As Vilnius continuously amazes the meetings industry and the whole international business community likewise, the city’s infrastructure is developing enormously. We talked about Vilnius with Jolanta Beniuliene, Director of Vilnius Convention Bureau and asked her a few questions to find out more and we discussed many things, from business development to conventions to Christmas traditions. We hope you enjoy the read!
1. This was an exciting year for you in Vilnius, with some major re-structuring in the city marketing happening. What of those changes are relevant for intl. meeting planners?
We can describe this year as a year of strategically positive changes for the city. Vilnius Convention Bureau has become a part of Go Vilnius, the newly created Official Business and Tourism development Agency of the City of Vilnius. The integration of the business development, investment attraction, convention bureau, city tourism and marketing activities should lead the city development in the future to the new quality level of city recognition, awareness, level of services and further developments. The whole business community supports the Go Vilnius initiative and this support is related of course to higher expectations towards public sector performance and outcomes.
For us as a Convention Bureau, it means a new perspective and new challenges as well. We have to manage the expansion of business partners, we have to learn working more focused on our targets and priorities. There is one clear way we have to go in the future – to keep the focus on attracting meetings in the priority industries of the city or the country. Biotechnologies, Fintech, ICT and several additional sectors will become our main goal to target and to invite convening in Vilnius.
2. There will be some substantial investments into MICE infrastructure in Vilnius in the next few years – can you tell us a bit more?
After almost 5 years standstill we have got a big move forward with the huge infrastructure development in the city. The new Vilnius Congress Centre will appear just in few years in the heart of the city. We are excited about the project because of the great location offering the UNESCO heritage old town, hotels, shops and restaurants to reach just in 5-10 minutes by walk. And the second big thing is the development of the hotel infrastructure.
For 2019 we will have a brand new DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Worldwide, Design Hotels AG, Courtyard by Mariott, Radisson Red by Carlson Rezidor and Ibis by AccorHotels. These hotels will account for some 1,200 new rooms in Vilnius by 2020, which represents a 25% citywide increase. We are convinced that this dramatically positive development will influence the meetings industry development a lot. For the Bureau it means a lot of new challenges in attracting events and promoting the city.
3. Vilnius is internationally recognized as a knowledge-intensive and innovative city. Can you give us a few examples of special expertise that is available in your city?
Yes, indeed, Vilnius is one of the most Europe’s tech savvy and innovative cities. Industries such as FinTech, Biotech, ICT, and Shared Services are the prime movers of Lithuania’s capital knowledge-intensive economy. Fast and readily available internet is pretty much standard for us in Vilnius, but we’re still happy to surprise others with our connectivity: 84.7% of Lithuania can connect to 4G, making us the third most 4G-ready country in the world…and number 1 in Europe!
With our tech-savvy talent pool, business-friendly environment and record in technological excellence, we offer the perfect cost competitive go-to destination for all companies in search of quality ICT competencies and services. Lithuania spotlighted by Banking Technology magazine as “new hot FinTech destination” because of the fastest licensing in the EU, direct access to SEPA bank transfer system via national bank and sandbox environment for 1 year without any regulatory sanctions. Thanks to this, many globally-oriented FinTech firms have already established, or are in the process of establishing operations in Lithuania.
Moreover, our life sciences industry has been skyrocketing over the last two decades. Lithuania’s life sciences industry is now regarded as one of the most advanced in Central and Eastern Europe, witnessing 22% annual growth within the biotechnology, pharmaceutical research and production sectors. And we are fast developing Vilnius as a hub for Regenerative Medicine. Vilnius’ state-of-the-art facilities have been designed to bring together stem cell researchers and physicians with the aim of fast-tracking stem cell-based therapies and advanced therapy pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Did you know that Thermo Fisher Scientific’s World Excellence Center for Molecular Biology is located in Vilnius?
4. How will you integrate local knowledge into bringing intl. Congresses to Vilnius?
The main tool to integrate the meetings business with the knowledge society is the Ambassadors program. We work a lot with local scientists and I have to admit that this is not the easy way. But doing our best we try to guide our Ambassadors through the meetings attraction process, to encourage them to take decisions, to support and to promise support in the future. Once you have a great key study or great success story – it starts running ahead on the natural way. The same Ambassador can act as a catalysator to attract more than one event.
Last summer Vilnius Convention Bureau together with scientists from the Centre for Physical Sciences and Technology submitted two bids in a field of electrochemistry. Vilnius won both bids and in 2018 and 2020 will welcome more than 600 scientists from all over the world.
5. What is the story behind Convene (February 8-9, 2017, CONVENE) – why did you start this tradeshow in Vilnius? What is the main USP? Why must all planners consider to come there?
Behind CONVENE stands Vilnius and the whole Baltic Sea Region with its offers for meetings. And the story is simple – it was needed to do something stunning in order to promote Vilnius as a meetings destination and to break stereotypes about the hidden Eastern European country.
And the best way is always the simple one – bring people and show your hospitality, talk to them and connect to potential partners. In order to keep the event personalized we keep it small and describe it as “boutique”. The quality of the organization and communication process, quality of hosted buyers program and the professionalism of suppliers – these are main focus areas of CONVENE.
We continue organizing CONVENE for five years. In February 2017 there will be the 5th anniversary of the event, which makes us proud and even more self-confident.
6. Last but not least: do you have any special traditions for Christmas day in Vilnius? How do you and your family spend this wonderful holiday?
Lithuanian people are very family oriented. We try to keep our traditions and to spend the time with the family. Christmas Eve is for us all about coziness, calm and being together. Sitting around the Christmas decorated table, all generations together in the company of our two family dogs, Christmas tree and a lot of gifts for everyone, listening to nice Christmas songs, talking, sharing memories and ideas. The snow outside is an essential attribute of the whole perfect Christmas Eve feeling. And on the Christmas day, we are used to go out: traditional walk in the park and the evening visit to the city centre to meet friends at the Kathedral square at the most beautiful Christmas tree is a must.
Thank you for the interview Jolanta!
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