Paris: the international conference capital
Paris is the world’s leading venue for international meetings and conferences. Although less spectacular than trade shows and exhibitions, conferences are reaping some significant economic rewards.
Paris is not only the world’s major tourist destination but has for the past 27 years also been its conference capital, according to the rigorous official rankings of the Union of International Associations.
In 2010, the Office du Tourisme et des Congrès de Paris listed 959 conferences, compared with 931 in 2009. The French capital and its region hosted an average of 80 conferences a month, or almost three a day! Together, they attracted over 700,000 delegates, with an average of 700 participants.
Forty new events were held in Paris in 2010 and 38 in 2009, pointing to the increasing attractiveness of the French capital. The lion’s share, however, goes to medical conferences, which cover the full spectrum of specialist disciplines: these alone represent half of all conferences held in Paris. Next come the numerous events in highly diverse sectors such as the economy, industry, science, culture, safety and leisure, to name but a few.
The majority of conferences held in Paris are now international events and the proportion is continuing to rise. The international dimension also means that the events tend to be longer – up to five days instead of one or two on average – and attract more participants. The average proportion of foreign delegates is increasing: 23% compared with 18% in 2009. Organising an international conference in Paris significantly increases its prospects of attracting foreign delegates. Between 10 and 50 nationalities are represented in over a quarter of international conferences.
It is not simply by chance, however, that delegates prefer to come to Paris. In addition to its reputation, tourist attractions and wide range of leisure activities, the French capital benefits from the quality and density of its transport networks, including airports, high-speed rail lines, urban and suburban transport services.
Paris also offers high-quality accommodation and an exceptional range of venues with flexible spaces to suit the size of the meeting. The French capital has five conference centres which can host major international events: Paris Porte de Versailles, Paris Nord Villepinte, Paris Le Bourget, the Palais des Congrès de Paris, and CNIT Paris La Défense alone offer almost 545,000 m2 of exhibition space and 11,000 auditorium seats.
Mid-size venues such as the Espace Champerret and Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie de La Villette are also proving highly successful. Other locations with a particular emphasis on science, culture or just having fun are also popular, including the Centre for Spectrometry, the Institut Pasteur, the Maison de la Chimie (chemistry), museums and theme parks.
The financial revenues generated by delegates visiting the capital – from accommodation, catering and leisure – were estimated at over 400 million euros in 2010. In addition to their economic profitability, professional events of this kind help to extend the influence of the Ile-de-France’s competitiveness clusters in fields such as aeronautics, digital services and content, perfume and cosmetics, finance, health and sustainable development.