Meeting Destination Vienna Bounces Back
After months of standstill due to the pandemic, initial signs of recovery in Vienna's meeting industry started to make themselves felt in 2021, and progress continued to build in 2022. Large-scale international congresses such as the Annual Congress of the European Hematology Association and the European Congress of Radiology each attracted around 10,000 in-person participants, underlining the clear demand for face-to-face exchange. Renowned industry organizations such as the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the Union of International Associations (UIA) once again ranked Vienna among the world's leading congress cities, in spite of the pandemic.
Strongest Performance Since Covid-19 Outbreak
The 4,339 meetings (congresses and corporate events) held in 2022 represent a 143% increase over 2021 and 79% of the pre-pandemic 2019 total. Developments in the national congresses category were particularly noteworthy. Unlike international congresses (531) and corporate events (international: 1,507, national: 1,160), at 1,141 events the tally for this segment exceeded the 2019 total (733). All meeting categories combined brought around 451,000 participants to Vienna, who together generated a total of 1,187,000 overnight stays – a 222% increase in participants compared to 2021 (74% of the 2019 level) and a 317% increase in overnight stays (75% of the 2019 level). Vienna's meeting industry accounted for 9% of all overnight stays (13.2 million) in 2022.
Turbo Booster Activated: EUR 738 million in Induced Economic Impact, 13,000 Year-Round Jobs
The contribution of Vienna's meeting industry to gross domestic product – since 2015 it has regularly reached around one billion euros – bounced back unexpectedly quickly to EUR 738.55 million in 2022, following a drastic decline triggered by Covid-19. Nationwide tax revenues amounted to EUR 204.24 million. As a reliable employer, Vienna's meeting industry provided 13,000 year-round jobs in 2022 – this figure is roughly equivalent to the population of various small to mid-sized Austrian towns, such as Korneuburg, Gmunden or Leibnitz.
Large-Scale International Congresses Return
Despite a new record total for the domestic congress segment, it is international congresses that remain the most decisive factor in terms of economic impact: accounting for just 12% of the total number of meetings hosted in 2022, this segment contributed 43% of all participants and 72% of overnight stays, as well as 79% of the value added and tax revenue generated from all congresses. Large-scale congresses attracting several thousand participants started to return in 2022, particularly during the second half of the year. The contribution made by meeting participants also becomes clear in an analysis of their spending patterns: at an average of EUR 552, their daily expenditure was about twice as high as that of the average visitor to Vienna.
Vienna Strengthens Position as Medical Hub
Even before the pandemic, Vienna was a renowned hub for medical congresses. After a slump in 2020 and 2021, the segment rebounded in 2022 to immediately set a new record: events in the field of human medicine accounted for the lion's share of overnight stays generated by congresses in Vienna (45%), the highest to date. Next came the economics/politics (15%) category, followed by natural sciences and humanities (9% each) and United Nations congresses (9%). The latter provided stability, especially during the crisis, and were responsible for the majority of congress overnight stays in 2021. Once again, these numbers confirm the importance of extraterritorial organizations, including Vienna’s role as UN headquarters city, for the capital’s congress statistics – and not only in years of crisis.
Induced economic impact, tax revenue and jobs secured are calculated using the Event Model Austria, a constantly updated method developed by corporate advisor and Vienna University of Business and Economics lecturer Martina Stoff-Hochreiner.
