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special destination > Antwerp




                                                                                                                CONTENTS

                                                                                                 + Antwerp, a meetings city
special destination                                                                                on a rise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
                                                                                                    Philip Heylen, Antwerp’s Alderman




Antwerp
                                                                                                    for Culture and Tourism

                                                                                                 + Antwerp congress &
                                                                                                   business events bureau:
                                                                                                   an evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
                                                                                                    Inge Marstboom, manager of Antwerp’s
                                                                                                    Congress & Business Events Bureau

                                                                                                 + Antwerp hotel association:
Antwerp, a Meetings City on the rise !                                                             a new drive for Antwerp’s
                                                                                                   meeting industry . . . . . . . . 24
An interview with Philip Heylen, Antwerp’s Alderman for Culture and Tourism,                        Didier Boehlen, GM of
                                                                                                    Radisson Blu Astrid Hotel
always ends on a warm note. Philip is fiery, enthusiastic, well-informed and
never pessimistic. He’s excited about Antwerp’s Meetings Industry too,
but he’s not afraid to admit that there is still much work to be done.                           INTERVIEWS BY MARCEL A.M. VISSERS



MIM Europe: Antwerp is a city on the rise, as   Bigger conferences are seldom organized,        international trade fairs and events. Every
far as the Meetings Industry is concerned.      and are often only possible thanks to the       year we attend the two major interna-
How fast is this growth?                        flexible attitude of the organizer. Problems     tional exhibitions: EIBTM and IMEX. At
PH: Antwerp certainly has the potential         arise for larger multi-day conferences          these fairs, Antwerp Tourism & Congress
to grow as a meetings destination. It has       organized on one fixed location for plenary      can assess the international interest for
important advantages such as accessibility,     meetings, breakouts, catering and exhibi-       the city. We’re also members of several
the status of being the economic centre         tion. The limited facilities we have now        important international organizations, to
of the country, the tourist infrastructure      keep demand low. The Diabolo-connection         assist in the promotion of Antwerp as a
and image – but demand is also largely          between Brussels Airport and Antwerp,           conference and meeting destination.
determined by the available meeting infra-      planned for mid June, will definitely be an
structure. Antwerp still lacks one crucial      added advantage for the city. Get on the        MIM Europe: How do you currently describe
thing: a fully-fledged conference centre.        train at the airport and in less than thirty    Antwerp to companies looking for an incentive/
The city has to rely on the existing loca-      minutes you’ll be in Antwerp’s city centre.     event location? What makes this city special?
tions and hotels that can handle multi-day      Besides offering facilities, it’s very impor-   PH: Besides meeting venues in historical
conferences for a maximum of 600 guests.        tant for a destination to be present at         buildings such as the city hall and the



                                                                                                                                                  MIM 21
special destination > Antwerp




 Philip Heylen, Antwerp’s Alderman for Culture and Tourism   university, there are also great locations     MIM Europe: Do you sell Antwerp differently
                                                             available on or near the water (the Scheldt    to congress organizers (associations),
                                                             and the docks). Other interesting possi-       being another target group?
                                                             bilities are locations with a story: about     PH: There is a close cooperation between
                                                             fashion, Rubens, diamonds and so on.           the city, the university and Elzenveld.
                                                             On the incentive/events level, Antwerp has     Elzenveld and the university both
                                                             a lot of variety to offer as well. The four    offer a good and affordable service to
                                                             main advantages (fashion, diamonds, water,     associations. Both locations are located
                                                             Rubens/culture) can be perfectly converted     right in the centre, so there is enough hotel
                                                             into products for a popular and exciting       capacity available within walking distance
                                                                                                            and the participants can enjoy the city
                                                                                                            before and after the congress activities.
                                                             “Antwerp can grow to be
                                                             significantly more important                    MIM Europe: How do you see Antwerp
                                                                                                            as a congress destination in 2015?
                                                             on the meeting market if it has                PH: Our hotels can currently offer
                                                             a state-of-the-art conference                  conference capacity for up to 600 people.
                                                             centre to push this limit.”                    Antwerp can grow to be significantly more
                                                                                                            important on the meeting market if it has
                                                             Philip Heylen                                  a state-of-the-art conference centre to
                                                                                                            push this limit. Antwerp can and should
                                                             incentive. We have our diamond cocktails,      aspire to accommodate conferences for
                                                             the Antwerp fashion hunt game, harbor          up to 1,500 participants. A convention
                                                             cruises, museum nocturnes, et cetera.          city with a brand new conference centre
                                                             The cooperation between the city and the       located right in the centre, with sufficient
                                                             industry appears to be an advantage as well.   exhibition space, will certainly strengthen
                                                             Organizers welcome this level of teamwork.     its market position.




