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‘Berlin is open’ says Convention Bureau head, Marco Oelschlegel

When Marco Oelschlegel took on the role as head of the Berlin Convention Bureau in January 2020, he, nor the rest of the world, knew what a difficult and strange few months would ensue.

We wanted to catch up with Oelschlegel to find out how the first seven months of his new role had been, what’s new in Berlin’s meetings and events scene and what the new normal might look like – but not even Oelschlegel has a crystal ball to predict that, as he reminded AMI reporter Holly Patrick when they chatted.

There was perhaps never such a difficult time to start a new role, how have you found the first seven months of the job?

Marco Oelschlegel

I was in China in early January and when I came back and I just wanted to concentrate on my new role. I was very excited as Berlin was in really good shape as a meetings destination. We had a great year in 2019 and a great year ahead with a lot of ideas and projects.

So, I was excited to go into this position and then one month later, coronavirus started to become a crisis and it turned everything upside down. And so you have to adapt, you have to motivate your team because nobody really knew exactly what was going to happen.

How have you stayed positive?

I think it’s possible to see that Covid-19 is something which has happened but that it will go away.

We always keep in mind that our business is a long-term business. The association business and the big events have always been something which we could prepare for months or even years in advance.

We are always looking ahead and trying to see the positives.

When do you think Berlin’s meetings industry is going to return to full health and what do you think that might look like?

It’s not a very good year. If you look at some of the research, much of it says 2023 or maybe even 2024 is when we might be able to reach the success levels that we saw in 2019.

But out of this crisis, we have learned that we really like to meet in person. I think this is one driver to have meetings, conferences and incentives again in the future because people want to meet and don’t want to look at these tiny screens.

We have also started to work more on sustainability and seeing how digitalisation is going to change our industry. I think we will learn that a hybrid element of an event is not a bad thing because you have some physical meetings in a conference hall, but then, in addition, you can reach many other people that you normally be able to meet.

Ultimately, I would like to underline that Berlin is open for meetings and we would be really happy to see more events coming from the UK.