1. Congress Centre-Sofia, National Palace of Culture received the 2005 AIPC Apex Award, what does this award really mean? What it means to you as a congress centre?
The Apex award has a special meaning for us and it is hard to express how proud we all are to be announced the World’s Best Congress Centre for 2005 by the International Association of Congress Centres in Quebec. This win is a real tribute to our great relations with clients, who are the ultimate decision-makers in the APEX Award Program and the basis on which we have been selected.
Our achievement is a demonstration of the extent to which great service can advance a centre in today’s highly competitive meetings market. Locally, the Apex award will give us the opportunity to convince the appropriate authorities in Bulgaria of the importance of this new branch of tourism, namely, the congress and incentive tourism in order to obtain more governmental and legislative support.
Internationally, the quality of our service delivery is expected to lead to an ever growing attention from international buyers, which will undoubtedly help us promote and maintain the highest performance standards in the organization and administration of congresses and conferences in the future.
2. How did you manage to strenghten the role of the venue in the development of congress tourism at home?
I work with a great team. We do not get a penny in terms of state subsides, yet we proved that we could support ourselves.
The most significant events still take place at the National Palace of Culture. We have a very rich cultural programme. Due to our activity we have managed to save enough money and fully equip three new conference halls.
At the moment, the venue has 15 multifunctional halls and conference areas with modern equipment. Our WCs are probably the best in the whole of Sofia and you know that toilets are an important indicator for the overall condition of a congress centre. Moreover, the venue now offers a wheelchair access to our disabled visitors. Besides, in 2008 we were awarded the “European Quality Award” by the European Business Assembly in Oxford, England. This highest distinction was received for our continuous effort to achieve high quality in accordance with the European standards.
3. Is there anything you lack?
Unfortunately, the state has offered us no assistance and all of us who are involved in the business sector must manage on our own. Yet the government should take the initiative and offer us tens of millions of leva that we could spend on advertising.
Of course the venue does benefit from the organization of international conventions, but others make an even bigger profit. These are, for example, the airline companies that transport passengers, the airports that charge fees, public transportation, hotels, restaurants and shops. In short, it is the country’s economy that benefits.
4. Your plans for the future of the congress centre?
We are now headed to the IMEX Exhibition for congress tourism in Frankfurt (25-27 May, 2010), Germany. Our confidence has been boosted. The 2008 EBA Quality Award along with the plaque which says that we were the world’s best congress centre back in 2005 will continue to adorn our stand and helps us win people’s trust. They will know that when they come here there will be no unpleasant surprises.
The venue is a founding member of Sofia Convention Bureau. We have an impressive membership but we are especially proud to have the Bulgarian Academy of Science and the Union of Scientists on that illustrious list. It is a well known fact that we are a nation of intellectually endowed people and our scientists are members of various European and world associations and each year the venue hosts international science conventions.
Sofia Convention Bureau is a full-time member of European Cities Marketing since 2007. As to the future, we intend to advance our position in the national and international markets and look for an opportunity to reach new levels of recognition within the industry.