                                                                              We turn meetings into
                                                                                                             great events!
                                                                              Organizing, that’s what we’re good at!
                                                                              Whether it concerns a meeting, an incentive, a conference or
                                                                              a party, we’ll make sure you get what you’ve been dreaming
                                                                              of. Anything is possible, even a cocktail amongst 10,000 exotic
                                                                              fish and reptiles in Aquatopia.

                                                                              Radisson Blu Astrid offers 18 modern meeting rooms spread
                                                                              over 2 dedicated conferencing floors and enthusiast meeting
                                                                              experts who come up with inspiring ideas that meet up to
                                                                              everyone’s budget.



                                                                              Call us NOW on +32 (0)3 203 13 77 and discover your
                                                                              personal opportunities in one of the biggest conference hotels
                                                                              of Antwerp!




          +32 3 203 12 34
          radissonblu.com/astridhotel-antwerp
special destination > Antwerp




Antwerp congress & business events bureau:
an evaluation
Inge Marstboom, manager of                                       year, because of the links with the harbor                                                                Inge Marstboom
Antwerp’s Congress & Business                                    and diamond industry. We’ve also noticed
Events Bureau, shines her light                                  companies are becoming more creative
                                                                 due to the economic situation. While more
on how the city’s meeting industry                               and more video conferences are being
did in 2011 and takes a look at the                              held, there’s still a need to meet in person.
near future.                                                     But the style of incentives is changing.
                                                                 A lot of businesses are trying to mix
MIM Europe: How was 2011 for Antwerp?                            leisure activities with something cultural
IM: It certainly wasn’t a bad year: both                         or educational. It’s not just meeting for
venues and hotels are fairly happy. The                          5 hours straight before going to the pub
last part of 2010 was exceptionally busy                         anymore. We’re keeping this in mind.
because of the European presidency
attracting a lot of meetings. Logically we                       MIM Europe: Are there any new meeting
didn’t reach those numbers again in 2011,                        locations we should know of?
but otherwise we’ve had a very stable year.                      IM: There’s a few: “Het Koetshuis” behind
The economic crisis didn’t really touch us.                      the Palace on the Meir is a wonderful but
                                                                 temporary event venue, the MAS museum
MIM Europe: How is Antwerp promoting                             can be rented for meetings and events.
itself to the industry?                                          ALM in Berchem has multiple meeting
IM: Since a few years, we’re attending both                      rooms/halls and Portview is a trendy new
EIBTM and IMAX again, and it’s starting to                       location in the harbour with a fabulous
show. Each year, we have more appoint-                           view which is especially interesting for
ments and our brand awareness rises.
What amazed me on EIBTM last year,
                                                                 companies in the port sector. The Sir
                                                                 Plantin hotel recently got a makeover,
                                                                                                                                            “We’re constantly
was the attention we were getting from                           there’s a new All Seasons Hotel near Astrid
                                                                                                                                          scanning new markets
associations. They’re actively attending                         Square and Hotel O in the South district                                as well, to find the ones
these fairs to compare cities to each other,                     is a perfect place for smaller meetings.                                most interesting to us.”
giving us some valuable new options.                             After the plans for the Keyserlei had been
We’re constantly scanning new markets                            made public, a lot of catering businesses                                        Inge Marstboom
as well, to find the ones most interesting                        specifically started looking to open a
to us. We’re concentrating on India this                         venue there.




                                                                                                                                                                                              © ZOO Antwerpen




Things are moving in Antwerp. The renovated and enlarged Central Station, the direct train connection with Brussels Airport planned for this year, the remodeled Astrid Square, the ongoing
renovation of the famous Keyserlei and foremost: the completion of the Flanders Concert and Congress Centre in 2014. All of these projects will no doubt make the Antwerp Station Area the
city’s most important business hub.

