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November 1, 2014

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SPLIT, Meetologue 2014

CROSSROADS DALMATIA 

Split is full of stories and myths. First of all, the classic clash between the north and south, between Zagreb and Split, Dinamo and Hajduk.  Split reproaches Zagreb with claims of centralism and exploitation of the south.

The fact that Hajduk is more than just a football club with numerous fans, who stick with them even in times of drought, speaks volumes of the character of Split and its inhabitants.

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The city was formed as part of the ambition of one of the most important Roman emperors, Diocletian, born in nearby Salona. It can be compared to a sort of Dubai of its period, since Diocletian built his palace and urban plan to be a part of the world’s history as the new capital of the Roman province Dalmatia. The monumental architecture of the city and a number of important individuals give it a specific cosmopolitan character, occasionally blended with the rebellious spirit of its inhabitants.  Maybe this explains the attachment of the inhabitants to their football club and the Split state of mind, wittily characterised by the late Dino Dvornik: “You may speak ill of me or of the whole world, but I never want to hear you speak ill of Split…” The Split spirit and energy are a fertile ground for excellent musicians, sportsmen and scientists.

What thrills tourists the most is the Mediterranean ambiance of the city with its street life and the famous riva, which functions as a public square, concert venue, night gathering place and the spot for all of Split’s important events.

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Split Cathedral Doors Celebrate 800 Years – We know that the doors were erected at exactly midday on April 23rd 1214 from a marginal note in the ‘Historia Salonitana’, a 13th century work covering the history of Split up to 1266, written by Thomas the Archdeacon. So at exactly midday on Wednesday, April 23rd, Split celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Cathedral doors with the opening of a special exhibition about them.

This rivalry between the capital and the provincial capital exists in all other European congress countries. Split was virtually non-existent in the meetings industry until a few years ago. In the battle with Opatija, Dubrovnik and other tourist places in Istria it got the short end of the stick. It was deemed as a more or less ‘transit’ meetings destination. There were numerous plans and ideas to build a congress centre.  In 2007 there was talk of a project called ABC, which would combine an exhibition, business and congress centre. In 2008 the idea of a congress centre gained momentum, as the government supported investment analyses for four new congress centres in Zagreb, Opatija, Dubrovnik and Split. The centre would be located at the eastern part of the port of Split, on the site of the Dalmacijavino factory, with a 1,500 capacity plenary hall.  Unfortunately the economic crisis put a halt to all of the projects.

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Dalmacija Wine Expo 2014 in Split – The Dalmatia Wine Expo 2014 continues to grow, to the satisfaction of its clients and visitors. The concept of the Expo has changed this year and the festival has been divided into two key segments: the business segment, which is to be held on 24 and 25 April 2014 at Radisson Blu Hotel in Split, and the so-called Wine & Fun days, held on 1 and 2 May 2014 on Kacic Square in Makarska.

Yet, everything changed completely with the arrival of large hotel chains a few years ago. The first was Hotel Le Meridien Lav in Podstrana near Split, which is the largest congress hotel in the city. Excellent service, international connections and know-how of the Starwood chain drew numerous international events to Split. The hotel is the flagship of the Dalmatian meetings industry and has received several prizes. It’s among the best in the Adriatic for functionality, and very appropriate for incentive groups and product launches due to its excellent additional services.

The second major hotel in Split was Radisson Blu Resort. The four star hotel with 240 rooms has a smaller congress centre, the largest hall accommodating 350 people and six smaller halls with ancillary services.

Atrium followed the foreign hotel chains and opened a hotel in 2007. The maximum capacity of the halls is 300 and additional services of the hotel are of a very high level. Smaller congress capacities are also available at Katarina, Park, Dalmina, Globo and President.

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10th Central European Orthopaedic Congress (CEOC) – Will be held in Split from 8th to 11th May.

The newest acquisition of the town, the Spaladium sports arena, can also potentially serve as a congress hall.

The city is also full of special venues for receptions and accompanying events.  Among the traditional venues there is the Diocletian palace. Receptions can also be held at Prokurative square, the Croatian national theatre, Villa Dalmatia and numerous picturesque outdoor locations just waiting to host events. The restaurant scene is lively, as is the nightlife. In the last two years Split gained the reputation of being the party metropolis of the Adriatic and not just a transit destination on the way to the Dalmatian islands.

Tour Diocletian’s Aqueduct Tunnels – These tunnels are one of the best preserved examples of ancient infrastructure, and there are plans to open them to visitors. The tunnels are 1.15 metres wide and 2.2 metres high, which makes them pretty comfortable for walking.

