Extraordinary Graz

It might play second-fiddle to meetings industry giant Vienna, but Graz still hosts around thirty international association meetings a year. James Lancaster found out why…


Nestled in the middle of wine country, the beautiful city of Graz, in the southern Austrian province of Styria, might just be the perfect destination for your next association meeting.

Small with a stunning historic quarter – the Old Town featuring Eggenberg Castle is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site – this cosy city is easy to navigate, either on foot or by bus or tram.

And it punches above its weight when it comes to venues.

The ballroom at Congress Graz

Several meeting spaces sit under the Messe Congress Graz (MCG) brand: the historic Congress Graz, with 19 rooms accommodating up to 2,300, Messecongress Graz with 25 ultra-modern meeting rooms, hosting events for up to 3,000 people, and Stadthalle, which can host up to 11,000 people.

With a population of 320,000 Graz is the second largest city in Austria and something of a hub for the automotive industry with contract manufacturer Magna headquartered in the city.

Not surprisingly the automotive industry brings the most conferences to the city.

Next month the 12th Graz Symposium Virtual Vehicle will be held at Seifenfabrik, a converted soap factory, just before the Electrification & All-Wheel Drive Congress at Messecongress Graz.

Other key industries include green tech, e-mobility, creative, life sciences and logistics, but perhaps more important for associations are the four universities, the universities of applied sciences, and the presence in the city of research companies like AVL List and Joanneum Research.

Graz Convention Bureau runs an ambassador programme – now 10 years old – that strengthens ties between the city and influential leaders in the fields of science, academia, and industry, and will provide subventions for meetings, guaranteeing 300 bed nights, which align with its key sectors.

The art museum

It was fifteen years ago that Graz was crowned European Cultural Capital City and the title has had enduring effect on the city. AS part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities network it bears the title ‘City of Design’ and after a short stroll around the city it’s easy to see why. Delegates with even a passing interest in the built environment will be gobsmacked by the contrasting architecture.

Buildings such as the Kunsthaus (art museum), lovingly referred to as the ‘friendly alien’, the floating island, called the Murinsel, in the Mur or the synagogue, reconstructed in 2000, are not unwieldy and angular but round-edged and playful. Even outside the historic city centre, in the quarters characterised by Wilhelminian style architecture and in the residential areas, Graz is interspersed with striking modern buildings.


Talking shop

In 1791 the first comprehensive book on the core scientific areas of Speech Communication (from linguistic theory to acoustic phonetics) was published in Austria. The Mechanism of Human Speech by Wolfgang von Kempelen, born in the then Austro-Hungarian city of Bratislava-Pressburg-Pozsony, was a landmark in the field. Fitting, then, that the 20th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association, INTERSPEECH 2019, will be held in Graz, Austria, from Sep. 15-19, 2019. Interspeech is the world‘s largest and most comprehensive conference on the science and technology of spoken language processing. More than 2,000 delegates are expected at the conference, which is being held at Messecongress Graz, and feature world-class speakers, tutorials, oral and poster sessions, exhibitions and satellite events.