What It Takes to Attract Innovative Events


Cologne Tourist Board Director of Conventions and Marketing Stephanie Kleine Klausing talks about why creative events like the Pirate Summit are at home in Cologne.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Cologne Convention Bureau, we asked Stephanie Kleine Klausing, director of conventions and marketing at the Cologne Tourist Board, how different and new forces in business events are propelling the city of Cologne to adapt. 

What is key to Cologne’s success as a conference, meetings, and events destination?

The city is located very centrally within Germany and Europe, which makes it easily accessible. Cologne also has huge economic clout, as well as a dense network of scientific and academically focused institutions. The partners in the meeting sector work hand in hand to promote Cologne as a destination.

The city also has a broad and varied range of meeting venues and Cologne’s exhibition centre is the third-largest in a city centre in Germany and one of the top 10 in the world.

The city additionally offers varied opportunities for attractive supporting programmes, and the open-minded and warm-hearted people of Cologne contribute greatly to its special atmosphere. In our recent study on Cologne’s meeting and events economy, we’ve seen that the meetings market brings EUR 1.3 billion in turnover annually for Germany. The meetings market has helped to shape Cologne’s image, which is evident in the fact that Cologne has attracted approximately 35,000 meetings and congresses with 2 million delegates every year, across more than 170 event venues.

Can you tell us more about the innovative event formats in Cologne?

There are plenty of innovative concepts happening in Cologne, such as the Pirate Summit. This event was created to enable business start-ups to get to know investors and it is special as the dialogue between the two groups always takes place on equal terms.

Cologne was chosen because it’s liberal, open-minded, and a good place for offbeat ideas to take root. The event always takes place in a location in a hidden industrial area and this year the Pirate Summit will be held July 3-5, attracting more than 1,200 participants from 70 countries.

Event formats in Cologne are constantly evolving, with interactive or “immersive” experiences increasingly sought after. In addition, streaming technology is making events accessible to audiences beyond the city walls and is bringing a new dimension to many of the events we hold.

How do you feel that digitalization has affected meetings in Cologne?

Digitalization has impacted the meetings industry in general, both in Cologne and elsewhere. The Cologne Convention Bureau (CCB) has directly moved from the former print-only catalogue of locations to a magazine-style printed version combined with an online tool. This tool has been developed further to make it responsive and to incorporate videos, social media, etc. We have also been developing Instagram stories, for the occasion of the CCB’s 10th anniversary, for example.

The CCB’s partners and the relevant players in the industry are also affected by digitalization and are adapting their products and services to meet customers’ needs. The CCB supports the German Convention Bureau’s study “Future Meeting Space.” We are looking forward to making the best use of the lessons learned from the study.

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