Meetings No 20
A Congress is a Workplace
Atti Soenarso: Perhaps it is time to sharpen the tone.
Cover Story
All Under One Roof
Carin Kindbom: “The ‘all under one roof’ business approach is considered a key USP.”
While There’s Life, There’s Hope
Ever present words from the past.
Digital Mindset
AI and Robotics
Futurists: “Firms will need to strike a fine balance between AI and the human workforce.”
Safety and Security
CWT Global Forecast 2018
Security should be high on the planning agenda.
Brain Training
Sharp Brains on navigating brain training.
Business Events Must Adopt Olympic Safety Standards
Learn from previous Olympic events.
Clan vs State
The Clan Mentality is the Norm
Per Brinkemo on state and clan.
Sustainable Growth
The sustainability performance of 40 meeting and events cities.
Lunch With the Financial Times
An ­international “who’s who” of our time.
La Perle by Dragone
Emotions can be both a help and hindrance when creating a show.
AIME Launches Exhibitor Educational Series
Providing a deeper understanding of buyers.
Increasing Value of Meetings in Hamburg
Number of delegates visiting the city continues to grow.
60 Tips for a Stunningly Great Life
Robin Sharma on leadership.
Brain Check
Going Behind the Mind
Tomas Dalström on neuromarketing and digital vs. print advertising.
Where Event Design and Meetings Management Meet
Event quality is back on the table.
Van der Vijver
Locusts or Legacy?
Meeting designer Mike Van der Vijver: Bring the local community and the event community together.
Benny Andersson
On composition.
New Discovery on Memory Consolidation
Challenging a basic assumption about memory encoding.
The Saudi Arabian city of the future.
Obligations, Engagement and Legacy
Roger Kellerman: The word ‘obligation’ is high on the agenda.
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
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All Under One Roof
With its tree-lined boulevards, Venetian-style canals, bustling seaport and rugged archipelago coastline just west of the city centre, Sweden’s second city of Gothenburg has much to excite an avid photographer. This may go some way to explaining why, in the mid twentieth century, city native Viktor Hasselblad founded his eponymous camera brand that would become recognised as one of the finest in the world, of such a high quality that NASA engaged their equipment to capture the official images of its maiden space exploration voyages.

The Hasselblad story is just one of many in the rich industrial tapestry of Gothenburg, a city that is today home to globally recognised giants such as Volvo, Stena Line, AstraZeneca and many others besides. Indeed, it was the city’s industrial might that was also pivotal in initiating the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre (SECC), the Scandinavian region’s first – and today its premier – trade fair located right in the heart of the city, the royal inauguration for which will be celebrating its centenary next year.

“To really understand SECC you have to go right back to July 1918, because Gothenburg was the first city in the Scandinavian countries to have this Swedish exhibition and it was actually the first such exhibition in the Nordic countries,” explains Carin Kindbom, CEO of SECC.

“One part of the history and one part of the business sector that still remains is that there is this very strong industry sector and we also have a lot of cooperation in the city that is very strong. I think those are two aspects that also make our own ambition so strong to go further with expansion, with both the location that we have and also with using the advantages of this location within the Scandinavian countries.”

Ambitious future expansion plans for SECC will be embellishing a venue that has already evolved enormously over the century of its existence. Starting out from its earliest hall constructed in 1923, the cavernous Stora Maskinhallen, the complex has since replenished itself and mushroomed with three hotel towers, Gothia Towers, that were built over a 30-year period from 1984 to 2014, along the way to becoming a venue that currently offers more than 40,000 square metres of exhibition and congress space and 1,200 hotel rooms, alongside a wealth of entertainment and recreation options, such as an art gallery, pop-up theatre and three-storey spa, all of which makes it no less than Europe’s largest, fully integrated hotel and congress centre.

Burgeoning annual visitor numbers nudging ever closer to the two million mark along with the annual shattering of previous sales records in a venue that is growing like a boom economy have given further impetus to current expansion plans set to be realised in the coming decade.