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The development of the meetings industry has encouraged the development of the agency segment. This occurred firstly through numerous DMC agencies and has been  followed by a number of specialised incentive and team building service providers. Split offers a lot in a concentrated area, in terms of both the seaside and its inland area, that is not recognisable enough on the international market. Split is faced with the classic issue of many destinations, where the convention bureau is formally a part of the city tourist organisation and thus lacks international recognition. Split urgently needs a well organised and branded convention bureau.

The major disadvantage of the destination is air traffic access, although infrastructure has been improved with the renovation of the airport platform and will further gain from the planned construction of a new terminal, equipping the airport to be able to receive up to 2 million passengers annually.

Air transport is mostly an issue in the low tourist season, which is at the same time high congress season. This element of an attractive destination is the main one preventing Split from becoming an excellent congress destination. Split is the diamond amongst the coal.

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Destination mark: 3,98 – QUALITY MEETING DESTINATION
Marks:
5 excellent meetings destination
4 quality meetings destination
3 recommendable meetings destination
2 average meetings destination
1 passable

Individual marks:

A. Natural and cultural factors: 4.35
The mild climate, lively atmosphere, historical attractions and architecture are the main advantages of destination Split. Its disadvantage is the attitude towards the environment and sustainable development.

B. General and transport infrastructure: 3.98
With the completion of the motorway Split has an excellent connection to the continent. Air and rail accessibility is steadily improving. The downside is local traffic infrastructure with public transportation as well as communal infrastructure.

C. Tourism infrastructure: 4.45
Tourism infrastructure has improved immensely in the last few years. Even before that Split was well equipped with sports venues and leisure offers. Split is the cultural centre of Dalmatia. The progress of the hotel scene is making great strides.

D. Congress infrastructure: 4.12
Congress hotels, professional services, ongoing development and a variety of congress products are a strong part of the offer. On the downside are its congress history and references as well as the number of hotel rooms appropriate for congresses, the weakest link being the lack of a convention centre in Split.

E.  Subjective assessment:  4,16
Political stability, safety, ratio of quality to price and general competitiveness of the destination are the main attributes of Split’s offer. Split does somewhat worse in the area of meetings industry support, e-services and the image of Split as a congress destination.

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Comparison to the Region:
Among the Adriatic congress destinations Split has become serious competition to Dubrovnik in the last years. The main disadvantages of the destination are bad cooperation between the service providers, lack of air traffic connections to key markets and not enough destination marketing. If Split gets a real convention centre in the future it could become one of the leading congress destinations in the Mediterranean. New and excellent hotel capacities, good road connections to Europe and wonderful surroundings, with islands offering numerous incentive programme opportunities, all bolster this proposition. Split is one of the most unexploited congress destinations in the Mediterranean.

Cool meetings:
HEART OF DALMATINSKA KUHINJA: Characteristic of Dalmatian coastal cuisine is its digestibility and simple preparation. The secret of the fabulous taste of fish, meat, or other cooked dishes lies right in that. Yet the idea that simplicity means everyone everywhere could prepare them would be deceiving. The tradition of grilling and roasting fish and delicacies of the sea in this region has been carried on from generation to generation, whereby the proper grilling technique often depends on the type of wood or wood briquettes chosen to do the grilling. In addition to this come the tantalizing Dalmatian olive oil, grilling technique, and the particular taste of the fish and delicacies of the sea.

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November 1, 2014

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HVAR, Meetologue 2014

ROOM WITH A VIEW

Evergreen Hvar is one of my favourite Adriatic islands. I no longer count how many times I have visited the island. Most of the experience is a summerholiday – I spent several summers on the island where I cooked  octopusbaked fish and enjoyed the beautiful nature. We never get bored of it. This is the life that recharges your batteries for the year ahead, where the delightful climate helps you to forget your everyday problems and,above all, the unbeatable Hvar home kitchen creates a stress-free, peaceful and delicious atmosphere.

Hvar

Hvar is still a quite wild and largely uninhabited island. On the beauty of the island, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, there is no point in wasting words, since there is no shortage of various urban legends and superlatives.One relates to the singer Beyonce, who fell in love with the island so much that she gave her daughter the name of one of the island’s plants – Blue Ivy (blue ivy). When the ferry brings you closer to the island, it smells of Mediterranean plants; in the summer crickets also start with their symphony… it’s no wonder that it was given so many different names! Among other things, it used to be called Austrian MadeiraIn Hvar, the urban has been coexisting with the rural for centuries. The towns of Hvar, Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska and on the other hand the less touristic places of Poljica, Zastražišće and Zavala are balanced by the charm of the inland, whichcan be felt on the old road through Brusje, full of wonderful views of the neighbouring islands and the lavender fields.

