Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fine TV Dining with Kathlyn

You're a business woman on a business trip. You're all by yourself. And still, you would like to dine in the restaurant of the hotel where you're staying, without having the feeling that you're eating alone. Well, now there is TV Dining. I did not hear of this new trend before. An insider revealed to me that the first Restaurant TV Table was presented at a hotel fair in London. I cannot verify if that's true, but perhaps one of my blog readers can help me out. Call it a coincidence, but I've been visiting some hotels in the last couple of weeks and every time I have discovered something 'Novo'. For instance: In the completely renovated Novotel Antwerp - also the city where I live - I was able to convince Kathlyn Vanhassel of Accor Hotels Belux to pose as a businesswoman enjoying a Quickies Lunch at a TV Table! And what do you know.. Success! Alexander Dupont as well as Emile Lannoy, two real Accor-men confirm it: Those tables are usually the first tables that are occupied in the restaurant. Kathlyn, I will join you next time, but I won't watch television!
And many thanks to Britta Baeke for the picture!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bill Marriott, another passionate blogger

He's 75 now and still visits an average 250 hotels a year worldwide. I'm talking about John Willard 'Bill' Marriott, Jr. - where does that name 'Bill' come from, I wonder - and he's the big boss of Marriott International. Yesterday, Bill (right) was visiting the historical city of Ghent on the occasion of the opening of Marriott Ghent, the fifth Marriott Hotel in Belgium and as you can see, he was in the good company of our Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (left) and the Mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont (middle). The day before, he had opened the Marriott Paris Rive Gauche and after his time in Ghent, he left for Dublin for the opening of another new hotel. Honestly, I'm a bit jealous of that man. Such energy, such passion, such a testimony and such an empire he has built. I will never succeed in that by publishing meetings industry magazines, I thought (wink wink). To me, it was an enormous pleasure interviewing Bill, especially because he's a passionate blogger himself. That's what we have in common… I was almost about to say: certainly at our age!
But there's a second reason why I enjoyed the interview. Six years ago I had a cover interview for MIM magazine (No. 58) with his son John, the cover title being 'Crown prince of a family empire'. That took place in London on 9/11 in 2001! For a moment I noticed an emotional expression on his face. Then John Jr. told me his father doesn't like the colour blue: 'You'll rarely notice a variety of blue in our hotels. Blue is cold, my father likes warm hues better, like red, yellow and gold. He also adores flowers. Strangely enough he dislikes brown colours as well.' And what did Bill answer to this passage of his son's interview: 'Not entirely true, it depends on the kind of blue. For example, I like the blue carpet in the lobby of this hotel in Ghent!'
What really stayed in my memory after the interview, was the strong conviction that Marriott Hotels is one big family where everyone is still living by the philosophy of the grandfather. 'If you take care of your staff, then they, in their turn, will take care of the hotel guests!' That's wonderful, after three generations!
Be sure to read all about the interview in MIM No. 94 (September issue).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The new city-spacewagon for delegates

Yesterday, I spotted a message that's trivial at first sight, but is a really important development for the international convention world, in my opinion. Lately, I 've been confronted a lot with endless traffic jams in convention cities worldwide. Sometimes I was stuck in traffic in a city centre for a whole hour, sometimes even longer. How do congress delegates get to their meeting place on time, I thought. It's a big problem and it seems like everyone is afraid to talk about it. It's a big problem where many delegates are confronted with and no solution is in sight. But is there a solution to it? Maybe! At this very moment UITP (The International Association of Public Transport) is holding its 57th Congress and Exhibition in the fair centre of Helsinki. A study group is going into the future of the bus: a kind of high-speed train or space wagon in the city, a fast, comfortable vehicle that's environment-friendly and transports people super-fast from point A to B.

I can imagine that a lot of convention bureaus are dreaming of that kind of 'New Future (Congress) Bus', or 'f t r' (short for future), as this concept by UK's FirstGroup is called. It breaks away from the traditional categories of transport planning - the train, the tram, the bus, the car. Car users in cities therefore have to make the switch! It is anticipated that First in York will be running the 'ftr' on Service 4 next year! I would be the first to use this new StreetCar when I'm attending a congress there. And I would like to ask the study group 'Bus system of the future' of UITP what they came up with. To be continued!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One million delegates = one new Meeting Forest

