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March 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net21Northern Italy is expanding its international meetings muscle, with new infrastructure and newconvention bureaus being developed. Vikki Carleychats to Gabriella Ghigi, Exhibition Manager of Italy'smajor tradeshow devoted to the meetings industry, BTC.Italy's northernevent jewelsNorthern Italy is experiencing anevents and meetings overhaul. In the last few years significantinvestment has been put into theinfrastructure of the region, which hasmeant new conference centres, exhibitiongrounds, renovated airports and new lowcost transport links. Existing event facilitieshave also been redeveloped in parallel tothe increased demand.This region has also investedconsiderably in its destination marketingprojects, seeing the development of manynew convention bureaus, in areasincluding Turin, Rimini and Florence, aswell as Versilia, Varese, and Bergamo inLombardy, Venice, Verona and LakeGarda, Lake Maggiore and the LangheRegion in Piedmont. All are keen to take aslice of the meetings pie available to them.The meetings facilities in the region varyconsiderably, with high-capacity conferenceand event centres in Turin, Milan andRimini, then more historic venues, largeinternational hotels and design hotels andluxury resorts in various parts of the region.Large investment has been made in thecoastal town of Rimini, where ?117m hasbeen ploughed into a space-age designconvention centre, the Palacongressi. The38,000sqm venue will be the largestconvention centre in the country onceinaugurated. Although the Palacongressiwas originally due to open in May 2010,the venue management, Fiera group, is stillpleading "technical" difficulties with theconstruction. This, at time of writing, is stillcausing a delay and the centre hasn'topened. Three conventions were due totake place at the venue in September 2010but had to be transferred to the nearbyRimini Fiera Expo Centre. These, and thosescheduled at the venue in the short term,have also been transferred to the old Fiera.A little south of Rimini, in the seasideresort of Riccione, a new city-centreconference centre was opened recently. Aspokesman for the centre said: "RiccioneConference Centre was developed as part of a wider initiative to promote the town'stourism offering. It is one of the fewconference venues in Europe that is locatedin the heart of the town that hosts it, andthe town is a real conference-friendly town."Other cities with adequate conferencefacilities that have recently upgraded theirinfrastructure include Bergamo, 50 km from Milano, which has invested in itsairport. The city has introduced many newlow cost flights. Milan Convention Centre was built in 2002and doubled in size in 2005. Now it has 36meeting rooms with seating for between 10and 2,000 delegates. The eight multi-purpose halls offer over 80,000sqm and canbe transformed into plenary halls with up to5,000 seats. Gabriella Ghigi Exhibition Manager ofItaly's major trade show devoted to themeetings industry, BTC, said the economicdownturn hit Italy's meetings marketsignificantly. "But the industry is now startingto see change, in the way of investment anddevelopment," she noted."Corporate clients reduced their budgetsfor events and many event agencies had tostreamline their workforces, look for newbusiness and clients and merge with otheragencies," she added.Examples of this include the AlessandroRosso Group which acquired some of themost established events agencies in thecountry, including Newtours, Teamwork andGastaldi Global. The AIM Group, with manyoffices in Italy, expanded into 10 cities inEurope and the USA, and the VeneziaCongressi, an established professionalconference organiser (PCO) was acquired bythree PCO's based in other cities: MZCongressi, Sistema Congressi and TheOffice, now run it between them.According to Ghigi, like most of Europe'sevents market, corporate clients in Italy didnot stop organising events during thedownturn but reduced budgets and requiredthe highest quality/price ratio, shortestplanning times and cut all unnecessaryREGIONAL FOCUS????Charting new conference waters'There is a slow butsteady recovery.'