Hvar celebrates 145 years of organised tourism

Hvar lives two tourist lives; the summer crowds and the visits of celebrities from Tom Cruise to Prince Harry is eventually replaced by the autumn-winter lull and the true Hvar ‘fjaka’. It has not always been so at the coolestAdriatic islandInterestingly, tourism here first began to develop in the winter monthsDue to the mild climate, the island has been a climatic health resort ever since 1868. It also offers a lot more outside the main touristseason – world-class wineries, olive oil, rock climbing, biking and rural tourism. The island offers so much more than beaches, the waterfront with luxury yachts and the infamous parties at the club Carpe Diem.

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Restoration of The Hvar public Theatre – works on improvement of the Arsenal building are in progress, as a prerequisite for the restoration of the Theatre itself and the revitalisation of the cultural and dramatic life of this one-of-a-kind veteran of the world’s theatrical history. The long-awaited reconstruction of this exceptional historical monument will bring it back to life.

Perhaps part of the problem is also messy destination management. In terms of marketing, four destination organisations operate with the island – Hvar, Stari Grad, Jelsa and Sućuraj, which is too many for such a small and incredibly special island. On the other hand, the island receives the constant attention of foreign media and numerous awards. In 2012, Lonely Planet announced Hvar as one of the top five destinations and Conde Nast one of the top 10 islands in Europe. The visits of stars and mega yachts fills the pages of the yellow press and provides free promotion of the island.

The meeting industry goes hand in hand with cuisine and oenology, which makes the island of Hvar also interesting from this point of view; it is one of the hottest Croatian wine points. Over 2,400 years of wine-making tradition is concentrated around the ‘Stari Grad’ (the Old Town), which is now on the UNESCO heritage map. The oldest vine, plavac mali, can be found on the island of Hvar, the root of a tradition continued by famous winemakers ‘Zlatan Otok’ (Golden Island), Tomić, Carić, Plančić and Duboković. It is necessary to try the native white variety, Bogdanuša.

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Hvar for the first time connected to Dubrovnik by Catamaran – the team from Krilo have come up with a twice-weekly service on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Plito to Milna, Hvar Town, Korčula and Dubrovnik, starting in May 2014.

Today Hvar is primarily the scene of a variety of eventsThis year the Ultra festival will be held there, which will attract over 60,000 visitors to Split, including 5,000 VIP guests in Hvar, who will be entertained at a specialvenue at the Hotel Amfora. The list of various convention events is also interesting. In June this year, Hvar will host a large start-up conference, with a number of smaller events also lined upmost of them to take place in the flexible convention centre of the Hotel Amfora.

The hotel company ‘Sunčani Hvar‘ (Sunny Hvar) has raised the quality of their hotels that now satisfy even the most demanding guests. The largest of their hotels is the Amfora, a modern hotel with a conference centre andluxurious extras; it is away from the old town, where they renovated the boutique hotels Adriana and Riva. The full offer is complemented also by hotels of lower categoryStari Grad and other smaller towns still remain, as regards the offer of accommodation, in the shadow of Hvar.

Two Hvar restaurants make the top 40 Croatia restaurant for 2014 – Gariful and Meneghello.

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Logistically the organisation of events on the island is certainly more complex than on the mainland. However, today, in addition to the quite tired ferries of Jadrolinija, you can use the more comfortable passenger catamaran,which can also be privatised. Each year Split Airport has more connections, even outside of the peak season. The number of flights during the season surpasses those of many of the South-East European capitals. Road connectivity within the island, however, requires a bit more patience, especially during the high season.

Culinary gems are always a bit hidden, among them being Palmižana on the nearby Paklinski islands, but otherwise you will find authentic taverns around the island where they will prepare meat or octopus baked “ispod peke” style for you

First Mini Seedcamp on an island: Hvar – the leading European accelerator program is hosting the first Mini Seedcamp on an island.

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Hvar hides such gems as the village of Velo Grablje, with just seven inhabitants, which is the manufacturing centre of Hvar lavender.

In the middle of summer Hvar is really overcrowded, but in early autumn and spring it is a perfect choice for organising congresses and incentive programmes, both at sea and on land.

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Destination mark: 4,12 – QUALITY MEETING DESTINATION

Marks:
5 excellent meeting destination
4 quality meeting destination
3 recommendable meeting destination
2 average meeting destination
1 passable

Individual grades:

A. Natural and Cultural Factors:   4,50
The central Dalmatian islands have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Due to the island characteristics they create a geographical and cultural-historical finished package. Hvar is now on the UNESCO list of natural heritage sites and is the main adventure pearl of the Adriatic.

