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March 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net17The city on the Seine has revisited its venue infrastructure. Sarah O'Donnellexamines whether Paris hassucceeded in reinventing that certain je ne sais quoi for its international conference and meetings offerand put the romance back into business events this Spring. Still loving meetings?Although Paris is one of the mosticonic cities in the world, withcountless film noir pictures set in itsbourgeois cafes and cobblestone streets, itsmeetings industry realises it can rely onromantic, superficial beauty no longer. The need to keep up with its modernEuropean meeting competitors, such asBarcelona, Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt andLondon, is all too certain and Paris hasrecently upped its game with newinfrastructure and initiatives. The city is a strong draw card for businesstourism with Europe's largest and theworld's second largest concentration ofFortune 500 companies and Europe'ssecond largest financial market. According to economic research groupCushman and Wakefield's 21st EuropeanCities Monitor study, Paris was voted thesecond most attractive city for business inEurope for 2010. The report surveyed 500European companies' senior executives andwas published in October 2010. London, Paris and Frankfurt remained thetop three cities for business, stated thereport. Key factors which influenced thisranking included easy access to markets,customers or clients; availability of qualitystaff; quality of communications andtransport links internally and internationally. The French capital retains its second topposition behind London as best known cityin Europe, and the 2010 report found it hadmoved ahead of Prague into fifth position asthe city doing the most to improve itself. ViParis is one of the largest conventionand exhibition centre management groupsin France after it recently brought togetherunder one brand a large share of the venuemarket. It is currently is refurbishing itsvenues. The group owns 10 in the Parisregion out of a total of 18, and hosts anaverage of 150 conventions and 1,000corporate events each year. The latest major investment the groupmade was the entire renovation of the Cnit,a convention centre located in the businessdistrict, La Defence. It is also renovating apavilion at the Porte de Versailles exhibitioncentre. The Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibitionand Convention Centre launched its newevent space a few months ago and this yearthe group will focus on the renovation of theParis Congress Centre. "Our sales department was re-organised afew months ago by the creation of abusiness development department," said theDevelopment Director for ViParis, FlorentJoncquiert Latarjet. "In terms of corporateevents, 2010 came close to the healthy levelof 2008 and 2011 looks promising despiteshort lead times, with international eventson the increase."For conventions, 2011 is set to be a recordyear for the group with the hosting of newcongresses, including the European Societyof Cardiology for 30,000 delegates at ParisNord Villepinte and the InternationalCongress of Alzheimer's Disease (6,500delegates) at Porte de Versailles. Further developments in infrastructureinclude Le Royal Monceau hotel, whichrecently reopened its doors following a two-year refurbishment by French designerCITY FOCUS????Photo courtesy of Paris Tourist Office / Amelie DupontZibrant ran an incentive trip to paris toreward its operations team. It wastailored to create a unique experienceof Paris. Any warnings for organisers hostingan event in the city? Traffic in Paris can be particularly busyand you will need to factor in plenty oftime for transfers. If you are partying orclubbing in the city, don't forget to book- getting into good clubs is difficult.Any recommendations?We had a pleasant lunch at Ladurée,which is good for smaller groups of upto 30 delegates and it's great to seewhere macaroons originate.Take a helicopter trip from Paris toVersailles; it is a fabulous way to seethe city with views of Eiffel Tower, Arcde Triomphe, La Defense district andthe Versailles Palace. Once inVersailles go to Gordon Ramsayrestaurant, au Trianon. If helicoptersaren't your thing, what better way toexperience the French capital than in an iconic French Citröen 2CV. Wetoured around the city in a myriad ofcoloured 2CVs with Parisian studentsdriving and acting as our tour guides. Fay Sharpe, MD ofevents agency Zibrant Conference+Meetings WorldMarch 2011CITY FOCUSPhilippe Starck. The 149-room hotel is thefirst in Paris to have its own cinema withadjacent meeting rooms. Shangri-La also opened its Paris hotel inDecember, its first property in Europe. Thehotel was developed from the former homeof Napoleon Bonaparte's grand-nephewand includes 91 rooms and event space. After London, Paris has the largest numberof hotel rooms in Europe, with the majorityindependent. By 2020 there are plans for anadditional 7,000 hotel rooms. Mobile technology event organiser GSMAannounced Paris was one of four cities tohave been shortlisted from those competingto host the GSMA Mobile World Congressfrom 2013 through 2017.It includes not only the annual MobileWorld Congress event, but also the MobileWorld Centre, which