Paul Gruijthuijsen, Project Leader at the Pre-financing & Guarantee Fund (VGF), explains how the organisation can help provide some financial safety, should you wish to hold a congress in the Netherlands.
Interview by Rémi Dévé
The VGF (Voorfinanciering & Garantiefonds) has been operating for quite some years now, but we understand its “energy” was renewed three years ago?
The VGF was set up by NBTC Holland Marketing, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and some twenty convention industry partners in the late 1980s. The fund aims to lower the threshold for organisers of international conferences by minimizing some of the financial risks. The VGF offers two schemes to achieve this. On the one hand, organisers may obtain a loan, free of charge and without having to pay interest, in order to co-finance their initial expenses (marketing, promotion, down payments). On the other hand, the VGF stands surety once the conference budget has a deficit due to a disappointing number of attendees.
Up to a few years ago, these schemes were only known to a limited number of conference professionals. At the end of 2013, the VGF decided to enhance the fund’s brand awareness, in order to increase the number of initiatives to organise international conferences in the Netherlands. In order to promote awareness within the fund’s three target groups (PCOs, representatives of convention venues & scientific associations) and to boost the number of applications, I was requested to start a number of initiatives. Over the past few years, the number of applications has tripled as a result of these initiatives.
Can European and international congresses benefit from your expertise as well?
The two schemes of the VGF are intended for organisers of multi-day international conferences in the Netherlands that focus on knowledge transfer. Currently, we receive most applications from organisers that are based in the Netherlands. But now we would also like foreign organisations to become more aware of the fund. Altogether, this is because our main target is to promote the Dutch conference industry.
In order to enhance awareness abroad and to make sure that foreign organisers will approach our fund, we are focussing our efforts increasingly on foreign countries. As such, we attended IMEX Frankfurt earlier this year, we are keen participants in some ICCA activities and we will be at ibtm world in Barcelona this year.
Can you explain in detail your added values?
We think we offer a highly unique tool on the international convention market. As far as we know, none of the other countries offers a similar combination that provides a loan free of charge as well as a financial surety if the conference suffers a loss due to disappointing attendee numbers.
We believe that we bring relief to those organisers that are in some doubt about organising an international conference, since they baulk at the financial risk. Besides, any organiser will be pleased to have a financial safety net in case the attendance level suddenly falls short of expectations which will result in a deficit on the conference budget.
What are the action plans for the coming years?
We need to focus on continuing to provide information to both the national and international convention industry, because scientists or scientific associations may decide at any time to choose the Netherlands as destination for a particular international conference. And that is when organisers should be aware that professional bodies in the Netherlands offer opportunities to minimise some of the financial and other concerns. This will allow organisers to concentrate on other matters, such as the substance of their conference.
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