By: James Latham/INTERNATIONAL MEETINGS REVIEW
Convene, the exhibition for Meetings, Events and Incentives held annually in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city, exceeded expectations as more than 160 of Europe’s leading business event planners connected with 70 exhibitors from the Baltic Sea region.
But it wasn’t the more-than 2:1 buyer-to-seller ratio (and the 3,500 pre-scheduled appointments) that struck a chord so much as the strategic importance that both national and local government expressed in relation to attracting business events as catalysts for growth beyond their tourism and hospitality sector.
Leading officials were on constant view, emphasizing the importance of using events to attract inward investment, start-up capital, and the repatriation of skills in innovation as Lithuania seeks to reverse the loss of skilled workers that resulted from accession to the European Union. And it is worth noting that it was Rasa Noreikiene, Lithuania’s Deputy Minister for the Economy (rather than tourism), who gave the keynote address at Convene’s Gala Evening, thanking delegates for their anticipated introduction to scientific and professional communities either through corporate or association channels. Noreikiene also confirmed that Lithuania’s reputation–especially in science, medicine and ICT–still remains among the best in Europe.
The Mayor of Vilnius, Arturas Zuokas, while confirming that federal government has signed the purchase order for the new convention and exhibition center (due for completion in 2019), also revealed the city investment in «Vilnius Tech Park,» which will establish a «hothouse» for start-ups within the high-tech sector–an example of where the region already sports an enviable reputation for academic and professional enterprise. Lithuania’s hotel association leadership is also sending a message that business events are primarily strategic tools for in securing connections with investors in fields of innovation rather than merely as bed-fillers.