PRE-COLD WAR THAW, Vienna was often seen as a somewhat staid and sleepy relic, flanked on three sides by the Iron Curtain countries of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. A rather sorry image for a city that for centuries held mighty status as a seat of empire – from Hapsburg to Holy Roman, to Austro-Hungarian.
But times have changed again, and Vienna is riding high as a key meetings destination. In the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) recently published rankings for international association events, Vienna retained its position as number 1 in the world for the eighth year running, with 195 events, up from 181 in 2011.
May Sollinger-Soucek is UK and Ireland marketing manager for the Vienna Convention Bureau (VCB). She cites several reasons for Vienna’s success in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector. “It’s the gateway to Eastern Europe,” she says. “It lies in the centre of the new Europe – the centre of a market of more than 450 million people. Environmentally, Vienna is a model city meeting all the relevant criteria – water management, waste disposal, clean air management… Working with Viennese suppliers, meetings can be certified as ‘green meetings’.”