Equestrian statue at the Heldenplatz

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55 Years of the Vienna Convention Bureau

In March 1969, the Tourist Commission (now the Vienna Tourist Board) decided to establish a congress office and an expert committee called “Fachausschuss für Kongressförderung”. The first meeting took place two months later. This laid the foundation for the Vienna Convention Bureau.

55 years later, we can look back on more than 85,000 recorded meetings with a total of over 30 million participants. Since 1969, some 3,000 business events have received funding from the Vienna Convention Bureau and the City of Vienna. Vienna’s importance as a destination for conferences and congresses has steadily grown over the years. While 195 events were recorded in 1969, 2023 set a new record with almost 6,500 meetings.

Let us take you on a brief journey through the last 55 years.

From large-scale to specialist meetings

Over the past five decades, Vienna has been the destination for tens of thousands of congresses, corporate meetings, and incentives, as well as trade fairs and festivals. Some of them made full use of what the city has to offer, including the European Congress of Cardiology, which brought around 29,000 participants to the destination in 2003 and 2007. The European Congress of Radiology, held in Vienna for the 30th time this year – more often than any other international congress – has attracted over 20,000 attendees on several occasions, including about 25,000 in 2015. The 18th International Conference On Aids was another major congress that will be long remembered. Around 20,000 participants gathered in Vienna in 2010. The largest recorded event in recent years was undoubtedly Europride 2019 which attracted as many as 500,000 participants.

Meeting Destination Vienna is also hosting a number of major congresses and meetings in 2024. Six conferences with more than 10,000 planned participants already took place or will take place until the end of the year: the European Congress of Radiology (ECR), the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), ViennaUP’, the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR), the Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the United European Gastroenterology Week (UEG).

However, it is not only organizers of major congresses who choose Vienna as a meeting destination; there were also many other unique events – some of them premieres – that took place in Vienna. The International Federation of Magic Societies met in 1976 and the 10th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence was held in 1992. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has also been a repeat visitor to Vienna, most recently in 2023 with over 12,000 participants.

Vienna is a growing and impressive meeting destination

Not only has the number of events in Vienna increased steadily over the years, there is also a lot going on in the city. In 1969, Vienna was home to 219 hotels and guesthouses with 14,091 beds and counted a total of more than three million overnight stays. 195 congresses and conferences were recorded in the year the Vienna Convention Bureau was founded. Years later, in 2000, Vienna had 349 hotels and guesthouses with 40,033 beds and close to 7.3 million overnight stays. At the same year, 1,415 meetings have already been registered, generating a total of 682,530 overnight stays. In 2023, Vienna had 410 hotels and guesthouses with 74,410 beds and registered almost 17.3 million guest overnight stays in total. More than 9% of these, nearly 1.6 million overnight stays, are attributable to meetings (6,454 took place in total). It was in 2005 that Vienna counted more than one million overnight stays by meeting participants for the first time.

Vienna is highly regarded internationally as a conference destination. The city was declared "Congress City of the Year" back in 1973 following a survey of 13,000 congress experts conducted by the International Convention Bureau in Paris. Since 1989, Vienna has ranked at the top of the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) statistics and took first place for the first time in 1993. Since 2003 alone, Vienna has made it into the top 3 a total of 17 times, including eleven times in first place worldwide, most recently in 2022. In 2023 Vienna was ranked 4th.

55 years – six directors of the Vienna Convention Bureau

The Vienna Convention Bureau has had six directors in its 55-year history: Ernst Rahofer (1969-1971), Alexander Pfann (1971-1982), Leopold Saul (1982-1990), Christian Mutschlechner (1990-2019) and Christian Woronka (2019-2024). Anita Paic is the first female director of the Vienna Convention Bureau and took her role in March 2024.

When it was founded in 1969, the team consisted of three people. In 1998, the Vienna Convention Bureau had a total of seven employees, and in 2008 there were ten. By the end of 2023, there are 17 employees responsible for the global presence of Meeting Destination Vienna.

What else has happened

The first "Congress Video" was produced in 1990, celebrating its premiere the following year and winning several awards in the years to come. The first Vienna Convention Bureau website went online in 1999 – e-mails had been in use since 1996. The Vienna Convention Bureau team has not only been on the road representing Vienna all over the world right from day one – we also like to have a good time.  This was also demonstrated on two occasions with the "Best Dressed" award at ICCA congresses.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all (former) employees and partners in Vienna and around the world for their contribution and look forward to many more years to come.