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Germany’s Main Cities Enhance Meetings
Already ranked as one of the world’s leading meeting and convention destinations, Germany is raising the bar on ways to serve everything from large international conventions to customized corporate meetings and incentives. Underway in cities large and small is a dazzling array of new venues, performing arts centers, hotels and even reimagined districts creating expanded possibilities for group events.
Along with improving infrastructure, planners will find abundant support for creating enriching experiences for attendees, said Linda Nuss, regional manager-North America for the German Convention Bureau (GCB) in New York.
“We’re helping planners find ways to take their meetings beyond the four walls of the conference room and to match the meeting with the right destination,” she said. “Depending on the focus, some groups might want to learn about the automotive industry in Stuttgart or about smart ports in Hamburg. We can hook up planners with keynote speakers from universities and research centers or arrange for special tours at places like BMW in Munich or the German Aerospace Center in Cologne.”
Through an initiative called Future Meeting Space, GCB also helps planners access some of the latest innovations in meetings technology, Nuss added.
“We have tools that planners can work with, including catalogs with cool tech elements like holograms that can be incorporated into the meeting,” she said.
Sustainability is another focus of the GCB, which gives awards to venues that demonstrate a commitment to green meetings.
“We have trained experts in green meetings,” Nuss said. “If sustainability is important to your company, we can facilitate this.”
GCB also promotes the country’s diversity of landscapes and experiences that groups can enjoy in and around the urban hubs.
“You can go sailing in Hamburg or enjoy the wineries outside of Frankfurt in the Rhine River valley,” Nuss said. “Outside Munich you can go snowboarding in the Alps or visit the castles. In places like Nuremburg and Dresden, which have been completely restored, you can enjoy beautiful historic places. All of these experiences are in a compact area the size of Montana.”
Recent and upcoming enhancements to Germany’s meetings infrastructure are especially evident in its dynamic capital, recently ranked as the world’s top city for conventions by the International Congress & Convention Association. Berlin hosted a record 137,000 events last year, including 27,500 meetings that drew international attendees, according to Nuss.
To serve these events, hotel development is on a fast track throughout Berlin. Last year brought a spate of new boutique and lifestyle properties like the Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof as well as larger hotels like the 389-room Titanic Chaussee Berlin, which has extensive fitness and conference facilities. A few of the many hotel openings scheduled for this year include the 344-room Hampton by Hilton Berlin City Centre Alexanderplatz, 708-room Motel One Berlin-Alexanderplatz and 144-room Hotel Capri.
On tap for 2018 are a 119-room Hotel Indigo Berlin City–East Side and 254-room Hampton by Hilton Berlin City Centre East. Both are opening in a new complex near the East Side Gallery that also includes the Music Box event hall, a cinema, a bowling alley and restaurants. Also set for 2018 is a 283-room Barcelo hotel and an 815-room expansion to the 1,125-room Estrel Berlin hotel, which will boast the highest hotel tower in Germany.
New support services include a meetings portal from Visit Berlin on its https://convention.visitberlin.de/en website where planners can access the Meeting Guide Berlin convention planning toolkit, an events calendar and a blog with destination tips.
One of the most ambitious convention center projects underway in Europe is a complete redesign and modernization of Congress Center Hamburg (CCH), which opened over 40 years ago in Hamburg’s city center next to Planten un Blomen park. The facility is expected to reopen in 2019 with 129,000 square feet of exhibition space and extensive prefunction areas and breakout space. Concurrent with the expansion is new landscaping and additional green spaces for the adjacent park.
While CCH was considered the most modern facility of its kind when it opened back in 1973, much of the building has become outdated and needs replacement, according to Edgar Hirt, senior vice president of congresses and events for the facility.
“To remain competitive in the future, a comprehensive redesign of the floor plan and space layout is urgently needed,” he said. “Event planners are also demanding more flexibility in terms of functionality.”
The revamped center will target events with a minimum group size of 1,000 attendees and be designed to host several events at one time, according to Hirt. An exciting new feature will be an expansive entrance hall that will enable the facility to host product presentations and marketing events, he said.
Elbphilharmonie Hamburg debuted on the Elba River in January, a stunning concert and event venue designed with glass panels emulating the crest of a wave. Part of the development is the Westin Hamburg, a 255-room property with eight conference rooms and views of the city and harbor.
A host of other hotel developments are on tap for this year, including the 131-room Fontenay Hamburg, an all-suite lakeside hotel with conference facilities and a roof-top restaurant, and the 94-room Sir Nikolai hotel, a luxury property set in a 19th century mansion.
Frankfurt’s Old Town, which has one of Germany’s largest assortment of medieval timber-frame structures, has been undergoing a major revitalization, which includes new buildings and the restoration of historic landmarks.
Unveiled in Old Town last year, Stadthaus am Markt (Municipal Hall at the Market), is an events venue with an assembly hall, seminar rooms and a garden with exhibits on Old Town’s archaeological history. Now available as event venues, the nearby restored Romer Halls offer a courtyard and three rooms with high-tech lighting illuminating their 600-year-old architectural features.
New hotels in Frankfurt include the Sofitel Frankfurt Opera, a luxury property near the Old Opera House with five meetings rooms and a spa. Recently opened just outside the city near the regional headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai is the 223-room New Century Hotel Frankfurt Offenbach, which has six meeting rooms.
Among the most ambitious projects underway in Frankfurt is a mixed-use development in the central business district that will include the 416-room NH Collection Frankfurt Messe, featuring 22,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
Frankfurt Airport, one of the busiest gateways in Europe, is also a hub for new development, including the 85-acre Gateway Gardens, a complex of offices, conference facilities, hotels and transit points. Hotels recently opened in the development include the Holiday Inn Frankfurt Airport Gateway Gardens and Moxy Hotel Frankfurt. Currently under construction is a 347-room Hyatt Place scheduled to open in 2018.