Business events

AIPC 2023: “A great chance to show what Luxembourg has to offer”

“It is an important congress for our sector, and it is a great chance to show what Luxembourg has to offer, as it has never been held here before.” LCB CEO François Lafont. Photo: Business Events Luxembourg

“It is an important congress for our sector, and it is a great chance to show what Luxembourg has to offer, as it has never been held here before.” LCB CEO François Lafont. Photo: Business Events Luxembourg

The grand duchy is once again in the spotlight. In 2023, Luxembourg will host the annual congress for the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) representing convention centres from more than 60 countries worldwide. 

For the first time ever, it will be the turn of Luxembourg to host the annual industry-wide conference at the European Conference Center Luxembourg (ECCL) located in Kirchberg, the business district of the grand duchy. This marks a major milestone as business events picks up globally. 

Over the years, the global network, which represents over 185 centres globally and more than 900 management-level professionals, has carved a niche for itself as the leading “industry association for professional convention and exhibition centre managers world wide.” Its annual congress has been hosted in several cities such as Sydney, Australia (2017), London, UK (2018),  Antwerp, Belgium (2019),  Paris, France (2020), and Lausanne, Switzerland (2021). 

The potential of Luxembourg, as not only a top business and international event location in the world, is emphasised by a more recent strategy to reinforce its position as a leader in the “digitalisation of business events”, according to François Lafont, the CEO of the Luxembourg National Convention Bureau (LCB).

Within two years of taking office, and since the LCB was launched with the task to attract business events to the grand duchy, Lafont highlights some major breakthroughs despite the unusual business climate so far due to covid, and estimates the appetite of the industry to return to “normal”.

AO: It’s been two years since you took office and since the outbreak of covid, what major LCB accomplishments stand out?

François Lafont (FL): I would like to highlight three big accomplishments. Firstly, our partner relationships. In 2019, Business Events Luxembourg had 26 partners, and in 2021, this figure has risen to an impressive 193, well above the equivalent offices abroad. The list is growing and includes venues, service providers, hotels, event agencies, and mobility providers. It's a web that the Business Events Luxembourg team have woven, covering all regions of the country.

Secondly, a major highlight was that Luxembourg was chosen to host the European regional hub of the 59th ICCA congress in 2020. It was a great honour to shine a light on Luxembourg and show the International Congress and Convention Association what Luxembourg has to offer. With this experience, the country had the chance to show that it has the ability to realise a hybrid event for one of the most important business event congresses in the world.

Thirdly, I would like to highlight the work that was done in terms of business development. A customer relationship management tool was put in place to regroup our partner and client information. As of today, more than 350 congresses have been identified as potential matches for Luxembourg.

Even though the event sector was at a stop during the pandemic, our team took this time to put great tools in place to now promote Luxembourg as the next business event destination. In only a few years, (two years to be exact), we provided a full digital blockchain to promote Luxembourg as a perfect destination: clients, suppliers & the destination can now use the digital marketplace for their events.

What do you consider to be Luxembourg’s “key selling points” for business events?

FL: Let’s start from the beginning. Business events are categorised by Business Events Luxembourg in two ways: a corporate event or an association event. Corporate events can be management boards, team-building events, incentive trips, product launches, company festivities, etc. For this type of event, a unique venue, gastronomy, and outdoor activities are key. Thanks to the country’s size and super-modern infrastructure, Luxembourg is the perfect place to gather and unite people to create unforgettable memories and fits perfectly within the new “wish-list” of the organisers.

For association events, on the other hand, economic considerations, the innovation landscape, and the research ecosystem are vital. With Luxembourg’s key economic sectors boosted by a concentration of research and innovation, it's well suited to host congresses. From biomedicine and satellites to high-speed computing and automobile components, Luxembourg is packed with expertise and creative thinking in a variety of fields. A unique selling point is the talent that Luxembourg has: from researchers, businesspeople working at big international corporations, to students. It is about the intellectual exchange that people can have when holding their congress in Luxembourg. This is part of a long-term vision to boost the economy of Luxembourg.

What are some of the recent measures the LCB has adopted to promote Luxembourg as a central hub for business events?

