Biggest challenges for convention centres right now

A lack of skilled staff and increased costs are biggest challenges for convention centres.

Cape Town International Convention Centre is battling with the ongoing challenges of hiring staff with the right skills.
Cape Town International Convention Centre is battling with the ongoing challenges of hiring staff with the right skills. Photo Credit: Cape Town International Convention Centre

AIPC hosted a live debate with CEOs of convention centres sharing their views on the business landscape.

Convention centres across Europe and Africa shared insights, ongoing challenges and best practice in a session hosted by the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC).

Taubie Motlhabane, CEO at Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) said key challenges include recruiting staff with appropriate skills and retaining existing staff, particularly in operational roles and day-to-day event delivery.

“If they don’t have the right skills, it impacts greatly on customer experience and service – this battle for talent has been ongoing since Covid,” she said. “We can’t hire quickly enough – particularly in the area of delivering an event. The minute we hire, we lose existing skilled staff, and those we end up hiring don’t have the right skills – we are getting a lot of customer complaints.”

Sven Bossu, CEO of AIPC, said many venues have filled positions with staff who are new to the business, the venue and the sales process, creating a ‘triangle of new experience’ that makes it harder to deliver any event.

With energy costs mounting in Europe, participants questioned whether they could factor in additional costs to contracts that have already been signed.

“Around 95% of our contracts are already signed so I don’t think there is much we can do,” said Julianne Jammers, executive director of SwissTech Village, Hotel and Convention Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“However, we have made a change already to our terms and conditions to factor in two things. One is inflation and the other is energy costs and we’ve actually put those into our terms and conditions, that it will be at the prevailing rate. We may have missed the boat for 2023 but we are thinking proactively for the future. We also turn off all the outside lights on the building.”

Federica Lucini, marketing manager at Palacongressi di Rimini, said the venue has fixed tariff prices and is therefore looking at other services where it can increase value.

Bossu asked if any of the participants had seen a demand for hybrid events, following the return of in-person events. CTICC’s Motlhabane said the venue had not invested in a production studio because of the high costs involved, while Rimini’s Lucini said the venue updated the technology that was needed at the time, rather than bringing in anything new.

“There was a lot of talk that hybrid is the future but I never believed that would be the case,” she said. “We've got a digital platform that we sell to our clients and we only pay for this when we use it. If a convention centre wants to set up a studio, then it should move to become a television studio and change its business model.”

Christophe Leyvraz, head of client experience at SwissTech Convention Centre said the expenses associated with a destination such as Switzerland, could cause "significant problems in terms of revenue", particularly for associations looking to host events there, offering the potential for other, more cost-effective destinations to benefit.