Bruges: focus on association meetings and conferences
Bruges has always been a wonderful MICE destination. Thanks to the beautiful city centre protected by UNESCO, it’s the perfect destination for incentives and medium-sized residential meetings. The city also has a lot of medical heritage, which made it an excellent destination for medical conferences.
Today, the city looks past its medical walls and focuses more on association conferences. “This doesn’t mean that we lost our interest in incentives or medium-sized meetings. On the contrary, we’re just adding association conferences to our focus”, says Sarah Cornand, Director of the Bruges convention bureau. “Visit Flanders and the Flemish Minister of Tourism Ben Weyts want to boost congress tourism in the coming years, and also Bruges is fully committed to this. Our convention bureau recently appointed an additional employee to tackle this association market”, adds Sarah.
The initial focus is on conferences in certain growth sectors or priorities. Bruges has five of these: the port and logistics, with the link to the port of Zeebrugge, tourism and culture, and long-term health care thanks to the presence of the academic hospitals AZ Sint- Jan and AZ Sint-Lucas. The fourth priority is the ICT sector and the fifth and final priority, the world of metal and mechatronics. An additional asset is the brand-new campus for students of Industrial Science, Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, which opened at KU Leuven in late August in Bruges. The focus is on in¬novative and creative education and qualitative research. This provides another reason for associations in these disciplines to hold their next conference in Bruges.
Prestigious Conference Centre
There are more projects in the pipeline to increase the appeal of the city of Bruges for association conferences. In 2018, the construction of a prestigious project, a state-of-the-art exhibition and conference centre, will begin. It will feature 4,500 square meters of exhibition space, including a conference centre with a maximum capacity of five to six hundred people. The newcomer guarantees the 'three-seat principle'; in other words, every visitor can use a plenary room, a break-out room and catering facilities at any time. For the design, there is a pitch between a number of internationally renowned architects. The chosen design, which will be decided later this fall, will then be further refined. If everything goes according to plan, the new infrastructure will open its doors in 2020.