Events industry guru Christian Mutschlechner retired from his position as head of the Vienna Convention Bureau after 27 years last week, writes Martin Lewis.
But his contribution to the city’s success began much earlier than that – he was an intern in the tourist board in 1977! In the interim he worked as a professional conference organiser and he brought a ‘bottom line’ mentality and a customer focus to his time with the bureau.
Mutschlechner’s work has been recognised throughout the world as the shining example of how a city convention bureau can punch above its weight and deliver success if it presents a united front and listens to its customers.
The 250 of us who made the journey to the farewell event in Vienna (some travelled from as a far afield as the USA and Uruguay) to celebrate his departure and the arrival of his successor Christian Woronka, knew we were watching meetings industry history unfold. Because Mutschlechner wasn’t just a guru, he was a pioneer.
Since his arrival, the number of international congresses increased by 350 per cent with income topping €1 billion. Little Vienna (population 1.8 million) hosts the second highest total of international meetings in line with Paris and second only to Barelona but ahead of London, for example.
His boss and director of the Vienna Tourist Board, Norbert Kettner, said: “Your clients have always been the most important thing to you and you never forgot their needs when we were taking a strategic overview. Your team is the best convention bureau in the world and you leave behind a bureau perfectly positioned for the future.”
When asked on stage for the secret of his success, he said: “The voluntary agreement we have with our hotels is one of our USPs. But our secret was the people behind the success. And our competitors have struggled to compete with that.”
One of his more famous achievements was to persuade the big pharmaceutical and medical congresses to come together to create a body called the AC Forum. They met for the first time in 1997 in Vienna and since then, 30 of the 32 international congresses have met in Vienna, delivering 180,000 delegates.
Mutschlechner also has a prodigious memory, he reminded his successor on stage that he had lectured him in Vilnius in 2010. Like Mutschlechner, Woronka is starting in the role at the age of 37 after six years as director of the Cologne Convention Bureau. On stage Mutschlechner handed him a welcome gift for his arrival. It was a pair of shoes. Mutschlechner pointed out that while some people felt his shoes would be hard to fill, in fact Herr Woronka would have no problem because Mutschlechner’s were only size 42 while Woronka’s are a much larger 46.
It was a generous and witty welcome for Christian Woronka.
AMI editor James
Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international
association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation
for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk,
read, listen to music, and drink beer.