                                                                                                                                                                                       MIM 23
special destination > Antwerp




               Antwerp hotel association:
               a new drive for Antwerp’s
               meeting industry
               Antwerp finally has its own Hotel                isn’t cheap. But since our startup, 3,700
                                                               rooms already joined, giving us a lot
               Association. President of AHA                   of financial capacity from membership
               (Antwerp Hotel Association) is                  alone. Our goal is to create business
               Didier Boehlen, GM of Radisson                  and raise the demand for hotel rooms
               Blu Astrid Hotel.                               in Antwerp, not to defend our own
                                                               interests.

                                              Didier Boehlen   MIM Europe: What’s your view on Antwerp
                                                               as a congress destination? Is it aiming
                                                               at the international market?
                                                               DB: Because of the lack of mutual
                                                               coordination, organizing big meetings
                                                               in Antwerp was traditionally difficult. If
                                                               you’re working with multiple small, inde-
                                                               pendent hotels, it’s a burden to quickly
                                                               book a large number of rooms. A lot
                                                               of opportunities were missed this way.
                                                               We have a larger capacity and bigger
                                                               rooms than Bruges for example, but
                                                               they get more MICE business than we
                                                               do. This will change in the near future:
                                                               a direct train connection with Brussels
                                                               Airport is underway (just 23 minutes),
                                                               and in 2014 the Flanders Congress &
                                                               Concert Centre will be ready: important
                                                               new assets for Antwerp, making it a
                                                               first class congress destination and
   “Mutual hotel coordination and                              a qualitative but cheap alternative to
  cooperation is the key to making                             Brussels. Mutual hotel coordination and       AHA: The Antwerp
                                                               cooperation is the key to making it all
        it all work. It’s a matter of                          work. It’s a matter of earning trust and      Hotel Association
  earning trust andliving up to it.”                           living up to it.
                                                                                                             AHA was founded last June to promote
                                 Didier Boehlen                MIM Europe: Are you satisfied with the         Antwerp and its hotels, to improve their
                                                               station area as a meeting destination?        general image and to be a well known point
                                                               DB: We’re happy, but not fully satisfied       of contact for anyone needing a word with
                                                               yet. We could be in 2015: with a new          the hotel world. It also works on improv-
               MIM Europe: Why was it necessary                congress centre, a new Keyserlei, a new       ing and strengthening the cooperation
               to finally create a hotel association?           Opera square and a tunnel under the           between Flanders Tourism, Flanders Catering
               DB: When I started working here 18              Leien. The neighborhood’s atmosphere          Federation, Antwerp Tourism & Congress and
               months ago, hotels weren’t really               will change dramatically, and most likely     other professional organizations.
               communicating with each other. We were          for the better. We have a room capacity
               missing a general point of contact, and         of more than 700 beds within walking
               decided to create an official non-profit          distance of the station. We’ll be perfectly
               organization. All of our members pay            suited for congresses of about 500-600
               a fee – € 10 per room annually – which          delegates.



