Before he left for IMEX Las Vegas, I spoke with Christoph Tessmar, the Director of the Barcelona Convention Bureau with regards to his organisation’s position in connection with the Catalonian  Referendum for independency and if/how the situation can possibly affect events coming into Barcelona.

Against wide efforts to unite Europe and integrate the members, Catalonia wants to declare independency from the Spanish state, which will sure have an effect on EU membership. Did you expect such a development and culmination of the situation as it happened last weekend?

Christoph Tessmar, Barcelona CVB

The situation has somehow moved out of control of all parties involved in. The wish of the Catalan Government for independence has shown for quite a while – but the Spanish Government has not used the time since the first referendum in 2014 to work on a solution in a joint effort. To react now with violence – as on Sunday – has definitely not helped to calm down the situation.  Nobody has expected an escalation like that.

As the coverage in Spanish and Catalan media is tendentios on both sides, the city of Barcelona and the Convention Bureau take a neutral point and do their best to provide support and security to organisers of events.

How does this concretise?

The city of Barcelona clearly takes the side of the event organisers – regardless of political positions. We will have the congress of the United European Gastroenterology here, from  28.10. – 01.11., 25th UEG week, with around 15.000 participants expected to come in. The city takes responsibility and co-ordinates all necessary steps across all committees involved. The city of Barcelona (the CVB) is in a steady flow of communication with the Executive Committee of the UEG.

We treat all matters and eventualities cool and objectively and discuss them with the organisers. All levels in the city administration which are involved in the congress in one or another way are integrated in the organisers’ committees – eg the Fira Barcelona (tradefair) has developed a special catalogue of measures for the organizers and the CVB has worked out a Plan B for a flexible handling of transportation matters with the transportation committee – in case of unavailability of public transports, for example.

The city of Barcelona guarantees the Executive Committee of the Congress the best possible security and support for a smooth event.

Recently we had  hosted 2 parallel congresses in the city – there was no problem or challenge what so ever in handling and no overlap with any demonstrations.

(European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT), 24.-27. September, 18th Congress of the European Society for Organ Transplantation, and 23. – 26. September 2017, The 23rd World Route Development Forum.

How about upcoming ibtm Barcelona – one of the major tradeshows for the global meeting industry – gathering in the city end of November? Are there any concerns from the side of the organizers?

No, the organizers have not had any concerns – we are in a steady exchange of information with them. We do not expect any problems at this stage.

It seems some players in the Spanish market (ab)use the situation in Catalonia and Barcelona to divert business  – we have received rather tendentious press releases already. What do you think about this?

Fortunately we keep receiving  a lot of encouragement from our friends in the international meeting industry and I want to thank all of them for being at our side – it has been a tough year for Barcelona so far.  And yes, there are always persons or organisations who want to benefit from problems others have – in my eyes this is not a sustainable strategy.

We are here, it is quiet and you cannot tell of any unrest taking place around us. We take care of all problems that need to be solved.

It is said and published that international companies withdraw from Barcelona and Catalonia or relocate their headquarters ….

Yes, this has happened for some time and will surely raise a big problem for the local economy in case of a Catalan declaration of independence. Many companies await the further development of the situation.

What is the position of the Convention Bureau of Catalonia, which operates independently of  Barcelona CVB?

Unfortunately we haven’t received any statement yet. (annotation tmf-dialogue: We also checked the websites of the Catalan Tourist Office and the Catalan Convention Bureau and did not find any statement)

Christoph, what is your personal message to the international MICE community?

Don’t be afraid of coming to Barcelona – personally and with your events –  it is safe here and all events are operated with the utmost professionality and committment – as always. We have not received any cancellations for events from any operators and both our partners in the business events sector as well as we from the Convention Bureau and city of Barcelona deserve your trust and confidence!

Thank you Christoph!

Official statement of Turisme Barcelona 

Turisme de Barcelona wholeheartedly condemns the scenes of violence that took place in Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia on the occasion of the referendum held yesterday on 1 October which has nothing to do with the climate of coexistence and civic-mindedness that form part of our identity.

The acts that affected the civic spirit on the day of the election are unacceptable in a democratic and advanced society in the European Union.

The Consortium continues to work with dedication, professionalism and rigour to take care of its visitors and ensure a better understanding of Barcelona and the values that place it at the service of people and the economy. Activity in the city continues as normal and in the same spirit of coexistence and cohesion in which it excels in all areas.