Successful restart due to EUR 8 million Vienna Meeting Fund
To underpin Vienna's standing on the international meeting stage in the wake of the pandemic, the City of Vienna and the Vienna Tourist Board provided a convincing argument for organizers to choose the city, in the shape of the Vienna Meeting Fund. Initially endowed with EUR 4 million, the fund was launched in May 2021 as an additional source of support for congresses and corporate meetings. In the face of enormous demand, all of the original funding was allocated to meeting organizers after just one year, which led the City of Vienna to approve an additional tranche of EUR 4 million in the summer of 2022. The closer to the deadline the congress or corporate event takes place, the stricter the criteria. By way of illustration: in 2024, meetings must attract at least 5,000 participants, at least half of whom must come from abroad for it to be eligible for the maximum funding of EUR 60,000 per event. By the end of the first quarter of 2023 (editorial deadline), more than 760 applications for funding had been submitted and processed by the Vienna Convention Bureau. So far, more than 500 events in the funding period that extends from May 2021 to December 2024 have received confirmation that they will be allocated funds up to a maximum of EUR 60,000. The direct and induced value added generated by conferences that attract funding during this period is forecast as amounting to around EUR 830 million.
Vienna: World-Class Conference Destination
The latest rankings published by the two leading meeting industry organizations – the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the Union of International Associations (UIA) – show Vienna in a top position among cities around the world, confirming its international standing. The ICCA published its congress statistics in 2023, awarding Meeting Destination Vienna – with 162 congresses held – top spot worldwide on the overall leaderboard for 2022 – ahead of Lisbon and Paris.
The UIA also gave Vienna top marks in its list of the world’s top meeting destinations: in the 2021 congress rankings it published in 2022, Meeting Destination Vienna was awarded fourth place worldwide – an improvement of one place over the most recently published rankings (2019 and 2020; fifth place in each case).The UIA ranking, as well as numerous successful acquisitions of congresses, corporate events and incentives by the Vienna Convention Bureau for the coming years, show that the Austrian capital is still ideally placed in the international congress industry. The UIA data for 2022 was not available at the publication deadline.
International Meeting Scene in Vienna
Convening EMEA, the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) annual EMEA region conference for business event strategists, took place in Vienna for the first time at the end of September 2022. The meeting provided an opportunity to position Vienna and Austria in the minds of more than 460 business event professionals and decision makers from the international meeting industry – representing 41 countries – while sending out a clear statement of intent when it comes to attracting visitors.
The Vienna Tourist Board, the Austrian National Tourist Board, Hilton Vienna Park and Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center brought the PCMA regional annual meeting to the city following a joint acquisition process. The conference was highly significant for Austria as a meeting destination: it gave the Vienna Tourist Board and the Austrian National Tourist Board an excellent opportunity to show meeting industry decision makers – who are heavily courted worldwide – the qualities of the destination as well as its continued attractiveness for congresses and corporate events first hand. The PCMA network represents a range of disciplines, with members covering a broad spectrum comprising everything from medical societies to major international technology companies. Agencies, suppliers and hotels also attended Convening EMEA.
Also in September, and in Vienna for the first time, The Meetings Space brought around 220 meeting experts to the city. The program included one-to-one meetings and networking activities centered on Vienna as a culture capital, as well as a gala evening hosted by the Vienna Convention Bureau.
Meet us in the extraordinary
Introduced in 2022, the Vienna Tourist Board’s new promotional video "Meet us in the extraordinary” is a visually compelling event acquisition tool that presents the capital as a livable city that deftly combines tradition with modernity. It shows participants in everyday meeting situations at extraordinary locations, underlining Vienna's unique selling points with a touch of humor – accompanied by a Viennese waltz soundtrack. Presented for the first time at PCMA Convening EMEA 2022 in September, the film had already racked up around 5.6 million views by the end of 2022.
Another trump card in the acquisition of meetings and business events: in October 2022, the Vienna Convention Bureau, working in partnership with the City Airport Train (CAT), successfully launched an exclusive new offer for the meeting industry. The custom ticket purchase and booking solutions developed, as well as various bespoke communications options, provide yet another argument for meeting organizers to promote the environmentally-friendly public transfer between the airport and the city. The new offering enables organizers to purchase CAT tickets for their meetings ahead of time at more attractive conditions. They can then share them directly with their participants using a unique code, as part of a one-stop-shop service that saves participants from having to add data. This new system also introduces a variety of ways for organizers to increase the visibility of their conference while making life easier for attendees.