               MIM 24
Mim118 antwerp

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Mim118 antwerp

  • 1. special destination > Antwerp CONTENTS + Antwerp, a meetings city special destination on a rise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Philip Heylen, Antwerp’s Alderman Antwerp for Culture and Tourism + Antwerp congress & business events bureau: an evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Inge Marstboom, manager of Antwerp’s Congress & Business Events Bureau + Antwerp hotel association: Antwerp, a Meetings City on the rise ! a new drive for Antwerp’s meeting industry . . . . . . . . 24 An interview with Philip Heylen, Antwerp’s Alderman for Culture and Tourism, Didier Boehlen, GM of Radisson Blu Astrid Hotel always ends on a warm note. Philip is fiery, enthusiastic, well-informed and never pessimistic. He’s excited about Antwerp’s Meetings Industry too, but he’s not afraid to admit that there is still much work to be done. INTERVIEWS BY MARCEL A.M. VISSERS MIM Europe: Antwerp is a city on the rise, as Bigger conferences are seldom organized, international trade fairs and events. Every far as the Meetings Industry is concerned. and are often only possible thanks to the year we attend the two major interna- How fast is this growth? flexible attitude of the organizer. Problems tional exhibitions: EIBTM and IMEX. At PH: Antwerp certainly has the potential arise for larger multi-day conferences these fairs, Antwerp Tourism & Congress to grow as a meetings destination. It has organized on one fixed location for plenary can assess the international interest for important advantages such as accessibility, meetings, breakouts, catering and exhibi- the city. We’re also members of several the status of being the economic centre tion. The limited facilities we have now important international organizations, to of the country, the tourist infrastructure keep demand low. The Diabolo-connection assist in the promotion of Antwerp as a and image – but demand is also largely between Brussels Airport and Antwerp, conference and meeting destination. determined by the available meeting infra- planned for mid June, will definitely be an structure. Antwerp still lacks one crucial added advantage for the city. Get on the MIM Europe: How do you currently describe thing: a fully-fledged conference centre. train at the airport and in less than thirty Antwerp to companies looking for an incentive/ The city has to rely on the existing loca- minutes you’ll be in Antwerp’s city centre. event location? What makes this city special? tions and hotels that can handle multi-day Besides offering facilities, it’s very impor- PH: Besides meeting venues in historical conferences for a maximum of 600 guests. tant for a destination to be present at buildings such as the city hall and the MIM 21
  • 2. special destination > Antwerp Philip Heylen, Antwerp’s Alderman for Culture and Tourism university, there are also great locations MIM Europe: Do you sell Antwerp differently available on or near the water (the Scheldt to congress organizers (associations), and the docks). Other interesting possi- being another target group? bilities are locations with a story: about PH: There is a close cooperation between fashion, Rubens, diamonds and so on. the city, the university and Elzenveld. On the incentive/events level, Antwerp has Elzenveld and the university both a lot of variety to offer as well. The four offer a good and affordable service to main advantages (fashion, diamonds, water, associations. Both locations are located Rubens/culture) can be perfectly converted right in the centre, so there is enough hotel into products for a popular and exciting capacity available within walking distance and the participants can enjoy the city before and after the congress activities. “Antwerp can grow to be significantly more important MIM Europe: How do you see Antwerp as a congress destination in 2015? on the meeting market if it has PH: Our hotels can currently offer a state-of-the-art conference conference capacity for up to 600 people. centre to push this limit.” Antwerp can grow to be significantly more important on the meeting market if it has Philip Heylen a state-of-the-art conference centre to push this limit. Antwerp can and should incentive. We have our diamond cocktails, aspire to accommodate conferences for the Antwerp fashion hunt game, harbor up to 1,500 participants. A convention cruises, museum nocturnes, et cetera. city with a brand new conference centre The cooperation between the city and the located right in the centre, with sufficient industry appears to be an advantage as well. exhibition space, will certainly strengthen Organizers welcome this level of teamwork. its market position. We turn meetings into great events! Organizing, that’s what we’re good at! Whether it concerns a meeting, an incentive, a conference or a party, we’ll make sure you get what you’ve been dreaming of. Anything is possible, even a cocktail amongst 10,000 exotic fish and reptiles in Aquatopia. Radisson Blu Astrid offers 18 modern meeting rooms spread over 2 dedicated conferencing floors and enthusiast meeting experts who come up with inspiring ideas that meet up to everyone’s budget. Call us NOW on +32 (0)3 203 13 77 and discover your personal opportunities in one of the biggest conference hotels of Antwerp! +32 3 203 12 34 radissonblu.com/astridhotel-antwerp