BGeneral and Transport Infrastructure:  3,80
Since Split is now accessible from the highway, the way to Hvar is significantly shorter. Sunčani Hvar is aware of the difficult access to the island, which is particularly problematic for congress and other business travellers who come for 2 – 3 day’s events. Improving flight connectivity weighs up even in the worst case a two-hour drive from Split to the island.

C. Tourist Infrastructure:    4,30
Sunčani Hvar took care of the cosmopolitan transformation of Hvar into one of the world’s top destinations. The renovated Riva and Adriana hotels in the old town can meet the needs of the most demanding guests,without missing good restaurants, bars and exclusive beaches. A well maintained walkway connects the old part with the largest hotel, the Hotel Amfora.

D. Meetings Infrastructure :   3,60
Hvar has put itself on the meetings map by building a convention hotel, Amfora, with a congress centre and two large halls. The largest one can take up to 370 people theatre-style, the other 320. Both are flexible, A/V connected and can be converted into five break out rooms, complemented by three additional ones, designed for smaller, intimate meetings. For special events and receptions, the Hotel Palace offers a wonderful ambience at San Marco terrace on the main town square.

E. Subjective Grade:     4,40
Despite the notoriety of the island and its visibility Hvar is still sweet, genuine and full of sincere, authentic Mediterranean experiences. The island culture fascinates and conquers, despite the more difficult access. It is well worth it!

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Comparison with the region:
None of the more than 1,000 Croatian islands has such karma and recognition as Hvar. Definitely a “must” Croatian destination, right behind Dubrovnik. Distance from the mainland gives it a touch of boutique smallness.

Cool meetings:
Hvar wine and the island’s culinary art have thrilled the gourmet and world traveller Anthony Bourdain, who already after the first visit became one of Hvar’s chief promoters. You will also definitely be reminded of Hvar by the taste of olive oil, red wine and the fragrance of lavender.

 

November 1, 2014

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ZADAR, meetologue 2014

A COOL MEETINGS DESTINATION

It seems that Zadar has a very specific Mediterranean rhythm and urban culture. In the morning, the old town on the peninsula is full of people who shop and fill the main street Kalelarga or a wide street. The highlight is between the eleventh hour and noon. Cafes with their specific cultural experience are filled to the last corner. Each generation and each group can find a special place in Zadar. In the afternoon, the city is completely asleep in the Dalmatian siesta and looks like deserted until five o’clock, when it is revived again. And Zadar really impressed me with something. Zadar’s waterfront is quite different from the others on the Adriatic. With new architectural installations and no mass bars it is, especially early in the morning or at romantic sunsets, a true zen experience which you will not find in other places on the Adriatic.

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The Croatian coast is a place of historic urban tradition. The majority of towns were created in the Greek or Roman times. Probably the oldest town in this area is Zadar, which has already developed in the Iron Age as Liburnian settlement and was the capital of Dalmatia until the Italian occupation in 1918. Recently the city has experienced a lot of transformation in the field of tourism and conference infrastructure. The most prominent are the architectural installations Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun, which were built in 2006. On the organ play waves and create an interesting harmony. Sundial is also a small solar power station. With such projects, Zadar is increasingly becoming a lifestyle destination and one of the new tourist-meetings brands. To this also contribute events such as the Garden Festival, which placed Zadar on the map of Croatian club scene and in their own way raise the image of Zadar as a cool place. In recent years, it has been waking up from the former socialist drowsiness and is becoming a young and scintillating city. For the real experience of Zadar and its soul, you need to visit the well-stocked city market and the fish market. Feast for the eyes, body and soul.

Zadar celebrating the peace treaty of 1358 – The Treaty of Zadar, signed between the Venetian Republic and the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, freed the Croatian coast and islands from Venetian occupation and opened a long period of social and economic prosperity of the city of Zadar, as stressed by Skunca Stanko, Guardian of the Monastery where the treaty was signed and where the original document is filed, who also emphasized the important role of the Franciscans in the achievement of peace and the signing of this treaty.

Friendly atmosphere and exceptional cultural heritage create an extremely diverse experience. In the old town alone there are over 34 old churches. Thankfully, most of them survived the air raids of the Second World War. The city, which before the war, was under the influence of architecture of Venice, has received much socialist modernist buildings. The aesthetics of these buildings could be discussed. Specialty of the micro-location of Zadar are many islands that surround it, and provide opportunities for incentive trips and nautical adventures. Zadar has one of the biggest Croatian marinas; the archipelago has 24 major and about 300 smaller islands. In the vicinity of Zadar there are five national parks: Paklenica, Plitvice, Kornati, Krka and Velebit, which offer to more responsible congress organisers more active and diverse experiences.

