Bonn as a conference city What does the Climate Summit mean for Bonn?
Bonn · Congress participants accounted for a fifth of the overnight stays in Bonn before the Corona pandemic. Accordingly, there is great joy about the climate conference that started on Monday. However, hoteliers and traders also see room for improvement.
If the streets and paths in the Bundesviertel often seemed deserted in the past two years, it was mostly Corona's fault. In the meantime, there are considerably more people around the former Bundestag - for example, a good week ago during the European Space Agency's Earth Observation Symposium with several thousand participants. Or from Whit Monday onwards at the ten-day climate conference in the World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB). The conferences make work, in a positive sense and not only in the meeting rooms, in corridors, in kitchens and interpreters' booths. Several industries in Bonn have waited a long time for the dry spell to end.
Conference guests pay attention to prices
Philipp Seufert of the Hotel Aigner in the Nordstadt, for example, can confirm that the conference business in the city is not only paying off for hotels in the Federal Quarter: "Especially the larger conferences have been making a massive impact on us for years," says the manager, who runs the 42-room hotel. As an example, he mentions the numerous regular guests who have already been to Bonn several times as representatives of non-governmental organisations and who book with him again and again. "Some already call our hotel their second home," says Seufert.
Among other things, the "hotel ticket" issued by Tourismus-und-Congress GmbH (T&C), with which guests can use trains and buses in the entire region, has proven its worth. Seufert's colleague Janna Korol, operator of the Hotel Baden am Rosental, also confirms the great importance of conferences for her business: "It is definitely an important factor," she says. It can be observed that conference guests also pay attention to prices, which in turn gives the somewhat smaller hotels a competitive advantage in many cases. The location and accessibility of the venues also remain an important decision criterion.
"Experience shows that large conferences always have a positive effect on the occupancy rate of hotels in Bonn," says Michael Schlößer, spokesman of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association in Bonn. However, this generally applies to events of a certain size that are attractive enough to attract visitors from a greater distance to the city. "We would like to see even more formats here," says Schlößer. With regard to marketing Bonn's potential to visitors, he sees a definite need for optimisation.
Set-up and dismantling is also an economic driver
There is also great joy in the retail trade about the reawakening of the conference location. For example, Maike Reinhardt, spokeswoman for the City-Marketing Bonn association, points out that it is not only the participants who are important for Bonn's retail trade: The times of setting up and dismantling a conference are also reflected in the turnover figures because the employees also take the opportunity to shop in Bonn. As far as advertising Bonn's retail trade is concerned, there is certainly still "room for improvement", says Reinhardt. Especially since the "UN Campus" station takes many potential customers past the pedestrian zone, who now no longer have to get off and change trains at the main station on their way to the WCCB.
Maike Reinhardt: "If extra "advertising" and special offers are created here on the part of the organisers and the city administration, this would certainly be very welcome for the trade." In her opinion, discounted or even free tickets could also motivate congress participants to make a detour into the city centre.
The accessibility of the city is also a topic close to the heart of Jannis Vassiliou, chairman of the Bonn Retail Association: "A diverse range of offers is available in Bonn's city centre, it just has to be accessible," he says. If visitors find it difficult to reach, the city administration is not doing itself any favours, and ultimately the entire location of Bonn as an event venue suffers. With regard to the city's tourism marketing, he assumes "that the Tourismus und Congress GmbH will continue its successful work from before Corona".
Those responsible are particularly happy about those conferences that last for a longer period of time. On the one hand, this offers the opportunity for the region to be perceived more intensively by the participants, and on the other hand, the location is recommended for follow-up events or follow-up tourist visits and is recommended to others, says T&C Managing Director Udo Schäfer. The economic added value is thus joined by an image-forming relevance. According to T&C, the share of international conferences in the total number of overnight stays in Bonn was 21 per cent in 2019, at 373,845 of 1,753,783 overnight stays.
And which of the city's attractions particularly excite Bonn's national and international guests? For the supporting programme of the conferences, Schäfer mentions Beethoven, culture with the Museum Mile, the Rhine with the shipping, the Siebengebirge with Drachenfels and Schloss Drachenburg, city tours and political Bonn. "If you look at leisure-oriented behaviour, topics such as gastronomy, shopping and sporting leisure activities are added," says the T&C boss. Strategically, he said, it will now be a matter of picking up on the framework conditions in the industry that have changed as a result of Corona - such as the trend towards digitalisation and hybrid events - and positioning itself further in the market.
Plenty of work for the Office of International Affairs
The administration is not able to put a concrete figure on the added value of the conference for the city as a whole. However, it regularly attaches great importance to the international meetings represented by the Office of International Affairs and the Press Office and works closely with federal and state ministries, as spokesman Markus Schmitz explains: it "organises protocol events, offers supporting programmes, organises services in conference management and logistics, supports press and public relations work and ensures that the conference is visible in the cityscape".
(Original text: Rüdiger Franz; Translation: Mareike Graepel)