Messe Wien: 100 Years Driving Austrian Meetings & Events

17th Mar, 2022

Despite the enormous challenges the MICE industry has faced heading into the third year of pandemic, it is crucial to highlight the stories of resilience that various market players have instilled along the way. Messe Wien's 100th anniversary celebration thus evokes Vienna's current status as one of the leading convention centres in Europe.

In autumn 1921, the first “Wiener Internationale Messe” set in motion a remarkable chronology that saw the Austrian capital establish itself as a centre of progress and innovation. Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center is now a 15-hectare site with 55,000m2 of exhibition space, capacity for 25,000 visitors and separate conference centre, complete with a cutting-edge office tower, welcoming hundreds of thousands of participants each year. But this fascinating backstory was not always quiet as the building holds memories that witnessed devastating fires, regime changes and World War II bombing raids. Between reconstructions, expansions and public reacquisitions, the new Messe Wien was inaugurated in 2004 and is now operated by RX Austria & Germany. Major events that have been hosted here include the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology, the 36th Congress of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons or the Latin American Summit during Austria’s EU Council Presidency. While waiting for the doors to reopen by spring, the Messe team assumes it's time to change the mindset and be open to new business models.

“We are still in the middle of a challenging period of this transformation process, as many uncertainties still persist,” congress & events director, Martina Candillo (pictured right) tells us. During this period, the event team had to be resourceful and flexible in order to meet the venue’s economic goals, which kept them busy: “We looked at new revenue streams, such as broadcast studio, filming and photo shoots, and events organised by universities or other public organisations. We had to adapt to different event formats, pricing models, COVID prevention concepts, mobile working, virtual meetings and new technologies.” The pandemic changed the rules of the game but not so much as to wreck their 2022 business prospects. “If international events can take place as scheduled at least starting April we should meet our financial goals, which we want to complement with employee engagement and satisfaction, as well as talent management.” On the other hand, Messe Wien has been working closely with the Vienna Convention Bureau taking advantage of the Vienna Meetings Fund scheme (check last year’s HQ for more) to secure several new events for the coming years.

We are still in very uncertain times regarding international events with travel restrictions and changing regulations. Venues in Vienna are operating under diligent security protocols with PCR testing infrastructure and results issued online. “We are negotiating fair and exible contracts by developing a new pricing model and minimising planning risks for the organiser,” adds Candillo. “Instead of a rental price based on rented space, we’re offering a per person fee.” The venue reafirmed its status as an essential element of the capital’s infrastructure once again during the pandemic. “Messe Wien which is managed by RX Austria & Germany has served as a centre for medical care, testing and vaccination, waking us up to other possible uses for local communities.”

Last year, Messe Wien invested in a new broadcast studio and adopted Wifi 6 technology for its visitors; plans that aim to keep that momentum in its vision for the future. “This year, we’re slowly moving back to live events and that will be the time to try out new ideas, find out what works and where to invest smartly,” says Candillo. “We have to say goodbye to the mere function of renting space to become intermediary agents of meetings for third parties and experts in curating themes and content − regardless of whether it is in the physical or digital realm.”

Sustainable development is a strong priority for RX − the operator of Messe Wien − which is a founding member of the UFI Net Carbon Zero Events pledge and sits on both its executive steering board and operational board. This means the convention centre will be ready to develop a roadmap towards Net Zero, helping it to raise the bar in terms of economy, ecology and social responsibility. Messe Wien is also a licensee of the Austrian Eco-label “Green Meetings and Green Events” with the option to certify an event as environmentally responsible. Their next step aims at LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a rating system for the sustainability of buildings. “We are also proud to be a healthy venue, accredited by the World Obesity Federation, and support event organisers, visitors and staff to minimise the negative health impacts of conference-going by promoting physical activity and healthy eating,” Candillo concludes.

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