South East Europe
Meetings Industry Magazine
Klagenfurt (Slovene: Celovec) has been capital and cultural centre of Austrian land Carinthia since 1518. At the same time Celovec/Klagenfurt is a historic, cultural and political centre of Slovenes in Carinthia. On the south side of the Alps we know Klagenfurt above all and unduly as a shopping destination. Less known is the fact that Klagenfurt/Celovec is also an important meetings destination. Borders between Austria and Slovenia were opened in the mid 1980ies above all for shopping tourism at first and later for economic co-operation. Today borders are opening for co-operation in the field of meetings industry. In my early memory Klagenfurt is quite Mediterranean although it lies in the middle of the Alps. The biggest impression was made by powerful and very orderly villas by Lake Wörthersee that are reminiscent of Adriatic coast in the summer with lots of swimmers. Like in a fairytale. Because of continuous media war because of bi-lingual inscriptions we then liked to compete in searching for Slovenian names of villages and towns where some innocent jokes were conceived at Beljak, Babnjak, Cmurek, Obrije and numerous other Slovenian names that have been forgotten to this day. Land of local inscriptions.
Klagenfurt is the central town of the largest valley in Southern Alps that is popularly divided into Rož, Podjuna and Zila, which are known from the legendary folk song. Outskirts of the town are connected to the biggest glacial lake, measuring 20 km in length. It links Klagenfurt and Velden. In the mid 19th century the lake became meeting point for Vienna aristocracy. Pleasant climate and clean warm water are key tourist attractions to this day. For this area cold and long winters are typical with frequent temperature changes, and hot summers with frequent rainy periods. Climate conditions are thus similar to those of Ljubljana. Alpine image of Carinthia with some 1270 glacial lakes and numerous mountain tops represents excellent scenery for development of meetings tourism. The main guideline is sustainable development of tourism that they manage to achieve excellently partly also because of long tourism tradition.
The image is complemented by extraordinary cultural and architectural heritage that is most evident in Klagenfurt. Landscape diversity as well as relationship to the environment are extraordinary and wonderful scenery for organising congresses, conferences and other events. At the same time Carinthia is a crossroads of three cultures which represent an outstanding marketing potential. It is interesting that the renaissance town was almost completely destroyed in the Second World War and after the war it was thoroughly and carefully renovated and thus it is thrilling with its image to this day.
The whole area is very important because of its traffic position. Beljak / Villach is a crossroads to many important transport routes. Traffic connections with Carinthia are reasonable. Klagenfurt has an international airport to which many low cost airlines fly, rail connections are very good, road infrastructure is well organised. It is interesting that people from Klagenfurt use Ljubljana and Graz airports as their secondary airports. From the point of view of meetings industry the general perception of Carinthia is of a safe and orderly meetings destination.
In the 1990s the tourism of Carinthia was mostly focused on winter season. They managed to change this and successfully turn it around with the help of sound marketing and also with help of meetings industry. Traditionally majority of guests are local guests and guests coming from Germany. There are over 10.000 accommodation facilities of which a little over 50% are hotels. With appropriate systematic approach Carinthia is nowadays one of the most recognisable tourist destinations in Central and Eastern Europe with the strongest season in the summer. In summer typically most of overnight stays happen around lakes appropriate for swimming and in winter season most of overnight stays happen around well known ski resorts close to Klagenfurt and Villach. In the current tourism strategy documents it is clearly written that Carinthia wants to become the third most important destination in Austria with its centre in Klagenfurt. Part of the strategy is also dedicated to development of meetings industry. They set themselves a goal that Klagenfurt would become the third most important Austrian meetings industry destination, following Vienna and Salzburg as the first and the second most important meetings destinations.
Tourism being an important industry is also demonstrated by offer of numerous restaurants and bars. Especially in the summer the town centre is very lively. At the same time Klagenfurt is a town of sport where a lot of important sports events are organised. There are also attractions like Minimundus. The whole destination is comprehensively developed in tourism sense.
Conventions and meetings industry is organized in the realm of Association Conventionland Karnten which has been operating since 2007 and brings together over 60 partners in Carinthia. This is a marketing coalition that has been successfully promoting meetings industry offer of Carinthia in the past few years.
The main fair and conventions house is Kartner Messen. The largest multi functional hall measuring some 6.400 m2 can hold up to 5.000 participants. Apart from central hall there are also 12 smaller ones. In the framework of fairs there are mostly general fairs intended for the general public.