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The Zadar summer theatre festival celebrates its 20th anniversary – The programme is dedicated to stage pieces, which means visitors are able to follow a gripping plot of a theatre play one evening and enjoy a dance choreography the next.

The historical tourism development of Zadar was influenced by the establishment of regular shipping lines to Trieste. Soon after the establishment of shipping, the first hotels developed. Zadar got the first modern hotel in 1890, when the Grand Hotel was opened. A little later, in 1902, the hotel Bristol was constructed. Zadar and its surroundings have experienced a tourism boom in the sixties and seventies of the 20th century.

The city experienced another tourist transformation recently. At the same time, the highway Zagreb Split built in 2005, which greatly shortened the journey to Zadar and literally allowed the development of congress tourism. Arrival of low cost airlines to Zadar is in full swing. It seems that the Director of the Zadar airport Katic Pupić Bakrač managed to revive the entire tourist region.
But that’s not all. Planed ferry and cruise port Gaženica will release the transport from the old town and make it more attractive to tourists. Unfortunately, the project is in a slower implementation phase. Among the advantages of Zadar we can also add the fact that a large part of the city is closed to traffic, which makes it very pleasant for pedestrians.

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Manchester – Zadar route from Ryanair – Ryanair has introduced a Manchester (UK) to Zadar (Croatia) service to its destination portfolio, launched on April 4, 2014.

In April this year Zadar with its surroundings was the scene of the European premiere of the Chevrolet Trax car. Over 1000 journalists from 38 European countries have become ambassadors of Zadar. The focal point of the presentation was artistic presentation of the devilishly red Chevrolet Trax in coulours of Manschester United with signatures of all players in an artistic 3D instalation by street artist Gregora Wosik. The presentation took place in the carismatic Zadar Arsenal. The main locations of the event – Arsenal and the new Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Iadera are the two key meetings engines of Zadar. Flagship of conference hotel offer is Falkensteiner Iadera in Petrčani. Within the resort there is a top smaller convention centre, which is among the most modern in the Adriatic. In the city centre, there are convention halls in Kolovare Hotel with the largest hall for a maximum of 230 participants. Smaller conference facilities are also in the boutique hotel Bastion. For larger events, a modern sports hall Krešimir Čošić is also suitable in principle. In addition, the city is overflowing with specific locations for receptions and other special meetings experiences. All event organisers have not yet discovered Zadar as meetings story here is relatively new and unknown.

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Arsenal is a former Venecian armory converted in a multifunctional convention-event space. This is probably one of the most special and original convention venues of Croatia. The really special ambience is offering a large central hall, which acts as a town square and can accommodate up to 1000 participants for major concerts or events

A great advantage of Zadar is that it has a University, which is the oldest in Croatia, since it was founded in 1396 and it itself generates a lot of smaller congress events. Unfortunately, Zadar is missing a convention bureau, which would greatly help in the further promotion of the whole destination. Also because of this, Zadar and its surroundings are too often an overlooked convention destination. Even the development and diversity of congress products can be currently estimated to be average.

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Event Ship Nada opened in 2013 – A multifunctional congress & event ship with seating capacity for 200 and complete conference audio and visual equipment, a restaurant, kitchen and bars providing excellent service throughout.

 

Congress organisers will usually choose Zadar because of its location at the crossroads of the greatest natural beauties of Croatia, history and culture as well as the better overall and conference infrastructure. Zadar is becoming very advanced and viable conference city, which boasts an exceptional cultural offer. With such potential it can compete with Mediterranean destinations of Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey. In the future it will have to do some urgent organisational and infrastructural interventions to capture the rhythm of most of the more advanced Croatian conference destinations.

Harley Davidson Days 2014 – Endless lines of the most famous motorcycles in the world and demo rides of the latest Harley models on exciting Biograd sections will demonstrate to you the meaning of owning the world’s best known motorcycle.

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Destination mark: 4,06 – QUALITY CONGRESS DESTINATION

Grading explanation:
5 excellent meetings destination
4 quality meetings destination
3 advisable meetings destination
2 average meetings destination
1 pretty OK meetings destination

Individual marks:

A. Natural and Cultural Factors:  4,20
Natural geographic position at the crossroads of different regions, rich history, indented coastline and terrain and untouched nature, together with the mild Mediterranean climate and vegetation is an excellent prospect for the development of congress tourism.

B. General and Transport Infrastructure: 4,20
It seems that Ryanair transformed the tourist map of Zadar and returned Zadar among the important tourist hubs in the Adriatic. The city is experiencing a traffic and infrastructure renaissance and gives a sense of urban tidiness. Even the quality of life seems to be at a high level.