FL: During the pandemic, Business Events Luxembourg took the time to put together a new website and create lots of content around the destination. Also, we focused on the creation of storytelling promotional videos, where we shine a light on the venues, and more importantly the people behind these venues, that Luxembourg has to offer. Our promotion actions are very targeted and personalised; we want to have close relationships with our clients and get the word out about our undiscovered destination.

Luxembourg will host the 2023 AIPC conference, what does this milestone represent? What preparations are being made?  

FL: It is fantastic news that Luxembourg will host the 2023 AIPC conference. It will put Luxembourg on the map of business events and, more specifically, place us among the International Association of Convention Centres. It is an important congress for our sector, and it is a great chance to show what Luxembourg has to offer, as it has never been held here before. ECCL is member of this association and will host the congress. AIPC is one of many congresses that we are proud to have won. Others are the European Freight & Logistics Leaders’ Forum 2022 or, as mentioned before, the European regional ICCA hub in 2020.

In your opinion would hybrid events complement or complicate the activities of the LCB ?

FL: This model is the reality and it cannot be forgotten. Businesses should always have an eye on the future, and the future of meetings is an especially important area to think about. The trend was already present prior to covid and was also foreseen by Business Events Luxembourg, but the current situation has for sure reinforced it. Hybrid events are definitely the new normal. We certainly believe they complement our activities because they increase the size of the audience. It’s a chance also for Luxembourg that the event industry market has changed, as it makes it more profitable for the destination.

Due to our infrastructure, our local professionals working in the event industry and geographical location in Europe, Luxembourg is perfect to host new international events and be one of the hubs.

Let’s be clear, events will always need to be face-to-face or in other words “in person” meetings. It's our human nature and is part of our DNA. But digital solutions are crucial elements in the selection criteria, just like environmental measures. Luxembourg has enormous assets in these pillars.

What are some of the virtual services the LCB offers? Did these exist prior to covid?

FL: A more recent strategy, one that aligns with the Luxembourg government’s well-funded national effort, is in digitalisation. Eight digital drivers--that which will give the country a distinct competitive advantage--have been put forth, and Business Events Luxembourg is hard at work promoting their integration into the business events sector. Among these drivers are customer-centric experiences, creative and interactive digital offerings, and mobile-enabled solutions. Given the national data strategy and the enthusiasm for the transition, Business Events Luxembourg sees a great opportunity to position Luxembourg as a frontrunner of the digitalisation of business events.

What new technologies would event centres need to adopt to adapt to the pace of business events in the coming years?

FL: First, we will have to change our way of thinking. For many reason the future of meetings should be of interest for corporates and associations, and it is especially important to keep up with the latest trends in this area. Indeed, research suggests that the average worker currently spends the equivalent of 23 days per year in meetings, and this time needs to be productive and useful. The content, the reasons to meet, and the attendees are different, and that’s why the format of business events is also going to be different. The venues, connectivity, and engagement tools are important. But the most important is to meet the expectations that go with the use of these new formats. There will be more networking, a greater need for the feeling of convenience, and more possibilities to meet informally. A digital meeting needs to be compatible with a human meeting, and also needs to solve the problem for the monetisation. The future of meetings is multi-channel.

Of course, technology is important, and Luxembourg is ready for it with digitalisation at the centre of our economy. Still, attendees will not necessarily come because of new technologies, but they will attend an event due to the human connections that will be made.

How would you estimate the appetite of business event organisers to return to “normal”?

FL: For sure, the appetite is there, but it is different. We are not going back to normal, but it will be an evolution to something new. People need and want to meet, but meetings will be different. With the increase of working from home and the benefits of video conferencing, it is easy to get carried away with the idea that the future of work will be people operating and interacting remotely.

Meetings may be the only time people are working on the same project and are actually present in the same space, and this will make the in-person experience more important rather than less important. Physical meetings are here to stay, but the line between physical and remote meetings will become more blurred, allowing more people to interact in the way that best suits them.

Are there any noticeable signs of a recovery for the business events sector in the country?

FL: Right now, it is too early to talk about the recovery. The signs are there, and our partners are busy with requests and offers. But these signs are not reliable and solid for the long term yet. So, I believe it is too early to say.