Emily king visits old & new in the central european jewel in the conference crown that is Prague
A compact city with reams of historical venues, convenient transport systems, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, Prague is a conference and meetings hub that could be a breath of fresh air for international delegates keen to explore a heritage destination.
The city’s marketing slogan is ‘Wow Prague InSpires’ and Roman Muska, managing director of PCB, clarifies the word-play: “Prague does inspire while the city also contains more than 100 spires (towers).” Perhaps Prague can inspire delegates to consume not only the city’s attractions but its full offer for conferences and meetings as well.
When it comes to venues, Prague has a lot to offer. Boasting more than 800 hotels and 42,000 beds, delegates are spoilt for choice.
Situated on the hill overlooking Prague’s Old Town and Castle and surrounded by accommodation, Prague Congress Centre (PCC) is in the optimum location for large conferences.
PCC has the biggest conferencing and exhibition spaces in city, with 50 meeting rooms (capacity: 12-24), 18 mid-size and smaller halls (capacity: 70-600), and two large halls: The Congress Hall (capacity: 2,764) and The Forum Hall (capacity: 1,034).
Last year the PCC held three major congresses, the EFFORT Congress (7,000 delegates), Goldschmidt Conference (3,500 delegates) and the European Congress on Obesity (3,000 delegates).
The PCC has 35 congresses confirmed up to 2018, including the 17th World Congress of Anaesthesiologists (12,000 delegates), WONCA Europe Conference (4,000 delegates), the European Society of Gastrointestinal Radiologists 2016 (3,000 delegates) and, of course, the ICCA World Congress 2017 (1,000 delegates). An estimated 80,000 delegates will experience the city through PCC within that time frame.
Alexandre Gausson, sales director at Liberty Incentives, claims that while all the venues in Prague bring a different experience “PCC is ideal for mid-size international congresses as it’s located near large conference hotels Corinthia and Holiday Inn.”
The newly remodelled InterContinental Prague offers 1,700sqm of event and conference space. It has 14 versatile meeting rooms and its Congress Hall can provide facilities for up to 580 delegates theatre style.
Likewise The Prague Mariott Hotel offers 11 conference rooms, a foyer conference floor and more than 1,450sqm of flexible space. The venue can hold any number of delegates from 10 to 550.
“Events in Prague in general have always had positive feedback. As the suppliers/venues have worked with us for several years we know each other very well. The preparation as well as the operations usually run very well,” comments Tereza Havlásková, general manager of global PCO AIM Group International’s Prague office.
Aside from conventional conference venues, Prague has historical venues a plenty for PCOs to consider.
You can’t get more historical in Prague than the Lobkowicz Palace – Prague Castle, which has 12 meetings spaces. Its ornate Imperial Hall is the largest room and can hold up to 350 people. There are also smaller spaces with capacity for 10-150 delegates.
Coinciding with Prague Castle and situated on the Slavonic island, is the Zofín Palace, which is also known for its amazing architecture and rich history. The palace’s large hall has a capacity of 900 delegates.
Gausson says that after organisers see either venue’s location and opulent construction there’s usually nothing else that needs to be said.
Havlásková adds that if she had to choose one venue it would be the Zofín Palace.
If it’s unconventional and modern that you’re looking for, Prague may not seem like the first option, however two venues are worth considering for a unique conferencing experience.
Grévin Praha’s (the wax museum) design incorporates the advances in technology the world has seen in the last century while hosting global famous faces. It can be booked for corporate events, product presentations, teambuilding events or gala dinners and has events space for up to 450 delegates.
For the rock music enthusiasts, the Hard Rock Café, could be the perfect conference venue. It has five floors including a mezzanine and a basement, all of which can accommodate at least 40 people. The first upper floor can hold up 108 delegates.
Steve Bindley, managing director of Media 1 Productions, states that accessibility is a strong positive reason to hold a conference in Prague, as there are “good transport links from all directions.”
Muska agrees: “The connectivity to and from Prague airport is very good. From Prague you can fly to 150 destinations directly.
“When you’re moving around Prague it is easy. It’s a walk-able city, and the metro is considered the 4th best city transport system in Europe.”
Incentives agencies, such as Maxin Prague, can organise incentive afternoons for delegates.
Famous for its breweries, Prague’s beer tasting sessions are a great way for delegates to consume some Czech culture.And sans of Frnaz Kafka can visit a unique nuseum dedicated to his life.
Prague’s Jewish Quarter (Josefov) is another cultural asset that is worth a visit, especially as it is claimed to be the best preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe. Today, these historical monuments form the Jewish Museum in Prague and delegates can gain entry by joining a walking tour.
Promotion and future expectations
The PCB is playing up the safe status of the city. This consideration is likely to play well with organisers against a background of today’s increased security tensions.
“Prague is considered a safe city. In general, comparing to Paris and Brussels we have some kind of advantage,” states Muska. “If Prague can remain secure then business here will boom.”
Over the next five years PCB hope that more business travellers will come to the city. They have recognised that they are missing sufficient exhibition space, and have put plans in place to enlarge the PCC by 2020.
While the city’s meeting numbers may be growing (up 15% from 2014-2015), its ICCA ranking has fallen (2014 – 10th, 2015 – 11th). Competition is tightening.
Prague’s strength may be the location for corporates wishing to hold small to medium sized conferences, although it does have conventional appeal too. Its transport links are convenient and there’s unconventional, historical and beautiful venues on offer too. Prague is a safe choice in the current conference climate and a distraction where organisers’ budgets can stretch more than most.