C. Tourist Infrastructure: 4,40
Zadar with over 4000 beds, several campgrounds and resorts is a developed summer destination for leisure and a yachting paradise. With the advent of new air connections, construction of new and renovation of existing hotel facilities, conditions for the development of congress tourism and exploitation of the extremely rich and already-developed tourist infrastructure.

D. Meetings Infrastructure:  3,40
Zadar is an ideal destination for organisation of smaller conferences and incentives for up to 100 participants. In this area it has the greatest opportunity, as meeting planners are always looking for new attractive convention destinations. Unfortunately, Zadar is missing a convention bureau and a more targeted marketing, which affects the congress image of the destination.

E. Subjective Grade: 4,10
The charming city with thousand years of cultural heritage, the proximity of the islands, five national parks and improving flight connections. It’s no wonder that a number of foreign media see it as a cool convention destination.

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Comparison with the region:
Conference organisers are always looking for new and different destinations. Zadar is the logical choice, as it has enormous potential of natural and cultural conditions. Moreover, it is a cool destination with a specific urban rhythm. Currently, the main drawback are congress facilities that only allow smaller events as well as congress infrastructure which is not yet built and in function. Once everything is in place, Zadar will certainly be an important congress player.

Cool meetings:
Maraschino liqueur is made from ‘maraska’ cherries after the original recipe from the 16th century. It is attributed with healing effects.

October 28, 2014

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GRAZ, Meetologue 2014

SECOND CITY FIRST

Graz and Maribor have much in common, with both cities having been European Capitals of Culture. In 2003 Graz became a city with some force behind its cultural offer in the international arena, and it also seems that the European Capital of Culture gave Graz additional tourism acceleration. The centre of European culture is embodied in its futuristic Kunsthaus and other cultural facilities, which I often visit to see some of the exhibitions or concerts.

Graz

Graz is Austria’s second largest city and capital of Styria, which before the First World War was the administrative, cultural, economic, and political centre.
The most eminent medieval building above the town is the Schlossberg fortress with its famous bell tower with a clock, which is a real highlight. Around the fort a picturesque medieval town centre has developed, with the orderly gardens and surroundings surprising in all seasons. The city gives out a youthful appearance, because of the many students who study at one of the three universities. It is similar in size to Ljubljana and is nicely compact and green. It gives its biggest green breath through the huge Burgarten city park, full of attractive fountains and sculptures, as well as the many other urban parks.

La Strada Street Theatre Festival – Pedestrians dancing furiously, city hikers on urban discovery tours, energy-laden popular productions, phenomenal theatre of masks going beyond all physical limits, puppet shows that make us marvel, thrilling productions for kids… all of this as well as unusual encounters in streetcars and on trains at this festival.

Graz is located at the transition between the Alps and the Pannonian Plain on the northern edge of the Graz field. Through the city flows the river Mura, which literally and symbolically connects it to the plain. Its geographical location has resulted in a varied landscape seasoned with an alpine skyline and wine growing hills to the south. The city is full of cultural and historical attractions, with the medieval city centre inscribed onto the UNESCO heritage list. In the city and its surroundings there are many technical monuments to the rich industrial tradition. The healthy experiential diversity is complemented by a pleasant and orderly environment and infrastructure, for both the eye and the soul.

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UNESCO City of Design is a timeless attribute to a city, not only regarding existing design in Graz, but also entailing a responsibility to implement design into everyday life. Graz will stay a City of Design and thus become a constant member of a worldwide network of creative cities

Graz is an important transport junction and for a number of years it lived from its transport and border location. The river Mura, in Latin meaning ‘trench’ or ‘defence’, has had such a role in the city’s history from when it served as a line of defence against the lowland Pannonian Plain. Infrastructure in Austrian cities is among the best in the world, with air accessibility to the city improving year to year and the drive to Vienna taking less than two hours. Vienna has for many years held top spot on the Mercer quality of life scale and although Graz is missing, I’m sure that it is not far behind Vienna. The quality of life can be felt at every step, especially the modern and largely green public transport with tram system. Since the city is small, everything can be done on foot or by bicycle. In 2001 the city was declared the ‘city of people’s rights’, indicating a high degree of social responsibility.

Graz is somehow overlooked as a tourist destination, too often in the shadow of Vienna and for the number of overnight stays taking 4th place behind Salzburg and Innsbruck. However, Graz can successfully compete with the better-known destinations, in particular because of the well-organised tourism promotion through Graz Tourism and City Marketing. The ownership structure of the 1990-established destination marketing agency is both interesting and instructive – it is 52% is owned by the city of Graz, 24% by the Tourist Board of the city, 8% by Graz fairground, 8% by the Airport and 8% by Casinos Austria. Every activity of the office is aimed at increasing the number of overnight stays by foreign guests. The city has 3,294 hotel rooms, of which there are 1,757 in 21 hotels of 4 and 5 star category.

