If, up until now, I had known Luxembourg more from a personal point of view, I had the pleasure earlier in June to discover what makes the meetings industry of this small country so dynamic. As one of Europe’s best-kept secrets –most people only see it as a financial haven– Luxembourg has a lot more to offer than just a place for bankers and diplomats, and the current government has clearly understood this, strongly supporting initiatives to make the destination one of choice for association planners.
Report by Rémi Dévé
Full of Contrasts
A country full of attractions and contrasts, where tradition and modernity coincide harmoniously, Luxembourg is well connected to the major European cities and hubs, whether by car, train or plane. Located at the crossroads between Belgium, France and Germany, the country boasts a trilingual and multicultural population of more than 500,000, and has historically been open to the world. As you would expect English is widely spoken – making business and meetings smooth and easy, with the locals always friendly and eager to help.
For Luxembourg, being small is actually an asset as you can get the whole “country” experience in a short amount of time. As pressure is getting stronger and stronger for delegates to use their time wisely when out of the office, this is definitely an add-on. Anne Hoffman, CEO of Luxembourg for Tourism, explains: “Luxembourg is one of the few European countries to present and foster the human dimension. This means all its hotels, its tourism and business infrastructure are within easy reach, which represents a major advantage for MICE organisers: the costs and loss of time associated with lengthy journeys are not on the Luxembourg agenda and delegates can make the most of their stay when meeting here.”
Due to a certain skill to regenerate over the last decades, Luxembourg prospers today from the talent of its people, their ability to innovate.The purpose of my trip was indeed to find out how much the country is moving forward. If modern and well-equipped conference infrastructure to suit your requirements are to be found all over Luxembourg, there’s always a new addition or a new expansion/renovation to its already diversified meetings portfolio to be discovered. One popular site for events downtown Luxembourg is the bock casemates inside the city’s fortifications, with old stone walls and deep rocky caverns – perfect for cocktails or gatherings for up to 100.On a side note, in order to meet the growing demand for overnight stays, the country is also constantly looking for new investors in the hotel industry.
But for Tom Bellion, director of Luxembourg City Tourist Office & Luxembourg Convention Bureau, meetings are also more than just about renting space in a conference centre or booking rooms in a hotel: “We always talk about the financial impact meetings can have on a destination or what legacy they can leave. But MICE goes beyond this. In Luxembourg we see it as a getaway for future investments. Our government has clearly understood this aspect and supports our efforts to attract more European and international associations.”
Meetings at Their Best
It’s obvious when you drive around Luxembourg: many projects are underway throughout the city and beyond, from venue extensions to hotel renovations to the construction of a new line of tram or a new high-end hotel next to the airport. This upgrade is a testament to Luxembourg becoming a serious contender in the MICE industry, with a wide range of meeting options to be found all over.
Opened in 2012, the European Convention Centre Luxembourg (ECCL), with a total of 80,000 m2 of usable space, boasts over 30 breakout rooms and 2,600 m2 exhibition space. As part of a new “joint venture” concept, ECCL is well connected with nearby attractions such as the Philharmonie Concert Hall, and MUDAM (the Museum of Modern Art), and is part of a the aptly-named Place de l’Europe Convention Park, with 600 hotel rooms within walking distance and more to come in the near future – but shh it’s a secret! What I personally liked and what Patrick Hoffnung, Managing Director, emphasized greatly is the different atmospheres you can create in the distinct, separate sections of the venue – a definite add-on. “The ECCL isclosed for 3 months each year for EU related activity. Outside of these times, however, it offers a compelling solution for association conferences for up to 800 attendees, the capacity of its main auditorium. And Luxembourg’s presidency of the European Union, which concluded in December 2015, it helped put Luxembourg on the map as never before.”saidPatrick Hoffnung. (www.luxcongress.lu)
Historically an iconic venue for trade shows, Luxexpo has been undergoing a massive revamp, which was on the verge of being finished when I visited the premises. Whatever you want to call it –a renovation, a rejuvenation– most of the venue layout has been rethought, with the recreation of the exhibition halls, the upgrading of the conference space and logistics (two separate entrances instead of one), and the improvement of public access and parking facilities, for a total of 35,000 m2 of usable and very flexible space. Luxexpo is located 7km from the airport and 2km from the city centre, and is set to become of the most versatile venues in Luxembourg. (www.luxexpo.lu)
In the UNESCO-listed historic old town of Luxembourg City, formerly known as the “Gibraltar of the North”, lies the beautifully restored Neimënster, a former Benedictine Abbey, which was also once a prison! It was inaugurated as a culture, meeting and event centre in 2004, and, within its 12,000 m2, about 700 events are organised every year. The site is open to all and looks to be a place of exchange by allowing “the dialogue of cultures and the culture of dialogue". In terms of conference space, Neimënster can accommodate a crowd of 500. Open air events there are quite popular, I must say. (www.neimenster.lu)
If you’d like to give your meeting a musical twist, I suggest you went for the Rockhal. Located in the southern industrial city of Belval, it is screaming with rock-star glam as a popular venue for concerts, up to 6,000 people or events - the “Aquarium” is perfect for exclusive receptions for up to 150 people, but the other areas are available as well. And what a backdrop from the foyer! The neighborhood was once best known for its steel production and they have kept the plant in its original, glorious condition. The area also features shopping complex and the science faculty of the University of Luxembourg. (www.rockhal.lu)
More info on visitluxembourg.com
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