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Mutschlechner: retirement would be industry’s loss

The departure of Christian Mutschlechner from Vienna Convention Bureau in February next year may, or may not, signal his departure from the wider international meetings industry.

People don’t tend to leave this industry, so it seems unlikely he will exit stage left never to be seen again. More likely he will put his years of experience to good use, perhaps as a consultant.

But it was a mark of his professionalism that he refused to discuss his intentions ahead of his retirement. ‘Ask me in February’, he said. ‘Right now I am focused 200 per cent on the bureau’.

That Vienna has consistently out-punched some of the biggest cities in the world to remain one of the meetings industry’s top convention destinations owes a great deal to Mutschlechner.

In the eight years I have worked in the meetings industry as a journalist, it has become apparent that some convention bureaux are, frankly, better than others. And Vienna is one of the best.

Everything there is done with a sense of purpose. The city-wide meetings statistics the bureau provides are executed with a level of accuracy and detail that is too often missing in this industry.

The press statements that come from the bureau always chime with the times. He told me they hadn’t mentioned hotel bed-nights in their releases for nigh on three years, and I believe him.

Even the advertising campaigns they run – images of Sigmund Freud and other savants associated with the city and a simple message – look better, more professional, than their competitors.

In the wider industry he has been a thought-leader and game changer – and has a stack of industry awards and honours to prove it. Sometimes his actions have seemed radically counter-intuitive.

Like the close ties he has forged with one of Vienna’s main ‘rivals’, Barcelona, which started with joint marketing campaigns and ended up with the cities putting in mutual bids for the same event: Vienna one year, Barcelona the next. Or vice versa. A simple and effective strategy, but not, by any stretch, an obvious one.

“And the great thing is,” he said, “there are no contracts to sign. It’s all done with a friendly handshake’.

There is definitely something of the wily businessman about Mutschlechner who cut his teeth as a professional congress organiser and seems to have an instinctive grasp of what clients want.

He may decide he wants to pursue a new career in taxidermy or become an opera singer, but I doubt it somehow. Often the first person you see at industry events (usually because he’s outside having a cigarette regardless of what the elements are throwing at him!), I can’t imagine him retiring at all.