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The spectacular architecture of Graz Kunsthaus leaves nobody cold. Whilst it’s not common for existing, traditional urban buildings to sit so perfectly next to breathtaking new architecture, with the setting of this museum of contemporary art in Graz it’s definitely the case.

Graz excellently took advantage of its European Capital of Culture status and the UNESCO title and upgraded it with the UNESCO city of design and creativity.
In the area around Graz all roads lead south to many wine trails, some of which take you all the way to Slovenia. The exceptional incentive tourism potential lies in its spas, culinary art and other green tourism offers in the city’s surroundings.

Graz is currently developing tourism in three directions. Congress tourism is being developed under the slogan “Graz: the city of knowledge”, the basis for this being the strong university base. Graz boasts four universities, namely the University of Karl and Franz, Technical and Medical University and the University of Music and Dramatic Arts, together which number more than 40,000 students.

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Long Table of Graz – imagine sitting down at a festively decorated table and enjoying a delicious dinner with matching wines and musical entertainment, accompanied by 700 other guests, in the heart of Graz. This is what happens at the long table.

Graz is also a city of fairs, with more than 100 years of tradition since the very first Austrian fair in 1833 and Congress Graz since 1906 being a key venue for promotional and other events. In 2007, institutions with a rich history were brought together into a new brand of Messe Congress Graz, a common brand combining historic Congress Graz, Messe congress Graz and Stadhalle Graz. The historical convention centre Congress Graz, built at the end of the nineteenth century, has a total of 19 halls for a maximum of 1,500 congress participants or for a reception for 2,300 guests.

The modern convention centre Stadhalle was opened in 2003 during the ECC. It is a multifunctional and superbly equipped fair event centre. Conference halls in hotels are smaller and tailored to the needs of the market. As Graz boasts a lot of premium congress halls the hotel congress offer has not fully specialised.

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American Football European championship – Will be held at the UPC Arena Graz in 2014.

International Congress guests, perhaps due to the mighty shadow of Vienna, do not expect much of Graz, but in the end they are pleasantly surprised. Graz has been for many years a model of congress destination marketing and management. Looked at from the perspective of public and private infrastructure, Graz is the most developed regional convention destination. Just five years ago regional competition would qualify behind the second largest Austrian city, but recently the gap has significantly reduced. The new capitals on the territory of the former Yugoslavia have taken their rightful place and because of this, on the ICCA scale and others, it now has a lower placing. The centre of culture, cuisine, design, creativity, technology and much more, which embodies Graz, is far from saying the last congress word. 

Destination grade: 4, 34 – QUALITY MEETINGS DESTINATION

Grading explanation: 
5 excellent meetings destination 
4 quality meetings destination 
3 advisable meetings destination
2 average meetings destination 
1 pretty OK meetings destination

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Individual grades:

A. Natural and cultural factors: 4,51 
Graz is in the centre of Austria’s green heart, which gives it the character of interplay between the forests of planar Graz fields and the majestic mountains, which are crossing into the wine-growing hills. Cultural diversity, rich history and the connecting Mura River have formed a high experiential diversity, which is reflected in the many opportunities for congress and incentive organisers and planners and is therefore among the most highly esteemed in the region.

B. General and transport infrastructure: 4,32
Transport and general infrastructure in Graz is excellent and according to survey results amongst the best in the region. A network of public transport is very well organized; the city has over 120 kilometres of bicycle lanes and the parking system is superbly arranged. It all works very professionally and tidily, and also remarkable is the sense of security with a high level of environmental responsibility and awareness of the population.

C. Tourist infrastructure: 4,39
Graz is a mature tourist destination, which despite the crisis is recording a steady growth of tourist arrivals and overnight stays in all tourism segments. This is due to a very clear positioning of the city on three pillars as the capital of culture, cuisine and knowledge. Graz has established itself as a base for exploring Styria, which gives it additional marketing momentum.

D. Meetings infrastructure:  4,65
In terms of infrastructure Graz is still the leading regional convention destination. With more than 154 congress events and some 46,000 participants it achieves excellent results and is stable on the charts ranking international events. Graz can be regarded as a proud congress destination, which is modern, dynamic and internationally competitive. It is difficult to challenge it with any serious errors, perhaps just a slightly poorer image on the international scene.

E. Subjective grade:  4,32
Environmental responsibility, tidiness of the surrounding areas and infrastructure, cultural infrastructure, the city of design and creative industries are all ideal for the development of congress tourism. The city, key stakeholders and politics do not lack creativity and strategic vision. Despite all the positive projects it may lack some charisma of a capital, making it need much more energy to fight even more successfully at the international congress scene. Otherwise, a beautiful and practical congress destination.

