CMW hears from the head of the Madrid Convention Bureau David Noack.
How did you first get interested in the hospitality industry and what was your first job in it?
My first contact with the hospitality industry was during my work at the Spanish Tourism Board in Munich. During that time I worked with many local convention bureaus in Spain that wanted to promote their destinations in Germany. Back in Madrid I had the chance to join the Spain Convention Bureau where I got an excellent understanding of the meetings industry.
Now, working for a city, regardless of its size, gives you a much better perspective of what is happening in the industry as you have a regular contact with clients and with your key partners: hotels, agencies, venues, etc.
What is the bureau’s business model; is it a membership organisation or fully supported by the city?
The Madrid Convention Bureau is a non-profit organisation supported by the City Council. It is a public institution, but we work together with almost 200 companies of the sector, as members of the CB.
Does the bureau operate an ambassador programme and, if so, how has it progressed and which are the strong sectors for the city?
MCB has been developing its Ambassador’s programme since 2008. We run a ‘Recognition Night’, which is a tribute event where the City Council recognises the main personalities of the association industry that each year have supported Madrid and its hosting their congresses.
The sectors most often represented in these Recognition Nights are the medical and scientific industries, but, whatever the sector, this ambassador programme helps us to build a stronger body of advocates of the city.
Which foreign markets provide you with the most conference business and which global areas are you focusing on in particular?
Our nearby markets remain the biggest providers for Madrid, and the UK and France firstly. The US is big, too. We constantly work to make our city better known in these markets, and when if we are talking also about the corporate and incentives market, it is essential to be promoting Madrid on the Asian market.
Has the situation surrounding Brexit affected your business?
Not in these first months; we can’t say we’ve noticed any changes in trends and we have been receiving requests from our UK clients in the same number and level as before Brexit. We will just have to see how the future shapes, but we have to be confident of the fact that companies will keep travelling to Madrid.
Which cities does Madrid see as its main competitors for international conference business?
For the association sector, those of the top 10 ICCA ranking, and in particular: Vienna, Paris, London, Barcelona, Singapore, Lisbon and Copenhagen.
How is Madrid doing in the international incentives market?
I’m sure that, probably because of our climate, our gastronomic, historical and cultural offer, as well as the infrastructure and facilities our city has to offer makes us an ideal destination for incentives. We can also count on a group of professionals with a very original and ‘fresh’ view of the subject.
In terms of promotion and attracting events, our main target is China and its international companies that are moving big incentive groups around the world. Examples of this are the last two we had in 2016, Tiens and Tai Kang (3.500 and 800 delegates respectively).
What are the bureau’s main marketing themes for 2017 and beyond?
We’d like to get over to the international meeting industry the idea that Madrid is a confident destination, safe, with high quality standards of both facilities and services. It is also a vibrant city to be discovered. At the same time, Madrid is a city to be experienced, to be lived, and a place where everybody feels at home.
And what is the pipeline of major events in the city over the next 1-3 years looking like?
In 2017 we have some huge congresses, such as the European Congress of Medical Oncology (ESMO), with more than 20,000 delegates and the 22th Congress of the European Hematology Association (EHA), with 15,000 delegates. The city is also working hard on hosting big city events like the World Pride Madrid that will also takes place this year.
What is Madrid’s main unique selling point?
There’s not a single unique notable selling point as such but I would say Madrid is a surprising destination. Our city stands out for the passion for life and the sense of hospitality of Madrilenians, who will make you feel very good here.
The biggest challenge we face is to make our city well known to organisers who have not yet worked in Madrid, possibly because other Spanish destinations are more popular abroad.
Does the bureau take part in any alliances with bureaux abroad?
Yes, very recently Madrid has been accepted as the 12th member of the Best Cities global alliance. In fact, the decision will be ratified in May, when Madrid will become a member with full rights of this CB alliance.
How do you view the threat to security in Madrid against the international backdrop of terrorism? Is the city doing enough to ensure security for international delegates?
In general terms, our country is as exposed to the terrorist threat as much as any other country worldwide, but I believe that if we can be proud of something in Spain, it is of the intelligence and antiterrorist services we have, real pioneers in the fight against this kind of crime.
Probably Madrid is doing its best in this sense, keeping in mind the hard dose of unpredictability for this threat. Like elsewhere in Europe there is more and exhaustive access controls at the big city events and main venues, as well as a large presence of the police on the streets and at events.
What are the other big issues that affect your business (event tech, sustainability, travel, etc)?
If we can be a leading international destination with a good reputation, we’re obliged to progress in the sense that the market points to. We work each day, not only in the MCB but specially in Madrid Destino, the public company of which we are part, on subjects like updating our technological offer (new apps for improving the information and the experience of travellers, VR and AR as tools to discover the destination, etc). We are working on new formats and ways to present the city to all professionals looking for a better knowledge of Madrid through games and sensory experiences.
What trends are you seeing in terms of demand and supply within the city’s meetings industry?
Probably the main change is related to the hotels industry in Madrid, which is prominently growing and being renewed in response to client demand for more design, the unusual and the ‘wow effect’ in their choice of places to stay and hold their events. There is also demand for 24-hour connectivity and the best technology.
Madrid is in the focus of many prestigious international brands such as W and Four Seasons, and more great hotel openings are planned over the next few years.
We are proud of offering a perfect combination between leisure and business and at the MCB we talk about ‘Making Business a Pleasure’ in in a city where you have a wide offer for meeting spaces and for the culture, entertainment, social, gastronomic and other supplementary experiences as well