At the beginning of this month I hosted a round-table discussion with the cream of the Belgian incentive world in the Conrad Brussels Hotel. Someone said: 'Looking after the environment? OK! I barely notice anything about this concern in the convention and incentive world. Most participants are not consciously involved in this matter!' That's how a lot of people feel, but is that true? For instance, in a short period of time I bumped into two very practical initiatives. The first one was by accident. The famous London photographer Allan Pollok-Morris was in Antwerp for a photo shoot in the 'House of Tulips'. I seized the opportunity to let him do the cover shoot for MIM magazine. On that cover sparkles Marleen Wyckmans; she's marketing manager at KLM - AIR FRANCE for Belgium and Luxemburg. He literally surrounded her with tulips. And what does a new customer of Allan receive? A tree! Just read what's on the card that I got from Kerrigan Bell of 'Trees for Life'. Allan had a Rowan Tree planted for me in Glen Affric in the North West Highlands of Scotland. I'm extremely pleased with that!
The second one came from Star Alliance (my apologies, Marleen, I know that KLM - AIR FRANCE is part of SkyTeam and maybe they have something to report as well), who are celebrating their 10th anniversary. I read in their press release: ‘Under the banner of Biosphere Connections, Star Alliance is entering into cooperation with recognised environmental organisations in order to support the sustainability of the biosphere in a constructive and positive way.’ That's a very nice present to the world! This week I'm throwing a party together with my life partner. As a gift, we have asked 'two trees', which we will plant in a pot in front of our house: yellow sweet-smelling magnolias!

Now I'm making two proposals:
1. My own proposal to the global convention and incentive world, the people who read my blog: for every new subscription to MIM magazine or HeadQuarters Magazine, I will deposit 15% into the fund of the still to be established association ‘Global Meeting Forest’.
2. If every congress delegate worldwide donates a small portion of his subscription fee for taking part in a convention to this fund, we'll have a new forest somewhere in the world by next year: the Meeting Forest.
From now on, I'm actively looking for a spot where we can plant this Meeting Forest. We will keep you informed. So, buy your meeting tree now!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The First ICCA Numbers Have Arrived

Often I hear people say: 'I don't believe in statistics!' And still every year everyone eagerly awaits the first ICCA rankings. And here they are! Those of 2006! It's like the first bird laid his first (congress) egg in May. ICCA (International Congress & Convention Association) has made a name for itself for many years now, with their global rankings of the countries and cities that landed the largest number of international (non-corporate) conventions in a certain year, all drawn up according to well-defined criteria. In 2006 Germany remains the first European destination, only preceded by the USA. The team of Ute Stegmann at the German Convention Bureau has done a good job! Unfortunately Spain drops to fifth place. And oh oh, Holland loses four places compared to 2005! How is that possible? In the city ranking, Paris is the big winner and has now gained second position, behind the leader, Vienna. Congratulations to Paul Roll and Delphine Benbassa-Fortuin! Proudly Delphine wrote to me: ‘We have been working on statistics for 3 years and it is true that it is paying back now. We are very happy about it!’ And we are also very glad that for the very first time a South-American country has invaded the top ten: Brazil! And Prague, Copenhagen and Lisbon make the top ten, so that's a feather in their cap as well! I myself find the position of Kuala Lumpur quite spectacular. This city that doesn't have its own convention bureau leaps to 15 th place in 2006 with 63 meetings from 30th place in 2005 with 38 meetings! Jenny Salsbury, you can put on an Ascot hat with a peacock feather! Only people who work hard and keep track of their numbers, believe in statistics.
In June 2007 we will publish the complete ranking with some comments on the survey in our Incentive Special yearbook (in English). Don't miss it, on

Reaching for the sky

Dubai has become the centre of the Middle East and everyone knows some of the luxurious hotels over there. We were lucky enough to visit this booming city last week. The mentality of 'big, bigger, biggest… and then even bigger' reigns and has now reached a new high. With the new Burj Dubai they aim to construct the tallest building in the world. The construction is over halfway and already it is the tallest structure in the region at over 400m.
This new landmark will rise higher than Toronto's CN Tower, the world's tallest freestanding structure (553.33m) and the Taipei 101 (509m), currently the world's tallest building. It is planned to rise more than 160 floors (some even whisper more than 200 floors), but the actual height is not disclosed, although some rumours say that it will be over 800m or even over 1,000m. 5,187 labourers work round the clock to finish Burj Dubai by next year.
But this construction is not the end of Dubai as the world's largest construction site: three other buildings with more than 100 floors are under way and in Business Bay, near the Burj Dubai Complex, over 250 towers are in various stages of construction… And other developers in China and even Dubai itself are already making plans to knock the Burj of its pedestal as the highest building by constructing a mile-high (1,600m) building. We all know the story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun… But that doesn't prevent us of publishing a 12 page supplement on 'Booming Dubai' in HeadQuarters Magazine at the end of June. If you are interested in reading this, we would love to send it to you.