As head of the Barcelona Convention Bureau, Christoph Tessmar has seen a terrorist attack, mass regional demonstrations, and a rising city anti-tourism feeling. Despite adversity, Barcelona ranked No. 1 in the 2017 ICCA city rankings. Here, he tells us why.
A core reason why Barcelona is a top business events and conferences destination is our city-wide determination to make every event held here a success. Key partners in Barcelona, such as government, hotels, taxis, and other event suppliers all work in collaboration to ensure a seamless event experience is delivered. All parts of Barcelona’s event machine are moving in the same direction at all times. This is vitally important, it means we understand each other and can work as one venue. In a competitive market, collaboration also helps us to remain innovative and cost effective — to continuously adapt to our changing world. I think we showed this most effectively in the way we dealt with last year’s demonstrations regarding Catalonian independence from Spain.
Throughout the independence crisis, the media portrayed Barcelona on the world news as a disrupted city, so it was understandable that organisations planning to bring conferences and congresses here were concerned. Our role was to reassure them that Barcelona was safe. We set up crisis plans for each congress and called all organisers directly and explained to them in a very human way that life in Barcelona was going on as usual; we talked of going to the beach, watching football — going about our business, because it was business as usual here. This considered and personal approach worked. Though some of the hotels experienced cancellations and postponements from corporate clients, all congresses took place; not one was cancelled. The really good news — I’m happy to say — is that the crisis is over. Confidence in the city is up again and events business has returned to normal levels.
Going forward, the big opportunity is promoting Barcelona as a tech-hub around the upcoming GSMA Mobile World Congress — the largest exhibition in the world for the mobile industry — and also the 22@ District, one of the most ambitious urban renewal projects in the world. 22@ plays host to universities, research and training centers, startups, and technology companies and it’s a major pull factor, attracting technology companies to the city.
Christoph Tessmar is a member of the 2018 PCMA EMEA Advisory Board.