“We have large investment plans due to the growth that we’ve already seen in increased capacity that we added between 2011–2015,” says Carin Kindbom. “We have also worked hard to develop new plans for our facility and our different products, to which we would like to add even more value.”

“For the venue itself it’s about three different areas that you will see come on stream over the next decade,” adds Carin Kindbom. “The first is for new entrances, as we have too low a capacity with entrances at the moment. The second is for more hotel capacity, which is crucial for our growth and it’s one of the most important parts of the all under one roof business model. And the third is for more flexible meeting halls. Those are the three main changes that will be seen in the next ten years.”

“To facilitate guests staying and taking part in a conference our concept is very important and we also receive many more questions for major events and global events asking for more and more rooms located ’all under one roof’ and with our business model. Therefore, in ten years our goal is also to reach 2,000 hotel rooms all under the one roof.”

The ’all under one roof’ business approach is considered a key USP of SECC, one that will help to further bolster its core business of meetings and events but not detract from it by a potential perception of an imbalance of entertainment facilities, especially given their city centre setting.

“Our core business is meetings in different ways and that’s what everything revolves around, so we would like to add to the meetings ’the total experience’ – that’s our business model and we are very confident about the core business, which is the foundation for everything. The flows that the meetings give us offer the possibility to add entertainment and not the other way around.”

“Culture is therefore of course very important for us and we work hard to add culture in different ways to our total package, as well as sports and entertainment in the city, so I would say that we have a good cooperation that is actually one of the secrets of our success,” adds Carin Kindbom.

“Art is also an important add-on for us to give the total experience new dimensions; we want to be professional and give the customers different spaces to be in, so that sitting in one lounge area will be completely different to the next one they sit in. We also have a gallery that is a pop-up rotating different art and sculpture, but that does not compete with the art galleries in the city.”

Guiding both the management of such a multi-faceted facility and the oversight of its expansion plans, as well as ensuring the optimum balance of uses is struck within the venue for continued prosperity, is a robust organisational structure that nurtures the conditions for success to continue to breed success towards SECC’s overall goal, which is to become Europe’s most attractive venue in the not too distant future.

“SECC has from the outset been a financially independent foundation and the mission has been the same since the start: promote industry and cooperate with industry in the different unique sectors we have here,” says Carin Kindbom. “We therefore act like any professional company all the time – we are driven to have good earnings and to have a strong cash flow, but as a foundation we never distribute any profits and we can reinvest everything we earn for our ambitions. And we have very large ambitions.”

“I would say that in the last ten years the plans and ambitions have been higher than ever, and I would say that that is also how we are going to go forward in the future. We have seen that our investments have been successful on the market – we have been successful with the markets that we have wanted to approach and also the different segments of business, especially international business. When we decided to take the ’all under one roof’ new business model we made an important step – it’s not easy for just any venue to adopt this business model, because a crucial thing is to have the city centre location.”

Using the central location allied to a fresh business model has undoubtedly reaped dividends in recent years, both in terms of events taking place at SECC but, perhaps even more so, in the amount of interest in the venue and the city that is being expressed by both major events and event organisers. It has also put the wind in SECC’s sail in terms of setting targets for the type and scale of events it would like to secure more of as it pursues its expansion plans and longer term goals.

“In the last two years and up to as recently as this autumn we’ve had a lot of site visits, and we’re getting more and more interesting visits and working a lot to get people here, because when you get people here they really like it,” says Carin Kindbom.

“The hard thing is to get them here, but we’re actually very pleased to be able to have so many requests to come here. Something that we would like to have would be for even more people from this business – we’ve had a lot of international academic conferences and large corporate events, but now we can see that professional congress organisers come here to have their conferences, and that’s good for us.”

“We’ve just had ECOC 2017 (European Conference on Optical Communication) with about 1,200 delegates from Asia, the US and Europe, which is the perfect fit for our venue,” adds Carin Kindbom. “I would like to see more conferences with around 1,000 people as well as corporate events of course, which is when all of them can stay in our hotel and for a 2–3 day-duration get to see all of our facility. I’d also like to see more events of the 3,000–5,000 delegate scale coming in, as I think that’s also a perfect fit for our venue, and if there’s one event in particular that we want to attract then it would be a UN conference.”

