12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
FORGET ANY NOTIONS of the enticing or beguiling – sourcing a corporate meetings venue can be a restrictive and exacting discipline these days. With time-sensitive clients continuing to cap spend and scrutinise essentials, selecting the purely functional over the fanciful is often the first priority for planners.
In this respect, Frankfurt is a strong, no-hassle contender for consideration. As familiar as its well-trodden airport corridors are to many business travellers, this skyscraper city may well be regarded with ambivalence, or as an ostentatious place that’s dynamic but ultimately dull.
It also may be viewed as a mundane, rather than alluring proposition for meetings, despite its allusions to being historically appealing as well as cutting edge.
No matter. Thanks to being the financial capital of Germany and chief transportation hub for mainland Europe, Frankfurt is also an organisational no-brainer. Business savvy, fully-integrated and infinitely adaptable, the city on the Main river is a natural shoo-in for all types and size of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). In short, it is a safe and easy bet for planners to pinpoint and process as a ready-made solution for clients who want to curtail the non-essentials.
Simple to access by air, road and rail from all parts of the continent (and soon also by rail from the UK), Frankfurt is remarkably compact and easy to get around. In conjunction, it offers professionally-honed facilities, flexibility of space and proficient handling capabilities to deliver to corporate meetings to order, short lead-in and truncated versions included. Indeed, two-thirds of the regular meetings business generated by the city is with corporations, compared to one third with associations, according to the Frankfurt Convention Bureau (FCB).
Director Jutta Weisbrod says banking and financial events, IT/telecom meetings and medical congresses are the stalwarts. “Our principal advantage for corporates is that we are easy to reach,” she says. “This saves them time, which is critical in today’s economy.”
Weisbrod says the vast Messe Frankfurt – with 578,000 sqm of divisible and adaptable space, one of the world’s largest conference and fair sites – is centrally located and a main pivot around which much meetings business revolves. This is staged either in conjunction with a regular stream of global trade fairs or separately, when space and accommodation rates are generally more flexible.
Another meetings pivot is Frankfurt airport. Although only 15 minutes from the city centre, the airport is also a major express train and motorway hub, providing a consistently growing range of world class facilities for full-on meetings or ad hoc time-saving gatherings.
The fact that Frankfurt plays host to the meetings industry’s own global fair, IMEX – now approaching its 10th anniversary in the city – underscores its credentials as a quality, fit-for-all purposes centre.
“From a management point of view, Frankfurt is hard to beat for choice of location, access and facilities,” says IMEX chairman Ray Bloom. “The Messe is a superb facility and the hotel stock is exceptional for a city of its size. Add in the legendary German efficiency and local handling expertise, and you have the ideal place to conduct business – all the feedback tells us that.”
Bloom adds that the first US IMEX, staged in Las Vegas this October, should enhance rather than detract from Frankfurt’s pre-eminence as home to the meetings industry.
“Frankfurt provides the main context and fosters how we shape our industry,” he says. In the decade that IMEX has been staged in the city, Frankfurt has built up a formidable array of meetings innovations and ancillary attractions in parallel.
Carlson Wagonlit Travel director Pauline Houston agrees. “Frankfurt has significantly improved its add-on attractions compared to 10 years ago, although, by and large, most business clients are still unlikely to be jumping for joy at the prospect of meeting there,” she says.
“Frankfurt’s greatest strength is that it’s centrally located, has good quality hotels and can comfortably handle large-scale meetings side by side” says Houston. “If you have delegates coming in from half a dozen points across Europe, it’s ideal for coordinating flight timings, accommodation and so on without too much bolting on of separate elements.
It can be also be cost-effective in terms of saving on extra overnights.”
Otherwise, it’s not the sort of place that exactly lights everyone’s fire, she adds: “While it’s easy for planners to source and book, it doesn’t whip up much enthusiasm among delegates on the receiving end.” This is particularly true with the incentive element of meetings, says Houston. “If you want Frankfurt to stack up on an experience level, then you need to be creative. You will need to work hard with your ground handler to come up with something memorable.”
Bolstering perceptions of Frankfurt as a city with more to offer than meetings space is a task on which the FCB has been working recently, initiating visits for meeting buyers that don’t include site inspections.
“It’s important that buyers also know Frankfurt for its rich history, museums, theatres and nightlife,” says Weisbrod.
She cites the Museum Embankment and Romerberg (old town) wine pubs alongside a growing network of contemporary restaurants, bars and clubs as inner-city examples of quick and convenient add-ons. “And nearby there are the wooded mountain ranges of the Taunus and the scenic Rhine District, bordered by the Main and Rhine rivers, with quaint villages and romantic castles,” she says. “There is also the breathtaking Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
All are easy to weave into meetings arrangements, says Weisbrod, as is the clutch of fashionable boutique hotels, such as the suburban Gerbermuhle and city centre Pure, Roomers and 25hours by Levi’s for breakouts.
Perhaps more fundamental for buyers seeking time constraint placements is acquainting themselves with newly available mainstream meetings space in or around the city or airport.
For example, planners resorting to the argument that it’s hip to be square to meet in Frankfurt now have some validation – provided they spell it Squaire. The Squaire conference centre, opening this autumn, is in fact a 660m-long oblong building, or horizontal skyscraper, adding to the avant garde design elements that have visually helped to lift Frankfurt, aka “Mainhattan”, out of the ordinary in recent years. Balanced above the ICE high-speed rail station at Frankfurt airport, the Squaire is linked by skywalk with Terminal 1.
Along with shops and restaurants, the facility boasts 28 meeting rooms for up to 200 delegates and next spring will have two new Hilton hotels on site, one with 11 meeting rooms and the other with three. Also due to open at or near the airport next year is the designer budget Meininger, followed by the deluxe Hotel an der Rennbahn.
New hotels, each with dedicated meetings stock, that opened in the city this year include the five-star Jumeirah, which launched in October, Welcome Hotel, Holiday Inn Express Hauptbahnhof and Lindner Hotel & Sports Academy.
Marriott has opened its Westend Gate Conference Centre with 10 extra meeting rooms. A Grand Hyatt is expected to come on line sometime in the next two years, together with a Citadines Serviced Apartments in the city’s Europaviertel mixed-use tower development.
New external venues include the Holm-Forum and Palais Thurn und Taxis, to be followed in the next few months by the House of Encounters and Palmengarten.
AIRPORT AND AREA