  • 3. special destination > Antwerp Antwerp congress & business events bureau: an evaluation Inge Marstboom, manager of year, because of the links with the harbor Inge Marstboom Antwerp’s Congress & Business and diamond industry. We’ve also noticed Events Bureau, shines her light companies are becoming more creative due to the economic situation. While more on how the city’s meeting industry and more video conferences are being did in 2011 and takes a look at the held, there’s still a need to meet in person. near future. But the style of incentives is changing. A lot of businesses are trying to mix MIM Europe: How was 2011 for Antwerp? leisure activities with something cultural IM: It certainly wasn’t a bad year: both or educational. It’s not just meeting for venues and hotels are fairly happy. The 5 hours straight before going to the pub last part of 2010 was exceptionally busy anymore. We’re keeping this in mind. because of the European presidency attracting a lot of meetings. Logically we MIM Europe: Are there any new meeting didn’t reach those numbers again in 2011, locations we should know of? but otherwise we’ve had a very stable year. IM: There’s a few: “Het Koetshuis” behind The economic crisis didn’t really touch us. the Palace on the Meir is a wonderful but temporary event venue, the MAS museum MIM Europe: How is Antwerp promoting can be rented for meetings and events. itself to the industry? ALM in Berchem has multiple meeting IM: Since a few years, we’re attending both rooms/halls and Portview is a trendy new EIBTM and IMAX again, and it’s starting to location in the harbour with a fabulous show. Each year, we have more appoint- view which is especially interesting for ments and our brand awareness rises. What amazed me on EIBTM last year, companies in the port sector. The Sir Plantin hotel recently got a makeover, “We’re constantly was the attention we were getting from there’s a new All Seasons Hotel near Astrid scanning new markets associations. They’re actively attending Square and Hotel O in the South district as well, to find the ones these fairs to compare cities to each other, is a perfect place for smaller meetings. most interesting to us.” giving us some valuable new options. After the plans for the Keyserlei had been We’re constantly scanning new markets made public, a lot of catering businesses Inge Marstboom as well, to find the ones most interesting specifically started looking to open a to us. We’re concentrating on India this venue there. © ZOO Antwerpen Things are moving in Antwerp. The renovated and enlarged Central Station, the direct train connection with Brussels Airport planned for this year, the remodeled Astrid Square, the ongoing renovation of the famous Keyserlei and foremost: the completion of the Flanders Concert and Congress Centre in 2014. All of these projects will no doubt make the Antwerp Station Area the city’s most important business hub. MIM 23
  • 4. special destination > Antwerp Antwerp hotel association: a new drive for Antwerp’s meeting industry Antwerp finally has its own Hotel isn’t cheap. But since our startup, 3,700 rooms already joined, giving us a lot Association. President of AHA of financial capacity from membership (Antwerp Hotel Association) is alone. Our goal is to create business Didier Boehlen, GM of Radisson and raise the demand for hotel rooms Blu Astrid Hotel. in Antwerp, not to defend our own interests. Didier Boehlen MIM Europe: What’s your view on Antwerp as a congress destination? Is it aiming at the international market? DB: Because of the lack of mutual coordination, organizing big meetings in Antwerp was traditionally difficult. If you’re working with multiple small, inde- pendent hotels, it’s a burden to quickly book a large number of rooms. A lot of opportunities were missed this way. We have a larger capacity and bigger rooms than Bruges for example, but they get more MICE business than we do. This will change in the near future: a direct train connection with Brussels Airport is underway (just 23 minutes), and in 2014 the Flanders Congress & Concert Centre will be ready: important new assets for Antwerp, making it a first class congress destination and “Mutual hotel coordination and a qualitative but cheap alternative to cooperation is the key to making Brussels. Mutual hotel coordination and AHA: The Antwerp cooperation is the key to making it all it all work. It’s a matter of work. It’s a matter of earning trust and Hotel Association earning trust andliving up to it.” living up to it. AHA was founded last June to promote Didier Boehlen MIM Europe: Are you satisfied with the Antwerp and its hotels, to improve their station area as a meeting destination? general image and to be a well known point DB: We’re happy, but not fully satisfied of contact for anyone needing a word with yet. We could be in 2015: with a new the hotel world. It also works on improv- MIM Europe: Why was it necessary congress centre, a new Keyserlei, a new ing and strengthening the cooperation to finally create a hotel association? Opera square and a tunnel under the between Flanders Tourism, Flanders Catering DB: When I started working here 18 Leien. The neighborhood’s atmosphere Federation, Antwerp Tourism & Congress and months ago, hotels weren’t really will change dramatically, and most likely other professional organizations. communicating with each other. We were for the better. We have a room capacity missing a general point of contact, and of more than 700 beds within walking decided to create an official non-profit distance of the station. We’ll be perfectly organization. All of our members pay suited for congresses of about 500-600 a fee – € 10 per room annually – which delegates. MIM 24