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54 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 65Meetings on the Waterdelegates and their partners. "The advantages are that very often, it means that the chosen venue has an amazing backdrop - and the water provides a natural space to think clearly. Activities typically can include hospitality in the form of a 'wine and dine' lake cruise with a band, to more purposeful 'on the water' bonding activities, such as canoeing, sailing, windsurfing or raft building."Special considerationsMeetings on water can, however, contain some hidden 'iceberg' challenges for planners to navigate. If a PCO is accustomed to arriving at a hotel a day before the group, he or she will only get access to a ship a couple of hours before the delegates. This means you really have to be ready to hit the deck running.Use of major public rooms on large liners is not always possible to reserve, so plenty of pre-event coordination with the cruise line's shore-side headquarters, who in turn brief the ship's staff, may be required. And be careful, because budget can easily disappear on shore excursions, spa treatments or additional onboard amenities.When shipping conference materials across international borders, allow extra time for freighting, local duty/taxes, and customs inspections.Planners would be wise to review their company's insurance/risk management policies and be prepared to deal with emergencies at sea. Case study International event management agency Grass Roots worked with one regular business communications systems client to provide an annual conference at sea for 150 customers, 250 business partners and 50 members of the press. Delegates from 45 countries went aboard the MSC Rhapsody to discuss strategy and the latest products via an interactive product fair. They flew into Milan and sailed from Genoa to Corsica and back with the conference lasting two full days and two half days. This ship was not up to a typical five-star standard, so the agency undertook some embellishments to make rooms and facilities appropriate to the audience.Getting the live technology demonstrations right on board proved a challenge, but careful planning and plenty of testing overcame them.The seas were not calm and the ship was struck by lightning one night and a couple of delegates suffered briefly with sea sickness. On arriving in Corsica the ground programme of sight-seeing activities went ahead without a hitch.The delegates were a captive audience, as at points mobile phones had no signal. However, in this world of being 'always-on' and tweeting, this may not be appropriate for all.Meet by the lake Lake Bled in Slovenia hosted the World Rowing Championships 2011 and has several hotels overlooking the lake, including Vila Bled, where former Yugoslav leader Tito was fond of meeting.Bled is a 35 km drive from Ljubljana airport and has just celebrated its 1,000th anniversary. "Bled is the host of the annual Bled Strategic Forum, similar to the Davos Forum, and is also about to open a convention bureau," reports Miha Kovacic, head of the Slovenia Convention Bureau. Sea fortIf you really want to keep your delegates captive at sea, Amazing Retreats' five-star Victorian Spitbank Fort may be the answer. Spitbank Fort has 18 rooms and function space for 50. It sits a mile offshore from Portsmouth Harbour in the UK and is one of the most unusual military buildings ever constructed. This Grade II listed monument was built in 1878 and opens November 2011.There are sun decks, sauna, fire pit, wine cellar and cigar room.Some of the world's largest and most successful convention centres, such as Vancouver CC and Hong Kong CEC, offer delegates sweeping vistas of sea. Meeting by the water or on the water can surely be inspiring. Below: The beauty of a Lakeland idyll can transfer to delegate moodThe water provides a natural space to think and bond steve carruthers, lake district hotels

ISSUE 65 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / 55Advertising FeatureSpot News From St. PetersburgTHE EXPOFORUM CONVENTION AND EXHIBITION CENTRE, TO BE BUILT IN ST PETERSBURG BY THE END OF 2013.IT WILL BE ONE OF THE LARGEST IN EUROPE. GENERAL DIRECTOR, ANATOLY ERKULOV, TELLS CMW ABOUT IT.Below: ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre. St.Petersburg, RussiaIInformation: August LenSpetsSMU was chosen as general contractor for the project. This company is part of a larger Russian construction company, Etalon. What was the main criterion for selecting a general contractor?We choose a general contractor withgreat care because the contract is verylarge not only for St. Petersburg butalso for the Russian market. The cost ofthe contract with LenSpetsSMU is 14billion rubles, which is almost 350million euros. The project is complicated, first of all with itsmulti-functionality. During the firstphase all sites of the convention andexhibition complex will be built, exceptfor three of the six exhibition halls.Thus, one of the main criteria forselection of a contractor was havingexperience with complex projects. Thesecond criteria is the presence of thecontractor's own industrial base. Sincethere will be an enormous amount ofconstruction and tight deadlines, thecontractor should not depend on theproduction plans and capabilities ofthird parties. The remaining criteriawere standard for all contractingcompanies: high quality and timelinessof implementation.When does construction begin?What stages of the project havealready been completed?Now we look forward to obtaining theconclusion of state construction experts,and immediately after that we can startwork. The general contractor ispreparing the construction site: layingtemporary roads, setting up theconstruction town, and driving the firsttest piles. As soon as we get permissionto build, we will work virtually aroundthe clock. In addition, we have alreadycleared the area of the old utilitiesinfrastructure, and we have built andconnected the new utilities infrastructure.How are you building relationshipswith the international community ofthe congress and exhibition sector?Over the past year and a half we becamemembers of key congress and exhibitionassociations: the InternationalAssociation of Congress Centres (AIPC); the International Congress andConvention Association (ICCA); theGlobal Association of ExhibitionIndustry (UFI); and the ChinaAssociation of Exhibition Centres(CAEC). We are interested in exchanging information and experiencewith our foreign colleagues, and thecloser to the opening of the complex, themore we will conduct this work.And who will manage the congressand exhibition complex once it isbuilt and open?In September we signed a contract withHilton Worldwide for management oftwo hotels in the convention centre. Onehotel will be opened under the brand name Hilton Hotels & Resorts; the second will be under the brand Hampton by Hilton. Thus, we will have a wide choice of accommodation for visitors to the complex. Though they belong to different market segments, service quality will match the operator's world-renowned reputation. For the management of the congress and exhibition part, we made a different decision. We just began the process of creating our own operating company. As you know, in 2010 our shareholders became the owners of Lenexpo ExpoForum JSC will now form a single team of employees from both ExpoForum and Lenexpo. This process will last approximately until the end of 2011. The company will organise and conduct activities up until 2013 on the territory of Lenexpo, and then move to the new complex when it opens.What do you think is your maincompetitive advantage comparedwith other European congress andexhibition centres?We tried to explore and take intoaccount the experience of the leadingEuropean congress and exhibitioncentres, in order to make ourcomplex perfect in terms ofspace-planning decisions, and interms of equipment and quality ofservices. Still, destination is one ofthe main competitive factors. Thenew convention and exhibitioncentre will be located in one of themost beautiful cities in the world,remaining almost unchanged since itwas built in the 18th-19th centuries.St Petersburg is essentially acity-museum, and this will attractprofessional and scientific events in anew convenient and modern venue