The safest place on Earth?

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The safest place on Earth?

Meet in Reykjavik’s Sigurður Valur Sigurðsson says his team is ready to hit the new normal ground running with unique and natural offers.

Like many destinations, Reykjavik convention bureau has had to deal with the developing situation around Covid-19 with events being postponed, cancelled and/or moved online.

Iceland is the safest place on earth, according to the Global Peace Index and the venues and hotels in Reykjavik are, at most, a 10-minute drive from each other. It is a meetings destination famed for its unique nature.

Reykjavík gets 100% of its electricity and heat from domestically produced renewable energy sources, making it one of the greenest cities in the world and the capital is five years into its plan of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

“We have seen a lot of interest from associations involved in geothermal energy, fish processing, and medical or pharmaceutical products,” says Meet in Reykjavik’s marketing director Sigurður Valur Sigurðsson.

“Lately,” he adds, “we have also seen an increase in demand from associations that want to emphasise gender equality, sustainability, and peace. High tech is high in demand, like artificial intelligence, and Iceland has invested a lot in innovation in these past years.”

About 62% of international events planned in Iceland March-December 2020 have been postponed.

Approximately 13% have been cancelled, and 12% moved online. There are still a few live events scheduled later this year, with organisers evaluating their options.

Gatherings of up to 100 people are currently permitted in Iceland, providing careful attention to hygiene and personal distancing of 1-2 metres is observed at all times.

Fast reaction

Sigurðsson believes the recovery is going to take time and patience.

“Realistically, as an industry, we are not going to be at the same level as 2019 until 2024 or 2025. We are a small city with a lot of open spaces allowing us to take measures to ensure social distancing when needed. We have also shown during this outbreak that we can react fast when things go wrong. “I don’t think virtual meetings will replace live events,” Sigurðsson adds.

“What business events are all about is the engagement and physical interaction between delegates. That is what companies and associations are looking for when they host an event. That being said, we can already see a lot of experimentation with hybrid events, and I’m sure that trend will continue. Reykjavík is well equipped for this and all our main venues have state-of-the-art software and broadcast technology. We have the know-how and the experience needed to be at the front line of this exciting change.”

Sigurðsson sees the CVB’s mission as one of helping clients create an unforgettable event in a one-of-a-kind destination. He points out the Meet in Reykjavík Ambassador club offers support and advice to those interested in attracting international conferences to Iceland.

“History,” he says, “shows that a limited number of individuals have been the key influencers of bringing large meetings/conferences to Iceland.”

New hotel openings have been generally pushed back until next year; although a couple that are in the pipeline are the Marriott EDITION, a new five-star property next to Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, and Hilton, which is opening Iceland Parliament Hotel Curio Collection. Hotel capacity in Reykjavík has almost doubled over the past 10 years and the city now has close to 6,000 hotel rooms.

Safety guidelines have been issued for all venues and when social distancing measures were first put in place in Iceland on 16 March, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavík had to close temporarily, although prior to the outbreak, 2020 had been on track to be a record year for it and international events. On 7 May Harpa reopened, becoming one of the first conference halls in Europe to do so during the pandemic.

The centre is following strict guidelines on hygiene, and has divided its space into sections to meet regulations on group size and social distancing.

Sigurðsson says the bureau and Reykjavik’s sector professionals have used the last few months to prepare for what comes next, be creative and collaborative, reorganise, and learn from this situation.

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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