Rising to 15th in the latest International Congress and Convention Association rankings, Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, hosted 106 qualifying association conferences and meetings in 2012, with many of those meetings relating to the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
In 2013, Lisbon hosted conferences including the 104th International Rotary Convention, which attracted 20,000 delegates; the European Cystic Fibrosis Conference; and the European Joint Congress of Clinical Anatomy.
For 2014 the city has secured the European Central Bank’s Forum, following a competitive bid process.
“Lisbon is one of the most popular destinations for events from Brazil and surrounding countries as well as Asian markets,” says Executive Director at CPL Events, Linda Pereira. “It is a strong competitor in the association sector and recently major automobile brands have discovered the city with five car brands choosing Lisbon and the surrounding areas for launches. Lisbon is also attracting large-scale corporate events form America and Europe.”
Lisbon is between one to three hours’ flight from most European cities and five to eight hours from North America, with daily non-stop connections to 50 destinations. Lisbon International Airport is four miles from the city centre, where there are over 110 weekly flights from the UK.
“The meetings industry is recognising that Lisbon has much to offer,” says Alexandra Baltazar from the Lisbon Convention Bureau. “Apart from its easy accessibility, its excellent all round mild climate, wide range of venue, its history and culture, it offers some of the most competitive accommodation rates in Europe.”
Lisbon has experienced a busy year in terms of new openings and refurbishments, and now has 135 city hotels on offer, 81 of which are four-or five-star standard, with a further 20 new hotels set to open next year.
New hotel’s opened in 2013 include the five-star Epic Sana which offers 14 meeting rooms, covering 1,760sqm over two floors; the Memmo Alfama, a 42-bedroom boutique conversion in the capital’s oldest quarter; and Hilton’s first property in the city, the DoubleTree by Hilton Lisbon – Fontana Park. In addition to its seven meeting rooms, the 139-bedroom hotel offers a 24-hour business centre.
“With new hotels and an ongoing programme of refurbishments to historical venues, we will continue to invest in our meetings proposition with an awareness that we need to provide those choosing Lisbon as a destination with value for money and a return on investment,” says Baltazar.
Venues suitable for larger conferences and events in Lisbon include the Lisboa Congress Centre, which offers eight auditoriums, five halls and 27 meeting rooms for up to 8,000 delegates and Benfica Football Club’s Stadium of Light, which has capacity for 65,000 guests and 1,525sqm of exhibition space.
The Palácio de Xabregas, which was once the official residence of the Portuguese Royal family, can host up to 1,000 guests in its eight ballrooms and meeting rooms, and offers an internal covered patio, which can accommodate 670 guests.
In terms of the challenges facing Lisbon in the international MICE market, Pereira highlights the need for a larger convention centre, which she says is a long term aspiration of the local industry. “Then it is just about getting Lisbon’s message across and making sure it is not being confused with Spain, and the industry and clients understand that although next door to a major player Lisbon’s offer is completely different.”
For smaller events looking for the wow factor, Lisbon can offer the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jeronimos Monastery, the resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama; the 16th century Torre De Belém (Belem Tower), the city’s symbol of the Age of Discovery, and the Lisbon Zoo with capacity for 300 guests for a banquet.
For those hours pre-or-post conference, Lisbon can facilitate a wide range of activities for delegates to enjoy. “Lisbon has the advantage of being the only European capital with sandy beaches just 20 minutes from the city centre, making it the perfect place to combine business events with leisure and incentive programmes,” says Baltazar.
Creative options for incentives and social programmes include tours by vintage car, tram or Segway; a ‘tasca rally’ of Lisbon’s eateries; a Fado dinner enjoying the traditional sound of Lisbon; a night at the Estoril casino; a sailing day at Cascais; or a jeep safari in the Arrábida mountains.
This was first published in issue 74 of CMW. Any comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org