Serge Dive, Mirkku Kullberg,

Christian Malcher, Guy Dittrich

3:00pm – 3:20pm

The Festivalization of Meetings and Events

The “festivalization” of meetings and events is considered one of the megatrends in travel in 2017. The growing convergence between the business and creative industries, as well as a general boredom with the conference industry status quo, is disrupting how organizations targeting increasingly fractured and distracted audiences design their events. As a visionary conceiving a new hotel from the ground up (Helsinki’s Hotel St. George), Mirkku Kullberg not only understands the critical role event business plays for a hotel but that properties today need to sharply elevate their game to be more engaging. “Simply renting a room and providing the catering isn’t nearly enough,” she said. “What matters is the experience that hotels can offer.”


Looking at successful examples of festivalization—be it the multidisciplinary programming at SXSW and TED, or other such “innovation conferences”—the formula behind these events is generally the same: Pull together the most inspiring minds in business, tech, media, science, education, art, and culture inside a cross-section of colorful venues and collaborative spaces. Then hit “blend” with integrated online and offline catalysts, virtual and augmented reality experiences, startup pitch competitions, live music performances and art exhibits, and local offsite experiences to create spontaneous collisions between participants in unprecedented ways.


Creating expansive, spontaneous experiences is certainly what Serge Dive is all about. A leading figure today when it comes to creating festivalization in the travel industry, Dive originally had a classic tradeshow background (ILTM) before moving on to “LE Miami”, “We are Africa”, “Pure” and now “Further East,” hosting their first event in Bali in November 2018. His transformation and success demonstrates that the festivalization trend is getting more popular in our industry as well. Dive pointed out that when a hotel adds community-building elements to its program “it creates a belief system that is associated directly with the hotel. You just need to remember to be true to the emotions you create.”


Christian Malcher, VP Commercial Operations, Design Hotels™, noted that, with this thinking in mind, Design Hotels™ has changed the concepts of its sales activities since last year. “Our goal now is for all of our trade shows, trainings, and client events to have a common brand DNA and showcase the Design Hotels™ experience,” he says. “The big picture takeaway revolves around driving higher brand engagement by tapping into both the professional and personal interests of attendees.”


When it comes to meetings and events, Kullberg added this simple but sound advice: “It’s critical for a hotel to look outside its own world. With Hotel St. George, we are always thinking of the city itself,” she noted, stressing that this includes other hotels. “We are extremely tight with all the local Helsinki hotels and galleries, and the restaurateurs outside St. George. This will enable us to create events that give guests experiences that are fully of the city, ones that are as organic as they are comprehensive.”


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