The German capital of Berlin is a postmodern self-reorganizing system of constant change.
Everywhere one looks, new or revamped components are emerging—architecture, culture, neighborhoods, transportation and, especially, meetings and convention infrastructure.
Measuring last year’s progress, 9.7 million people participated in 155,700 Berlin events, and the number of hotel beds tipped the scales at 120,800, double what they were 10 years ago. Meetings and convention business generated EUR $1.8 billion in 2011, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. CityCube Berlin, a brand-new congress and exhibition complex, will open at the beginning of 2014, and the current ICC, Europe’s largest convention center, will reinvent itself by 2016, after which the city’s total meeting space will double.
On an even larger scale, Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport, the biggest endeavor of its kind in Europe, opens later this year, essentially merging three previous airports.
The anarchic, island-like nature of the former West Berlin still percolates, although it has been redirected in different ways. Nightclubs reinvent themselves as urban beaches. Designers open up shops in empty factories. For incentives, different themes and methods of touring the city—by Segway, bicycle, riverside gastronomy or rock ’n’ roll—emerge on a regular basis.
All major international hotel brands are represented in Berlin, and due to the prevalence of unusual venues, repurposed buildings and an interconnected swath of distinctive neighborhoods, planners have endless off-site options. One can host a reception in a WWII bunker, a foreign embassy, a high-tech startup or a former Royal Prussian Fireworks Laboratory.
Heike Mahmoud, director of conventions at the Berlin Convention Office, says that unlike other major European capitals, Berlin is open 24/7, with 1,500 events taking place on any given day, providing a superior mixture of business, leisure and entertainment. And aided by the new airport, Berlin will finally return to the continental capital of culture it once was.
“Especially for our industry, Berlin will have much more connections worldwide,” she says. “And with Air Berlin a member of the oneworld alliance, it will be much easier to meet in Berlin, especially from the U.S.”
Gary Singh first attended an international gathering in Berlin in 1994. Since then, he feels at home in Berlin’s poetry of constant change.