Viparis recently hosted the European hub of the 2021 ICCA Congress at its Palais des Congres D’Issy. Marta Gomes, deputy director Commercial Division of Viparis, tells CMW how the company has weathered the pandemic and offers some insights into how Viparis is placed for the resumption of business:
We suffered a severe impact on our activity for both 2020 and most of 2021, with venue closures and lockdowns, which meant a loss of turnover of over 75%. Many events were cancelled or postponed to future years. There was some government support in the form of furloughs, which allowed us to keep our staff over this period of inactivity.
Our first priority in preparing for reopening was to ensure the safety of our visitors, exhibitors and organisers. Our Safe V sanitary protocol, audited by Bureau Veritas, was introduced over nine venues in the summer. Events have been authorised since 9 June and our first was for the French Society of Intensive Care Medicine, a strong message to government about the importance of in-person events to educate doctors and nurses on the most recent treatments.
The combination of high levels of vaccination and the Health Pass have meant that events were able to take place again quickly and safely.
During the second semester of 2021, Viparis will have hosted almost as many trade fairs (100) and conferences (40) as in the same period of 2019, with an average of 30% fewer visitors. We foresee a gradual ramp-up throughout 2022 and the Paris Olympics will have positive repercussions in 2023 24.
We are emerging into a very different market. How do you see the challenges ahead for international business?
We won’t be going back to business as usual – the experience of virtual events for most organisers has affected how they are planning their future events. We aim to help in this transformation period, to make their events more hybrid, engaging and more sustainable.
We built recording studios in five of our downtown venues. These spaces are now being converted into hybrid rooms, where we can capture content while hosting a live audience simultaneously. We have different packages for different budgets: from simple, mobile solutions to full-service facilities including green screens or extended reality options.
We have continued to invest to make our venues places where people can have a memorable and authentic experience. Places with interesting architecture, where we eat and sleep well, and where we can connect with nature will become essential.
A perfect example of this is the new Pavilion 6 of Porte de Versailles which opened in November 2019. It offers 16,000sqm of flexible pillar free space to host all types of events. The spectacular entrance is designed by French Pritzker-prize winning architect Jean Nouvel and is composed of luminous streamers that can be personalised for each event. On the roof is Europe’s largest urban farm.
Another is Cnit Forest, a venue opening in Spring 2023. Designed by François Schuiten, it is a space which will combine technology and nature in the form of digital trees.
How is your relationship with your organiser partners now?
Virtual and hybrid events were new for everyone, and we published a Hybrid Events Guide in summer 2021, to help our customers think of all the necessary steps, and including case studies and best practices from events we have hosted.
We use our innovation accelerator, French Event Booster, as a source of inspiration, connecting clients with start ups.
With the COP26 conference focusing attention on sustainability issues, how is Viparis approaching this issue?
We are the city of the Paris Climate Change agreement signed at Le Bourget, a Viparis venue, in 2015. All of our venues have been certified ISO20121 since then and Viparis is committed to sustainable events through its Better Events 2030 policy. Viparis aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% on all of its assets and 33% on freight by 2030.
What are the enduring attractions/strongsuits for Paris as a conference destination?
The great asset of Paris is its ability to mobilise a large audience. Paris is not only a city with incomparable heritage and art de vivre, it is also a city of innovation and leading the way in terms of sustainability.