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NordicISSUE 67 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / 49InnovationThree of the Nordic countries in this feature were recently ranked among the most innovative countries in the EU in the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2012. Sweden topped the list, with Denmark and Finland following behind. These countries were ranked as 'innovation leaders' by the Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology.It found all member states in the table have improved their innovation performance. However, innovation performance growth is slowing down and the EU is not closing the persistent gap with global innovation leaders US, Japan and South Korea. CMW shines a Nordic light to ascertain just how innovative these countries' meetings industries really are in attracting convention business. he Nordic countries of Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark have joined forces for decades in many economic and political shapes and their meetings industries have followed suit. "The co-operation of these countries goes back decades when it comes to leisure travel so the natural progress was to form an alliance in regards to the MICE industry," Iceland Convention and Incentive Bureau (ICIB) MD Solveig Lilja Einarsdottir tells CMW. "We are working together on many levels emphasising, our sustainability and meetings infrastructure, and we are working on an accord between our destinations." The Scandinavian International Convention and Congress Association (ICCA) Chapter is currently in the process of developing a Nordic Sustainability Meetings Zone and hopes to launch it at the IMEX meetings tradeshow in Frankfurt in May 2012. The Chapter's 64 members agreed to promote the region as more than just 'green' but as transparent and safe meetings destinations with strong human and labour rights. "By promoting the region as a whole we all gain. It is a strength as the probabilities of being able to share leads within our group are high," says Einarsdottir. "We decided to promote the region at two exhibitions in the US in 2011: AIBTM and IMEX America, which was a great success. "We are also building awareness for our region at industry shows in Europe such as EIBTM, where we hosted an ice glass cocktail event, which was also successful."Above: Finland was ranked the fourth most innovative country in the EUTNatural progress was to form an alliance in regards to the MICE industryICIB MD SOLVEIG LILJA EINARSDOTTIR

50 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / ISSUE 67Nordic: IcelandIceland: the Mid-Atlantic meeting pointSituated between North America and Europe, Iceland provides a halfway meeting point In March 2010, Iceland's infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano attracted global attention when it caused major disruption to air travel across Europe. The country felt the heat in terms of visitor arrivals but has seen a gradual return, with Iceland attracting 400,000 visitors in 2011, 20 per cent of them MICE visitors. In ICCA's 2010 country rankings Iceland ranked 56th worldwide and 29th in Europe, with 27 qualifying meetings held. Of those meetings Iceland's capital Reykjavik hosted 24. Reykjavik is expected to increase its ranking in the years to come with its Harpa Concert and Conference Centre delivering a host of events since opening in May 2011. In April 2012 the city sees the opening of a new hotel, Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina, with 108 rooms and meeting facilities for up to 50 delegates.Iceland's two cities, Reykjavik and Akureyri, offer 40 three-star and above hotels with 3,000 bedrooms. Destination management company Atlantik's Director of Incentives, Kristin Sif Siguroardottir tells CMW that although the country's facilities are on the smaller side and thereby limit the events the city can accommodate Iceland has "solid infrastructure and an ease of transport". She says there are numerous direct flights from cities on both sides of the Atlantic. She adds there are possible bottlenecks in flights when many delegates come in from one destination. "Iceland is more suitable for up to 1,200-delegate conferences, where we have Harpa as the main venue," says Iceland Convention and Incentive Bureau MD Solveig Lilja Einarsdottir. "Iceland is a land of endless action where the playground of the highlands is within minutes from the city, offering delegates snowmobiles on glaciers, river-rafting or relaxing in thermal pools. " Meet in ReykjavikIn January Reykjavík, the Icelandair Group and Harpa founded 'Meet in Reykjavík' concept to market the city as an international conference destination. Within three years they hope to increase annual delegate arrivals by 20 per cent, increase conventions' economic impact by one billion ISK (US$7.9m) and increase international conferences in the city to at least 30 per year.With a population of only 300,000, Iceland is a compact meetings destination ready to accommodate smaller international events. "Incentives are far from being simply an indulgence but provide a reward for goals attained and are an opportunity to build teamwork, loyalty and enthusiasm into a workforce," says Iceland Convention and Incentive Bureau MD Solveig Lilja Einarsdottir. "Whatever the season, few places can match Iceland when it comes to uniqueness and diversity of activities, hence the country's popularity among incentive planners. Where else could you play golf in the midnight sun?"CMW sets out a handful of top incentive ideas: Whale-watching tours- Elding Reykjavik Whale Watching tour leaves from the Old Harbour all year round and other 'adventures at sea' are also on offer, such as puffi n watching, sea angling and a ferry to Vioey Island. It also runs a yacht charter Glacier tours - Situated in south eastern Iceland, at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier branching from the Vatnajökull, between Skaftafell National Park and Höfn, a lagoon evolved after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic The Blue Lagoon - Iceland is known for its natural hot springs and spa culture, which is widely celebrated across the country. One of the nation's favourite pastimes is chilling out in the various hot pots Northern lights tours - The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) provide one of the most spectacular shows on earth and can be seen in Iceland from September through April Nordurfl ug helicopter tours - Delegates can take in the view of Reykjavik and its surrounding area from the mountain Esja in fi ve minutes or within 30 minutes to stand on Langjokull with a drink with icecubes from a glacier. The company co-operates with other tour companies so an organiser can combine a fl ight with jeeps or ATV experiences or a stop in the Blue Lagoon. Incentive ideasAbove and below: Harpa-Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference CentreA land of endless action with the highlands within minutes from the cityICELAND CIB MD, SOLVEIG LILJA EINARSDOTTIR