Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bright red tomato greetings from Québec!

I'm pleased to inform the Québec City Convention Centre that my tomato seed that they sent is doing just fine. I can already see the bright red tomatoes grow before my eyes and later on melt in my mouth. Mmm… at last I'll enjoy such a nice and juicy farm tomato! Certainly now that insiders have told me that bright red vegetables are healthier to eat than the pale ones. I can already hear people asking: has the Convention Centre turned into a tomato growing farm? Of course not. People have the positive perception on Canada as a place of purity, health and freedom. The Québec City Convention Centre has sent me a green pen with a label saying "Envision a GREENER tomorrow" - my blog readers will probably have noticed by now that me and my entourage are sensitive about a green globe with a bright blue crown around it. On top of that the pen is made of corn and is biodegradable in eight months! And on the back of the pen is a cap that hides a tomato-plant seed. So that's what I'm talking about. Now I've put that cap in a pot on my terrace, and I'm waiting for the tomatoes to grow. With this symbol of the Convention Centre's environment-friendly policy, Québec gave the positive image of Canada a green boost and that pleases me, it really does!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Be my good guide!

I can have a great admiration for a snappy guide or someone who can present his destination or venue in a catchy way. Readers from all over the world have often asked me if I know some good examples, and I can answer them: Yes, but I can count them on one hand. People who can give a nice presentation are rare in the meetings industry. However, I'm always overjoyed when my guide in London is wearing a blue badge. In New York I'm often well off with a Big Onion guide and in Berlin I'm sitting pretty when a guide of GoArt is doing his thing.
My latest good experience was in Leipzig, "the place by the linden trees", where elephants and lions were bred. I didn't know all of that. Birgit, a city guide and dressed for the occasion as a "lark lady" with a black bow in her hair and with everything that goes with it, told me that the Leipzig Zoo used to be called 'lion factory'. Up till now 2,500 lions, that's quite something! Male lions that performed badly were shipped off to the museum… and then Birgit looks around a little to the male company in the antique bus, she winks and then says in the most beautiful manner 'Jaaah'. And so it continued. I loved it. What mischievous humour! What a fun guide!
Another honourable mention goes to Ronald Kötteritzsch, Sales Director of the new Congress Center Leipzig. Merely the movement of his hands expresses welcome. He conquers his listeners with a natural smile and he adds that he deeply loves his town and his congress centre. Actually he doesn't even need to say it, he just radiates it!
The thing I missed most in Leipzig, was music. Music by Bach, because he died there in 1750, according to the Julian calendar. Luckily I bought a CD by the famous Leipziger Thomaner boy choir. Tonight I'm listening to ‘Der Mensch lebt und besteht nur eine kleine Zeit'. With that in mind: Spend your time well and if you organize things, do it thoroughly because you only get one shot!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Are countries with a strong brand also successful meeting destinations?

In the meetings industry we often talk about successful meeting destinations. The reason why one country is more successful than another one, is not always clear. Not a lot of scientific research on this matter is available in our trade. Yet I know someone who can lead us the way.
His name is government advisor Simon Anholt (see photo). He is the one who formulates an answer to the question: How do 25.000 consumers worldwide perceive 40 countries - which are mostly countries where there’s also a strong (or less strong) meetings industry. The quarterly published Anholt Nation Brands Index (NBI) - there also exists an Anholt City Brands Index, you could read all about that in HeadQuarters Magazine (Meeting Trends Nr. 19) - is an analytical ranking in which countries are rated on the basis of six dimensions, which is a much broader view than merely from a meetings industry perspective, namely: exports, governance, investment and immigration, culture and heritage, people, and tourism. The latest data, for example, show that the Netherlands is in the top ten of countries with a strong brand. Coincidence or not, the Netherlands is ranked 10th in the ICCA ranking as well, although it lost four places there. You can find detailed NBI results from page 12 onwards in the latest edition of HeadQuarters Magazine (nr. 21)!
Sorry, Barbara Jamison (see photo) of Visit London, I forgot to mention that the UK is the number one country and London the number two city in the respective Anholt Indexes. Give credit where credit is due! And what did I notice? The UK comes third in the latest ICCA stats and London is in 11th place. Now I really wonder if there could be a correlation between the Anholt and the ICCA results. In other words, is a country with a strong brand also a strong congress nation?
I'm a bit jealous of the people attending the AIPC Annual Conference in Graz, because Simon will be there. Congratulations to Marianne de Raay of AIPC because she was able to attract Simon Anholt as unique keynote speaker and discussion leader! I couldn't agree more when she says: ‘this promises to be a most informative and productive session!’ Maybe Simon will give the answer to my question, so my blog readers don't have to rack their brains over my complicated, yet - to my humble opinion - most interesting question.
As always, open for comments…

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Titles make the man and the woman

Last year I received a new title: bridge builder, because HeadQuarters Magazine builds bridges between readers and suppliers in the Association Congress business, they told. I could live with that.
A month ago, I received an email from a lady of the Paris Hilton (the actual hotel, not the heiress in the picture) who has the title of ‘Elevator Management Trainee’. I had never heard of such a thing.
And then, last week during the ESAE Assembly, I was totally flabbergasted when I ran into an association executive who has 'Evangelist' on his business card. And maybe you know anyone by the title of 'meeting lover'?

The Hong Kong Sisters

It's been almost 15 years since I last visited Hong Kong. In the late eighties, early nineties, Hong Kong was the most trendy congress city in the world. Later on, that became Singapore, and now it is Dubai. And, who knows, it may be Kota Kinabalu in a few years. The meetings industry is also subject to fashion! Honestly, I'm not indifferent to it myself. Last week in La Monnaie, when I was enjoying the introductory performance by Candy Nip and Mandy Wong (photo), representatives of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels, I was filled with nostalgia for the Pearl River Delta. What a sense of humour they have! I'll call them the Hong Kong Sisters from now on. We celebrated the tenth anniversary of the reunification of Hong Kong with China (1997). Before, people could just say Hong Kong, now that sounds a bit more lengthy: Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Never pass on the opportunity if there's a show of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in your neighbourhood, especially the Contemporary Dance ‘Memory’! A wonderful dance that is! Out of all the speeches I've heard, I've remembered one thing: after the reunification, Hong Kong has become the best gangway between Europe and China. First go to Hong Kong and then to China! One country, two systems.

The ten most unusual restaurants in the world

Do you know the ten most unusual restaurants in the world? That's not the same as asking if you know the most original or best ones. I've got to know them myself when I received a message from the newly opened conference hotel Dolce La Hulpe Brussels.
50 guests sat 50 meters high and enjoyed the magnificent view over the 72 hectares of the Zonien Forest and literally enjoyed a culinary tour de force. And I didn't even know that this "Dinner In The Sky" was a concept by a Brussels event organiser, which has now been included by in the ranking of the 10 most unusual restaurants in the world. The number one restaurant in the world - really the best one, this time - El Bulli in Roses on the Costa Brava, figures on top of this list. I would love to eat rice pudding with golden spoons in heaven, together with my most loyal blog readers. You can put down your name in the comments section and you can pick the view you prefer!