Majority of hotels are located on the Lake Wörthersee, which gives to Celovec a Mediterranean feel. On the coast mighty villas and hotel complexes dominate. Most of these also have smaller meetings capacities.
Legendary Casino Velden also has convention halls, among which also the legendary Casineum. Next to Lake Wörthersee there is also a smaller convention centre in Portschach which can host as much as 600 participants in its 4 halls. A special feature of the region is also offer of town of St. Veit which promotes itself through slogan of “rent a city”. The central part of this offer is the new minimalist conference centre Blumenhall, but you can also rent the whole town for your event.
Top range of hotel offer is luxury Falkesteiner Schlosshotel Velden which is somewhat like Monte Carlo of Carinthia. Popular among the famous it changed owner last year and became a part of the hotel chain Falkensteiner. Among convention participants Lindner Seepark Hotel on the coast of Lake Wörthersee is popular. It has five smaller halls and a wellness centre. Totally renovated is the Sandwirth Hotel, which is an important convention hub with 12 halls out of which the largest one has enough room for 180 participants. The whole coast of Lake Wörthersee sees lots of smaller conference hotels and generally there is enough of hotel capacities.
Carinthia is very picturesque and full of unusual convention locations. Around town there are 23 castles appropriate for receptions and events. There are also a lot of parks and well maintained green areas. In the town centre you can organise a special event in Town Theatre and other historic buildings.
One of the remains of the World Football Cup 2008 is an impressive stadium at town outskirts. Lovers of modern architecture also enjoy KUSS in town Wolfsberg. This is a multifunctional centre that can host up to 1600 participants.
It is interesting that municipalities of Bled in Slovenia and Velden are twinned. Both towns live with their lakes, which define their focus on tourism. Klagenfurt is substantially larger and more important. It will be interesting to see further development of the two towns. Klagenfurt and Carinthia are already slightly in advantage because there systematic marketing of meetings industry has already been developed for years.
Destination grade: 4,24 – QUALITY MEEETINGS DESTINATION
5 excellent meetings destination
4 quality meetings destination
3 advisable meetings destination
2 average meetings destination
1 pretty OK meetings destination
A. Natural and cultural factors 4,40
Klagenfurt builds its meetings offer on sustainable development. Main types of tourism are based on natural wealth and experiential diversity. Apart from natural wealth it also has rich cultural heritage and the crossroads of three cultures represents a rich marketing potential.
B. General and traffic infrastructure 4,20
Position at the crossroads of important routes is an important factor in competitiveness of destination. Klagenfurt is an important inter social and European transit region that is easily reachable thanks to modern highways and rail connections. Somewhat poorer are air connections.
C. Tourist infrastructure 4,40
Carinthia is one of the most developed tourist destinations in Austria with comprehensive tourist offer. At this time it is leading in the field of sports, active holidays and holidays in pristine nature. This part of the offer is accompanied by numerous health, wellness and spa suppliers.
D. Meetings infrastructure 3,80
Being oriented towards holidaying tourism for years, convention infrastructure is somewhat behind compared to competition in Austria. Although Klagenfurt is weakest in this respect the offer is still above average in regional sense. Klagenfurt can be an excellent starting point for incentive programmes near by and in Carinthia.
E. Subjective grade 4,40
Klagenfurt as centre of Carinthia with its tidiness, safety and ratio between price and quality is one of the best convention destinations in the wider region. Personal experience is pleasant. Image of destination positively affects the result of a congress or an event.
Comparison with the region:
Klagenfurt is a likable and pleasant alpine congress destination that is reminiscent of Gorenjska region in Slovenia in many respects. Not surprisingly, co-operation between regions has been developing lately, however we also note some competitiveness in the field of meetings industry. It is interesting that closeness to border represents an advantage and an opportunity for majority of meetings industry suppliers. Key advantage of Klagenfurt is definitely fairy tale like well maintained and pleasant environment and quality offer and professionalism of suppliers. In this respect Carinthia and Klagenfurt are slightly ahead of other destinations in the region. But most important is touristic culture and good co-operation between suppliers that qualitatively round up standard meetings offer.
Dumplings known from ski trip visits called »Germknodel« are not originally speciality of Carinthia, nevertheless I think of them every time I think of Carinthia. Carinthia is otherwise divided into 12 culinary regions each of which has their own typical culinary products.