Gap in market for conference space
Summits for NATO and Francophony have raised interest in Romania as a site for international conferences: but does the city have the capacity to support the demand? Asks Corina Ilie
Seating provided by all the hotels
and convention centres in Bucharest
is not enough to support the
rapid development of the highly profitable
conference and exhibitions industry.
Bucharest has 35,000 seats in all its scattered venues over the city and every year hosts around 2,000 conferences, of which around 600 include over 100 participants.
The industry is booming by around 20 per cent per year and has an annual
value of 30 million Euro. This accounts for the largest share of the profi t generated by the tourism sector, according to Paul Marasoiu, head of the Romanian Convention Bureau.
These are attractive foundations for an industry Bucharest can build upon.
Now the International Conference Center Palatul Parlamentului in Ceausescu’s
former People’s Palace and the venue for the Communist’s annual congress,
Sala Palatului, are the largest conference facilities in the Capital.
Although centrally located, these two buidlings were erected between 1970 and the 1990s and do not have the necessary facilities and technology for a modern centre.
Sala Palatului has one room with 4,060 seats, but only a small second
room holding 350 seats in a theatre arrangement.
The 4,070 seats inside Palatul Parlamentului are distributed in 12 rooms of which the largest has only 1,200 seats in a theatre arrangement.
This year’s NATO Summit, with 3,000 delegates, the Francophony Summit
in 2006 with 2,500 participants and the International Postal Congress, with
2,500 in 2005, were the largest conferences held in Bucharest. All used the
state-owned Palatul Parlamentului.
“This venue, despite its overwhelming dimensions does not meet the proper
international standards,” says Traian Badulescu, spokesman for the National
Association of Tourism Agencies. “A convention centre should have a large conference room with 5,000 to 6,000 seats where the plenum meetings can be held and several other smaller rooms, with the same cumulated capacity that can host smaller sessions on different subjects.”
A five-day international conference with between 500 to 600 participants,
including conference room rent, hotels accommodation, airport transfer,
catering, social events, equipment and translators costs around 500,000 Euro
to organise, according to the Romania Convention Bureau.
The organisers gain a small percentage of the revenues, to cover some expenses related to the event and a small profit. Service providers such as hotels cash around 85 per cent of the revenues, while the state and city benefit from taxes. Meanwhile the delegates splash out their own pocket money or expenses as though they were on holiday.
Proximity to hotels and easy links to the airport and the city centre are a
necessity for conference centres. With this in mind, British-owned Willbrook
Management International has started the development of a business and
convention centre, which will provide by 2009, 63,000 sqm of office and
convention facilities for more than 3,650 guests in fi ve rooms on the national road from Bucharest to Ploiesti, for a delivery
date of 2009
“When travelling abroad, for a conference, a lot of people prefer to fly
back to their country in the same day,” says Pierre Boissel, general manager of Crowne Plaza Hotel. “So a convention centre located in north Bucharest close to both international airports could be successful.”
Building from scratch a construction with several conference rooms can prove to be a more cost-effective solution than rehabilitating an abandoned site. “Old buildings are an option, but probably it would cost more to transform
them,” says JW Marriott’s general manager Kurt Strohmayer.
Casa Radio, near Eroilor Boulevard, where the Dambovita Center project is
under construction, could be an excellent location for a convention centre,
according to the Radisson SAS Hotel’s general manager Torbjorn Bodin. “It is
central, close to the hotels and has excellent transportation links,” he says.
Necessary measures Effective audio-visual infrastructure and high quality equipment are compulsory elements that state-owned conference centres cannot always afford to provide, while four and fi ve-star hotels are able to
make larger investments.
“A modern conference facility should be multi-functional, adjustable for meetings, conferences and social events like dinners and parties,” argues Torbjorn Bodin.
“It should have a good ceiling height, a good audio-visual infrastructure with
platinum screens and cameras built in.
Everything has to be inside and as few things as possible should be brought from outside in order not to spoil the initial arrangement of the facility.”
To this list, Kurt Strohmayer adds good lighting, air control and technical
support. “Most importantly, high quality staff that can provide guests with anything they need all the time,” he adds.
Space to rent
Sala Palatului, 28 Strada Ion Campineanu:
one room with 4,060 seats and a small second room holding 350 seats in a theatre arrangement.
Palatul Parlamentului, Calea 13 Spetembrie entrance:
4,070 seats in 12 rooms of which the largest has 1,200 seats in a theatre arrangement.
JW Marriott Grand Hotel, 90 Calea 13 Septembrie:
2,000 guests in two ball rooms, foyer and ten meeting rooms.
Rin Grand Hotel, 7D Calea Vitan-Barzesti:
1,500 seats in 36 rooms.
Radisson SAS Hotel, 63-81 Calea Victoriei:
1,000 people in 12 conference rooms of which the largest has a capacity of 500.
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1 Strada Poligrafiei:
900 seats in ten conference rooms, with a crown ball room that is due for an extension programme.
Intercontinental Hotel, 4 Blvd Balcescu:
six meeting rooms, four offi ces which can host a total of 1,500 in a reception format, which will also begin a refurbishment this Autumn.