Sweden's C&I star is clearly in the ascendant. The capital, Stockholm, is firmly established, and now Gothenburg and Malmo are starting to attract UK event planners. Chris Jolly, marketing manager for live events at Visit Sweden, isn't complaining about the country's visibility, and says that it continues to improve, noting a 16 per cent increase in leads for the first quarter of 2008 against 2007. Jolly also reports that room nights for the country are up 21 per cent for the same time period, albeit that this figure includes both leisure and business visitors. This will have been boosted in part by the country's environmental credentials, an important consideration for those clients keen to extend their CSR commitments into their events.
Jolly argues that Sweden has long been considered a leading exponent in environmental issues and sustainability. But it's not just Stockholm that is reaping the rewards of a national reputation for clean living and social responsibility. "Although Stockholm is still the main destination for C&I, groups are definitely looking beyond the capital," says Jolly. "We are also seeing very healthy interest in Swedish Lapland, Gothenburg and Malmo. In terms of corporate visitors from the UK, in the past year alone we have hosted the likes of Unilever, Goldman Sachs, Sony Ericsson, IBM and the Financial Times."
Visit Sweden isn't sitting back though. Fam trips have already been planned for July (Stockholm) and September (Gothenburg), and other less familiar regions are even being pitted against traditional rivals.
"I took a fam trip to Are (a ski resort 370 miles north of Stockholm) in April," says Jolly. "It is a great alternative to the Alps, and there are so many other activities there. You can also take groups dog-sledding, snow-mobiling, sending them down zip lines, drive Porsches on ice and watch the Northern Lights from a hot tub."
In October, the resort's armoury will be strengthened with the five-star, 112-suite Copperhill Hotel.
- Coastal incentives
Jolly believes that Gothenburg is the city that will probably be pushed the most in the near future, and although it is already a successful convention destination, it will be a matter of promoting the incentive side of its coastal regions and its culinary delights. "Gothenburg is getting used more and more as both a conference destination, as well as for some great incentives out in the archipelago," says Jolly, "We will be trying to show off this side of the city a bit more."
The incentives on offer include RIB boat tours, and island stopovers to sample the seafood restaurants.
In terms of properties and venues, there are a number of new hotels and convention centres opening over the next couple of years, with Park Inn Convention centre in central Stockholm opening in 2010, and a Marriott also slated for the capital. In Gothenburg, the Gothia Tower is planning a third tower for 2009, which will make it the largest hotel in Europe. Back in the capital, the opening of the Abba Museum in Stockholm in July 2009 is also bound to keep the city's profile satisfyingly high.
GETTING AHEAD IN GOTHENBURG
Sweden's southern city is making healthy inroads to the marketplace
Gothenburg's capacity for large meetings is steadily growing, and some 1,300 new hotel rooms are planned over the next four years. This means that in 2010, more than 8,300 hotel rooms will be available in the centre.
The significant opening of late was the Hotel Avalon, a new design hotel in the city centre with 100 rooms. Upcoming highlights include the reconstructed Hotel Opera, with 125 rooms (this summer) and the ambitious Hotel Choice Posthuset, a spectacular old post office with 500 rooms and a 1,000-seat conference venue (2010).
Hotel Gothia Towers' construction of a third building with 500 rooms will take its total to 1,200, making it the biggest hotel in Western Europe. 2010 will also see the extension of Hotel Scandic Opalen, enlarging the hotel's capacity to 120 rooms.
Gothenburg prides itself on being compact and most attractions are within walking distance of the main hotels. It is a city full of contrasts; trendy glass and stainless steel bars, 19th century buildings with ornate entrances and the old wooden County Governor houses as well as spacious parks.
Accessibility has also improved with new direct flights to major European destinations, many of them with low cost carriers - including Ryanair that flies direct from the UK. The two airports in the city, Gothenburg-Landvetter and Gothenburg City Airport, now have direct flights to more than 50 destinations.
The local food scene is also a source of great pride, and Gothenburg can confidently argue its position as the culinary capital of Sweden. Five restaurants in the city have recently attained or retained Michelin Stars; Basement Restaurant & Bar, Fond Restaurant, Kock & Vin, Restaurant 28+ and Sjomagasinet.
The Gothenburg archipelago is a natural playground for incentive groups, offering everything from high-adrenaline speedboat rides to oyster safaris among the thousands of islands that lie scattered along the west coast. There are dozens of untouched spots, and some of the most unique dining experiences - for example, sipping champagne and eating fresh oysters from the harbour-side hot-tub at Karingo on Koringan.
The city's ability to handle world-class events has been proven in the sporting arena at least, and the 2006 European Athletics Championships and 2008's World Figure Skating Championships stand out in its recent calendar.
CASE STUDY - EBS on the ice
Event: Dealer drive Group size 50
Date: 2-5 March 2008
Venue: Hotel Silverhatten, Arjeplog
The Brief: As a result of fierce competition for dealer loyalty and market share within the mobile sector, AYMTM was charged with creating an imaginative incentive programme. "These are becoming imperative in driving communication and loyalty within our dealer network," says EBS commercial director Mark Jennings.
Challenges: "Dealers have become spoiled for choice with incentives, so EBS is continually striving to offer rewards that have the 'wow' factor," says Jennings.
Natalie Gunson, director of AYMTM adds: "The challenge was to get the high level of engagement needed to achieve the uplift in sales."
Solution: AYMTM came up with the Ice Driving Experience as part of a themed 'Coldest Secret Place' programme. Gunson explains: "Using both direct communications and trade press ads, we created an eye-catching 'top secret' theme that offered hints to the audience without revealing the destination until the last minute."
Execution: Delegates were flown to Copenhagen, then on to Arvidsjaur. From there, they had a private transfer to Hotel Silverhatten, Arjeplog. Arriving in the late afternoon, the group had welcome drinks before relaxing until dinner at the hotel. The following day, the group transferred to the snow-mobile station for a skidoo experience. Lunch was served in a Sami teepee by the frozen lake, before they took to hot tubs, saunas and a roll in the snow.
The final day saw the group go to A-Tra for the driving day. While one half of the group tested their speed on the ice in the an Audi 2.0 Turbo Quattro and a Porsche Carrera, the other half were driven by Benny Larsson, five times gold medallist in the Swedish ice driving. Dinner was served at Hotel Kraja before the group retired back to Hotel Silverhatten.
Verdict: The experience seemed to be a hit with the participants. Ryan Beardsmore, dealer principal for EBS says: "It was fantastic, the experience of a life time." Tina Daryanani, also a dealer principal adds: "I had a great time. The hosts were wonderful, everything was organised perfectly, and it was a great weekend."
Contact: Chris Jolly, 020 7870 5609