will include technologyexhibits, a retail area and office space; andthe Mobile World Festival, which is expectedto draw 50,000 visitors over four days. All roads lead to ParisIn the Cushman and Wakefield's EuropeanCities Monitor,Paris maintained its year-on-year ranking in second place for its externaltransport links. One such link the high-speedrail network between the UK and mainlandEurope, Eurostar whichhas recorded a 12per cent rise in its annual revenue toUS$1.2bn in 2010. The Chief Executive of Eurostar, NicolasPetrovic, said the turnaround in the businessmarket had continued in the second half oflast year and the operator is now starting tosee a real shift in people keen to exploredestinations by rail.One conference destination along aEurostar route is Disneyland Paris BusinessSolutions (DPBS), located 30 minutes fromthe French capital. It is not only the home ofthe famous attraction, the site is equippedwith two convention centres, 23,500sqm ofevent space and 95 meeting rooms. It alsoboasts 14 hotels and 8,200 rooms. "We run around 1,000 events a year splitbetween external events for corporates andassociations and internal events for theDisney Corporation itself," says theMarketing Manager for DPBS, Laura Faure."The French market increased its share ofevents during the global financial crisis butfor 2011 we hope to make a new assault onthe international market again andspecifically new sectors such as energy."The attraction has introduced ateambuilding programme for groups calledEcolympiads, which challenges teams withan array of activities on the theme of theenvironment and sustainable development."Paris has recently embarked on a journeyof becoming greener and the market is verysensitive to eco issues. We wanted tosupport corporates' needs to includecorporate social responsibility (CSR)elements in their events," says Faure. "CSR does not have to be a serious affairand these teambuilding activities are aneasy way to engage with employees, clientsor partners and deliver the right message."Investing in Parisians In December, the Chairmen and MDs of 15hotel groups representing 475 hotels inParis, signed an agreement with the ParisConvention and Visitors Bureau for thehosting of major professional events in thecity. The charter seeks to attract majorcongresses to the city by the hotels agreeingto offer specific advantageous incentives fordelegates, such as quotes guaranteed forseveral years in advance and thetransparency of rates.Hotel Fouquet's Barrière Paris is a five-starpalace-style property near the ChampsElysees. Its Director of Sales for the UK and Scandinavia, Lisa Grant, said theconference market has continued to besubject to strong seasonality through theglobal financial crisis with a sharp fall inactivity in July and August. "Less than fiveper cent of congresses are held in summerand we have noticed the market is moreand more operating on last minutebookings," she added. Over the past two years, Paris has slippedtwo places to third in the InternationalCongress and Convention Association(ICCA) worldwide city rankings behindconvention cities Vienna and Barcelona.Although it only held eight less conventionsthan the previous year (131 for 2009),Vienna upped its game with 160 qualifyingmeetings held. The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureauclaims the ICCA rankings reveal little aboutthe global activity of a destination in termsof congresses, however, "in 2009, 39assocations chose Paris as the place toorganise their first event. These conferencesdo not feature in the rankings because theyare first-timers."The bureau reported 930 congresses wereheld in the city in 2009, 30 more than theprevious year. Medical conventionsaccounted for 48 per cent of those held inthe city and 43 per cent of delegates wereinternational in 2009, compared to 57 percent in 2008. Delegate days saw a decreasein lengths of meetings from 2.5 days in2008 to 2.2 in 2009. Business tourism accounts for over 44 percent of the tourism visits in Paris and isestimated to be worth around ?4.8bn. Witha revamped meetings offer Paris can proveit has a new and exciting collection on theconference catwalk. Parc Walt Disney Studios, ParisDelegate entertainment? Moulin RougePhoto courtesy of Paris Tourist Office / Henri ClementEuromoney runs between two to 10courses a month in Paris, up to 30delegates, all in the centre of Paris.Does an event need to be moreflexible to suit its environment?It is really difficult to find conferencerooms with daylight in Paris and wehave to be flexible on this. The size of the rooms is not what you maynecessarily expect. Most of the venues'conference rooms are in the basement.Any warnings for organisers hostingan event in the city? French venues can be very slow tocome back to you. Be careful on thenumber of delegates that the venuesays can fit in a room, most of the timedelete five delegates from their number.Any recommendations? It all depends on your budget. Thereare plenty of well organised venues.One of my favourite is the Lutetia Hotelbut you need a minimum of 25delegates to have an event there. You can get a Bateau Mouche on theriver by night or you can visit Paris bybike. It is so more secure than otherEuropean cities and cheaper.Sebastian Mille, SeniorCourse Manager atEuromoney Training