CMW talks with multiple industry leaders within the German events sector to get a finger on the pulse of the country’s re-opening
As nations across Europe are taking steps to reduce Covid-19 restrictions in response to increasing evidence that omicron causes less severe disease than previous variants of the virus, Germany has been slow to follow suit.
According to the Covid-19 Stringency Index, a composite measure based on nine restriction indicators, Germany is one of the top 10 most restricted countries in Europe (as per 18 April), with an index rating of 33.33. In comparison, European countries such as the UK and Portugal scored 12.96 and 17.59 respectively.
However, since the start of April, Germany has taken steps to lift the majority of its Covid-19 restrictions allowing for a, albeit delayed, reopening of the events industry. As restrictions are slowly lifted, CMW spoke to multiple German industry leaders to discuss how they believe the domestic and international events landscape is currently shaping up.
The best of both worlds
Throughout the pandemic, event organisers were forced to adapt to the prolonged periods of uncertainty caused by public health restrictions.
Matthias Schultze, managing director of the German Convention Bureau (GCB), tells CMW: “Looking at the German events market, we have witnessed tremendous structural change in the past two years in quantity and quality. Of all event types, business events in particular experienced a strong shift towards digital and hybrid formats.”
Heike Mahmoud, chief operating officer of the CCH – Congress Center Hamburg, agrees, saying: “The German and the international congress and business events industry has used the pandemic period to develop a wide range of digital options for running events with active participant involvement.
“The emphasis is on enhancing the congress and event experience while creating new opportunities for transferring know-how and for networking – with a global reach.
“Participants will be able to dial in from any place worldwide to be part of an event. This is an advantage for congress and event organisers as they cope with changed operating conditions,” added Mahmoud.
For the Nuremburg-based exhibition company, the NürnbergMesse Group, while returning to in-person is the primary objective, virtual elements are crucial to maintaining flexibility in still uncertain times.
“Our formula for success as the NürnbergMesse Group continues to be onsite plus online,” says Dr Roland Fleck, CEO of the NürnbergMesse Group. “The in-person exhibition is and remains our duty and the digital extensions and formats are add ons, depending upon the digital maturity of the respective industry. In this way, we are flexibly responding to the ongoing pandemic situation as well as the partially limited travel activities.”
Schultze concurs that the growth of virtual events hasn’t nullified the significance of the German in-person events experience: “People still have an enormous need for personal meetings and authentic, emotional experiences. We therefore expect a strong return of live formats – enriched by hybrid elements.”
News from the capital
As Germany loosens its event restrictions, the country’s capital city, Berlin, is showing positive trends towards growth and is investing in ways to become a more sustainable local MICE sector.
Marco Oelschlegel, director of conventions at the VisitBerlin Convention Office (CVB), tells CMW of the return of international MICE delegates to Berlin.
“The current situation is quite positive: people want to travel again,” asserts Oelschlegel. “They want to meet again in-person. Therefore, hotels and venues have seen a high demand for the actual and upcoming months, and we are very optimistic that we will see a successful year for the meeting industry in Berlin ahead of us.”
Berlin’s local government is striving to support the events industry as international business delegates return.
“The local government of Berlin has massively supported our industry and launched a dedicated programme for our sector,” says Oelschlegel. “This includes a MICE campaign, additional staff at the CVB, foreign representatives and there will be a Berlin best practice event BESTIVAL, 25-26 August.”
BESTIVAL 2022 will facilitate face-to-face meetings with vendors from across Berlin, alongside tours of the city and various venues. It aims to provide international organisers the opportunity to develop ideas and customise their event programmes.
Oelschlegel emphasises how Berlin is not only looking for a strong return to in person business events, but is also motivated towards sustainable development within the capital’s MICE industry:
“As staffing slowly comes back to pre-pandemic levels and clients think more before they book, the interest for sustainable products and services is growing and setting the path for the meetings industry, which adapts to the demands of its clients for innovative, sustainable and reliable offerings in a destination,” he says.
At BESTIVAL 2022 it will also aim to promote its ‘Sustainable Event Guidelines’, which provides recommendations for organisers looking to host their sustainable event in Berlin.
Covid-19 safety measures
While government enforced restrictions have all but ended throughout Germany, event organisers are still seeing the importance in providing Covid-19 safe environments.
“Mask wearing has now become optional at events across Germany. However, event organisers can, and many of them will, continue to implement additional safety and hygiene measures to increase their visitors’ well-being,” states Schultze. “The campaign #SafeBusinessTrips, launched by the GCB in cooperation with the German National Tourist Board, provides an overview of safety and hygiene concepts along the entire delegate journey of business travellers.”
The aim of the campaign is to provide event organisers and delegates with information to overview and assist them in making decision about their international business travel and events in Germany.