio-pharmaceuticals, ICT and technology, green and clean technologies, creative industries, media and business services. We’ve got some incredible talents in these fields and we are fortunate to be able to showcase our city on the international stage through these dynamic sectors. But these are just a few examples, and we won’t stop here.
And what is new in the Brussels venue offer?
The cultural and MICE tourism sector is extremely dynamic in Brussels, with countless venues being regularly renovated and new ones popping up all the time.
There is the Docks Dome, Train World, the Courtyard Brussels EU, the BEL, Euraffex, The Beer temple and the House of European History, all ideal starting points for seeing Europe in Brussels.
To find out more, of course, and receive event support in Brussels, venue guidance and advice on how to make the most meaningful and successful decisions, we offer the services of our bureau absolutely free!