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Comparison with the region:
Being the first is sometimes difficult, and Graz was among the first to develop the branding of the entire destination, congress grants and many other marketing innovations, from which other regional convention bureaus drew inspiration. However, former pupils have caught up and in the field of branding and in some other areas are now ahead of their teacher. Graz may not be the most seductive convention destination, however, it should be highlighted that Graz and Styria live with congress tourism throughout the year. A developed infrastructure and –year-long additional offer helps this, where tradition combines with the present and where everyone can find an offer for their taste, needs and pocket.

With the focus on green meetings Graz will also definitely find the right answer to the ubiquitous crisis, which has not bypassed congress tourism.

Cool meetings:  
Graz has been redefined into the culinary capital of Austria with many gourmet surpluses. In a story that supports local food and cuisine, 27 best restaurants are included. The combination of an exquisite cuisine with Styrian wines can be felt at the largest outdoor culinary banquet for 660 guests. We shall leave the dilemma of which pumpkin seed oil is better to the experts. Both Styrian and “Prekmursko” are excellent, but it is mandatory that you try the black gold of Styria.

April 30, 2014

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IN HOTEL BELGRADE

HIDDEN GUEST - In Hotel Belgrade

Photo credits: IN HOTEL BELGRADE

BUSINESS CLASSIC

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Photo credits: IN HOTEL BELGRADE

LOCATION
Hotel In was among the first new hotel acquisitions in New Belgrade. To the Belgrade hotel scene it has brought a practical content tailored to business guests. In addition, it is located in close proximity to New Belgrade’s commercial buildings and the Sava Centar convention centre is only about five minutes away, making it convenient for conference guests.

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ACCESSIBILITY
The advantage of a location by the main Belgrade road into the city is easy accessibility and added to this it is also close to the airport, which is just 9 km away. The hotel is a neighbour of the Belgrade Arena, which was recently renamed the Kombank arena. This means that in the immediate vicinity of the hotel there are a lot of parking spaces, making the hotel popular with guests coming to Belgrade by car. Otherwise, the access to the city centre is easy and cheap, as Belgrade taxis are known to be among the cheapest in the region. Belgrade’s public transport is also getting better.

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Photo credits: IN HOTEL BELGRADE

COLD APPETISER – Architecture and aesthetics
IN hotel is considered to be an architecturally functional hotel in an unpretentious style. There are no specific complaints, but it is also a stretch to say that the architecture is among the most beautiful. For the interior of the hotel the functionality takes precedence over design characteristics. Everything is managed and maintained solidly, the materials are of high quality, but the architectural touches can not be found.

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Photo credits: IN HOTEL BELGRADE

WARM APPETISER – Personnel and culinary offer
The staff is very friendly and professional and it is difficult to find fault with them. The value-added is service with a smile, which was only tested with a number of crowds upon arrival, which caused some smaller problems at the reception. Breakfast is average, with a selection of some of the local dishes. Service at the hotel bar is commendable and the cappuccino is excellent. An additional plus is the quality Novak Djoković restaurant practically in the backyard of the hotel, with an excellent fusion cuisine.

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Photo credits: IN HOTEL BELGRADE

MAIN COURSE – Congress and hotel offer
Rooms are spacious and nicely furnished. The bed and furnishings are in line with the philosophy of the hotel: functional. Do not expect a fancy hotel, but rather usefulness alongsie one of the quietest air conditioners and an excellently functioning Wi-Fi, which during the stay operated without fault. In the rooms more exacting guests might miss some gadgets. Whilst the hotel also has smaller conference halls the largest hall is Index, which can take up to 100 participants. In addition, there are two smaller conference halls, INvent and Inform, as well as a conference meeting room, all of which make it suitable for smaller business meetings and as a complementary conference offer during major congresses in Belgrade.

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DESSERT – Additional offer
Offer of hotel cakes and homemade delicacies.

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FLOP – NEGATIVE SURPRISES
Crowds at breakfast in the breakfast room, which for the capacity of the hotel is too small.

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TOP – POSITIVE SURPRISES
Infinity bar with a terrace and a view over Belgrade.

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OVERALL IMPRESSIONS AND CREDIBILITY
In terms of design a simple and completely pleasing hotel that impresses with the spaciousness of hotel rooms. Together with their friendly staff this is a reliable business hotel that impresses with reasonable prices and special amenities for business guests. If you are looking for hotel extras, then you will have to find another alternative in Belgrade, but certainly this is a solid hotel with excellent value for money.

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