The unique atmosphere of Krakow hosts ICCA for a special congress
Małgorzata Przygórska-Skowron, from Krakow Convention Bureau, details why Krakow is a great destination for meetings and events. Location, vibe, and the fact that the city has an important academic center are some of the reasons highlighted.
Krakow will host the ICCA Congress this year. How is the city preparing for this event?
Preparing such a prestigious and important event as the ICCA Congress requires close cooperation between many partners. The Local Organising Committee, headed by the Krakow Convention Bureau, meets regularly with the ICE Krakow Congress Centre team, the Poland Convention Bureau, local service providers, and hoteliers on one hand, and on the other hand we’re in touch with ICCA team. We face logistical and thematic challenges together, as well as scenarios for cooperation and promotion. We are currently preparing for IMEX Frankfurt, where both Poland and the ICCA Congress will have a strong presence.
The Congress in Krakow will be the first after the pandemic, an opportunity to meet and network,so important in our industry. We invite you to Krakow today!
What makes Krakow a good destination to host events and congresses?
An important factor working in Krakow's favor is its geographical location. The city is located in the center of Europe, and thanks to a wide range of air, rail and road connections, is easily accessible from all continents. During the summer season Krakow Airport, second biggest in Poland, offers 145 connections, to 33 countries and 100 cities via 20 airlines.
Krakow is also important academic center. 22 institutions of higher education operate in the city. Kraków’s Jagiellonian University, the oldest in Poland, was founded in 1364. Currently, our professors and scientists can boast of outstanding achievements on the international level.
And last, but not least, the city is famous from its unique atmosphere. Kraków’s main Market Square – the largest mediaeval square in Europe – has always been the heart of the city, vibrant with life throughout the year. It is a favorite meeting place for locals, students, tourists, and businesspeople. What is more, numerous UNESCO monuments, cafés, restaurants, galleries, bookstores, and museums are accessible in a short walking distance.
What is the capacity of the city in terms of events. What locations would you highlight?
Krakow offers a great variety of conference venues, but three of them are certainly worth mentioning. The ICE Kraków Congress Centre is the business and cultural flagship of the city. Located in the very heart of Kraków, it is a convenient place for the organisation of diverse events. The capacity of its largest hall Auditorium is up to 1915 pax. The second important venue is EXPO Kraków International Exhibition and Convention Centre - a multifunctional trade fair and congress centre. This modern facility, with a total surface area of 13,000 sq.m, includes two halls, a number of modular seminar rooms of various sizes, meeting rooms and a spacious lobby. Finally, events of the largest scale take place in the Tauron Arena, which is the biggest sports arena in Poland, and one of the most modern in the world hall entertainment and sports venue.
Fans of unusual locations will find many unique venues in and around Krakow, such as Wieliczka Salt Mine, Old Tram Depot and great number of museum opened for business clients like the Polish Aviation Museum, Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art. The Cloth Hall or Museum of Japanese Art Mangha. Since we have a very active academic community, especially professors, who are the true ambassadors of our city, many events are organized in university halls.
What kind of incentives can be hold in the city?
The incentive offer of Krakow and Malopolska is very diverse, so it is easy to match the type of activity to the nature of the event. Sports lovers can take part in a cruise or canoeing on the Vistula River, which ends with a visit to the medieval abbey in Tyniec. For foodies we can organize culinary workshops, during which participants have the opportunity to learn more about the regional cuisine and of course taste the most tipical regional products and dishes. Another suggestion is wine tasting and visiting nearby vineyards, with scenic views of the surronding area. Very popular are activities related to our hisotry and heritage like city games based on medieval legends, tailoremade sighseeing or afterhour musuem visits.
What are the priority markets for Krakow in the MICE segment? Proximity ones?
In our promotional activities we focus mainly on European markets, including German, British, Scandinavian, Dutch, Belgian, French and North American. These countries attract the most tourists to Krakow and the Małopolska region, and many international associations are headquartered in those countries.
Which European cities compete directly with Krakow in this segment?
Krakow has become a part of the Polish, European, and global meetings industry, hosting major congresses in various fields of science, festivals, and prestigious sporting events. We must remember that Krakow is not the capital city of the country, so on the one hand we are competing with cities like Dublin, Florence or Valencia, and on the other hand with European capitals like Prague or Budapest.
What are the city's goals in terms of ICCA ranking?
For years, Krakow has held a stable place in the ICCA ranking among cities from more than 100 countries from around the world. In 2019, 54 association meetings were organised in our city, Kraków ranked 48th in the world, 29th in Europe. In 2020, the ICCA ranking was based on a summary of how many global events were postponed or changed to a hybrid format. We know from Krakow Convention Bureua's annual "Meeting Industry in Krakow 2020" report that 77.2 percent fewer events were organized in 2020 than in 2019. The pandemic has caused the Krakow meetings industry to return to 2012 levels. First of all, it affected their formula - half of the meetings were virtual, 42 percent were stationary (held in the first three months of the year) and 8 percent were held hybrid. The pandemic, new reality, and life on the Zoom and Teams have shown how important the meetings industry is, how much we miss meetings. Just when the local industry was ready for on-site events to return, the conflict in Ukraine started, resulting in another huge challenge for us.
Even though a number of cancellations of group and incentive arrivals have been reported, MICE venues continue with great many event formats without any changes, i.e. they are taking place as planned. In April the Quark Matter conference and the 28th International Dental Fairs took place, in May Reha INNOVATIONS Trade Fair will be organized, 30th International Congress of the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery (EAES), ACI Customer Experience Global Summit in September or Autism-Europe's 13th International Congress in October.
After this long introduction, returning to the question about the city's goal - the position of Krakow is very clear and explicit. We are not giving up, we hope that our partners will not cancel the organization of events and the position of Krakow in the ranking will not differ from the results of 2019 and 2018.
Consider the proximity, can the the conflict interfere with the number of events Poland will host?
It’s crucial to spread the information that life in Kraków is (and feels) perfectly normal. Ukrainians coming to the city are offered a great variety of support-and-assistance opportunities, including multiple employment options, legal and administrative support. Many continue their journey to other western countries. The city is safe and increasingly buzzing with life. All of its institutions and businesses are operating without any obstacles or disruptions. All of the city’s tourist attractions are open, boasting ever more visitors, now that the tourist season is starting in earnest. International visitors can be found all over the city, all the way from its iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites to business/industry events. Air travel is experiencing a new-found, post-COVID optimism and airports in and around Kraków operate without any disruptions. As of March 28, all Covid restrictions have been lifted (wearing masks is no longer obligatory, no quarantine/restrictions upon entry to Poland).
© WAWEL CASTLE Rafal Kowal for Municpality of Kraków