With progressively greater goals to reflect the lofty ambitions of SECC, so too come the progressively greater demands and expectations from both event organisers as well as visitors, especially so in the realms of CSR and sustainability, but perhaps more importantly than anything else in today’s global event industry climate – and particularly the case for a large-scale inner city venue – that of safety and security.

“Safety and security is of course a key priority for us and especially when you’re having more and more international events with people that might need to be treated in different ways and offered protection, but also with issues such as crowd management, which is important to have proper risk management in place for,” says Carin Kindbom.

“We’re all world citizens and safety is most likely at the top of the agenda at many places – we prioritise safety management and these questions are extremely important, so we work closely with security police and safety organisations in order to make our venue safe and secure in every aspect. Everyone must be totally confident of staying at and visiting SECC.”

“For CSR, the main thing we do on a yearly basis is to work with local organisations for good causes and it’s mainly two of them – the Gothenburg rescue mission, which helps people on the margins of society in different ways and it is something a lot of the people working here are very proud of, and we also work with friends of El Sistema in Gothenburg, also a local organisation with roots in Venezuela to help young children,” adds Carin Kindbom.

“For CSR we have a fixed programme as a base, because you have to look at the long-term with this. We also have different add-on projects, of course, and these could be in sports, for example we put on discos during Gothia Cup, a summer soccer tournament, and other different kinds of events.

“With our CSR in mind, just the other day I was even at a concert in the city centre of Gothenburg with many refugees playing in El Sistema and I should also add that we have in our daily work a lot of people of different backgrounds working here with us,” says Carin Kindbom.

“In fact, for everything in-house we have a lot of different skills and a lot of different nationalities, as well as young people starting out in their first job, and we are also trying to moderate different first job opportunities to be even easier to access for young people or for anyone interested in starting out with us. We see that we can be a very important starting point in a person’s career.”

Capturing complete client needs in terms of security and CSR has not hindered SECC’s attention to detail for matters of sustainability, in their own way playing a part in helping lift the city of Gothenburg to a number one ranking in the Global Destination Sustainability Index.

“Sustainability is one of the things through which we’ve actually been able to gain business, because we’re working very hard on our sustainability programme,” says Carin Kindbom. “We collaborate with several key players in the city and have been addressing sustainability for many years, so today it permeates our whole operations, from cleaning and shipments to food and drink.”

“In recent years, we’ve also been certified to the event sustainability standard ISO 20121 and BREEAM, which is the world’s leading environmental rating system for buildings. One of the things that is important and is one of our main strategies is that we want to reassure all of our customers that they will have a venue and a meeting that is as sustainable as their own brands would be, and for this I would say that the competition is even harder for international events than for national.”

Having consolidated their position as Scandinavia’s pre-eminent meeting and event venue and with one eye firmly on the goal of assuming the European crown, the ambitions of SECC might naturally give rise to some neighbourly concern, both nationally and regionally, that Gothenburg could be gobbling up an unfair proportion of the industry profile, as well as the gains to be had from hosting events. The broad issues of cooperation and collaboration are therefore central to their longer-term journey.

“The number of events that has grown in the last three years have been for different kinds of international events and those that we are attracting now are not in any competition with other Swedish cities, because they are asking for our business model of a city centre location and all under one roof, which you can’t find in Stockholm or Malmo or Copenhagen, so it’s not competition with other Nordic cities,” says Carin Kindbom. “In fact, we have different exhibitions that we rotate between us and also look for other types of cooperation. And within Gothenburg we cooperate as well, for example in connection with the European Summit in November when we welcome a large number of head of states and governments to the city.”

In the years to come and as such collaboration continues and expansion plans start to take root, SECC is set to host a number of major events, including the European Stroke Organisation Conference and European Association of Hospital Pharmacists in 2018, each of which will bring in around 4,000 delegates and further boost the venue’s status. Looking ahead, it’s very safe to say that Gothenburg’s SECC appeal can only get better.