Innovation and Flexibility Continue to Secure Prague's Place Among the TOP 10 World Meeting Destinations
Although the meeting industry has been one of the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years, Prague has, thanks to its innovative approach, managed to maintain its international position in the TOP 10 world meeting destinations. It thus ranked alongside other destinations such as Vienna, Lisbon, Singapore, and Seoul, which, in international comparison, also managed to cope with the crisis situation.
According to aggregated data from the Prague Convention Bureau (PCB) and the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO), a total of 1,220 events were held in Prague in 2021, which is 2.9% less than in 2020. Compared to the record year of 2019, this was even a drop by 79.5%. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the number of delegates who attended the events. Year-on-year, their number decreased from almost 182,000 to 146,000 in 2021, which is 19.5% less.
A similar trend can be observed at the national level. The CZSO statistics show that year-on-year the number of events held in other regions of the Czech Republic (excluding Prague) dropped by 13.4%, while the number of participants decreased by 10.4%. "Based on the comparison of individual data, we can conclude that Prague performed better than other regions of the Czech Republic in terms of the decrease in the number of events. However, it recorded a much more significant drop in the number of delegates, mainly due to the prolonged restrictions on the organization of group events and travel, as a result of which a number of international conferences and congresses were transformed to a virtual or hybrid format," comments Roman Muška, director of the Prague Convention Bureau, an organization that officially represents the Prague meeting industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every meeting destination in the world, in different extent. This year, the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) has innovated its current ranking of the most popular meeting destinations and created a new Destination Performance Index (DPI) based on several sets of data. In an international context, it evaluates destinations considering the number of planned, carried out, virtual and hybrid association events and the level of virtualization derived from it (readiness to transform a real event into a virtual or hybrid one). Another evaluation criterion is also the implementation of planned events (the ability to carry out planned events, both those taking place in real life at the destination – so-called onsite events, as well as hybrid or fully virtual ones).
Prague performed best in terms of planned association events (5th place), which means that if the criteria of previous ICCA rankings according to the number of confirmed events for Prague were maintained, the Czech capital would rank in the TOP 5 congress destinations in the world. The Czech capital also succeeded in the virtualization ranking, where it took 6th place. "Meeting Prague and individual service providers were very flexible right from the beginning of the pandemic and quickly adapted to the situation with a wide range of services enabling online participation of delegates and live streaming of events from the virtual studio environment. Subsequently, the Prague Convention Bureau became a co-founding member of the Hybrid City Alliance, a group of destinations from different parts of the world, whose main goal at that time was to support hybrid events. With this step, we were able to effectively help those event organizers who needed to fully, or at least partially, transform their events into digital environment," explains Roman Muška. Hybrid and virtual association events were also a global trend in 2021, when their number jumped year-on-year again, by 11% and 18%, respectively, which had a positive effect on the number of postponed or cancelled events, the number of which fell by 20% and 10%, respectively. At the same time, virtual events and remote participation of delegates in hybrid events bring significantly less economic benefits to destinations than when delegates attend the event in person.
In the overall ranking, Prague took 7th place in the Destination Performance Index, with Vienna taking first place, followed by Lisbon and Athens. Non-European cities such as Singapore, Seoul and Montreal also performed very well. The latest report of the International Congress Association - ICCA can be requested here. Detailed statistic report & infographics can be downloaded here.