Current Affairs

Adapting to a New Reality

In these trying times, when it’s hard – if not impossible – to anticipate what the world will look like in a few months, or even weeks, taking care of your business and your clients is of the utmost importance. In this context, Boardroom caught up with Olivier Le Floch, Head of Sales, Business Development and Partnerships at La Cité Nantes Congress Centre, at the beginning of the summer: Olivier Le Floch expressed his optimism regarding the future of the meetings industry and his long-lasting faith in face-to-face events.

Words Remi Deve

A sustainable business is one that has minimal negative impact, or potentially a positive effect, on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy. It’s also one that can efficiently manoeuvre around a dramatically evolving business landscape and adjust to sudden shifts without breaking the chains that hold an organization together. In short, it’s one that can prove it’s agile and flexible. When the COVID-19 pandemic jolted the world into the unknown, many had to adapt to a new reality, which is precisely what La Cité Nantes Congress Centre is doing at this very moment.

If it has of course not been the only sector suffering, the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit with impacts on both travel supply and demand. At La Cité, like pretty much anywhere, events and meetings have had to be either postponed or cancelled in an effort to curb the spread of this pandemic leading to revenue losses. “If our 2020 turn over look pretty bleak, we have also reasons to be optimistic,” says Olivier Le Floch. “As an organization, we are capable and agile enough to bend and curve where needed. And with positive collaboration and the right partnerships – something that has always been deeply embedded into our DNA – we are paving the way for greater impact and recovery.”

Nantes has indeed always proved to be a fertile ground for economic dynamism, powered by a number of centres of excellence, with great potential for future growth and job creation. The competitive clusters are fine examples of this: the EMC2 cluster, dedicated to advanced production technologies, Atlanpole Biotherapies for healthcare/biotechnology, Images & Réseaux for information and telecom technologies, IdforCAR for smart vehicles and mobility, and of course the Brittany Atlantic Ocean Cluster for the maritime economy… just to name a few.

The metropolis is also home to more than 2,000 researchers and 200 laboratories, spread across companies, universities and specialist schools, in a region with a particularly strong academic community, including over 50,000 students. “It’s this pool of very diverse talent that makes us truly unique,” says Le Floch. “And with the reinforcement of the Charter we signed with the Nantes Atlantique Design School and the I-SITE NExt project – a label that aims to accelerate research, training and innovation in Health and the Industry of the Future – we have a strong differentiating card to play.”

Safe environment

Needless to say that providing a safe environment to delegates is also high on the agenda of La Cité. From September on, health protocols will be put in place for everyone’s safety. The management of public flows, coffee breaks, registration, the organization of locker rooms will be designed so that everyone can experience events at La Cité fully and safely. The auditoriums and breakout rooms will also be re-organized to offer capacities that are adapted to social distancing and the well-being of visitors and delegates alike.

“The Hospitality Charter that we developed with Nantes Convention Bureau will even be strengthened,” says Olivier Le Floch. “It will ensure coordination of all the relevant stakeholders in the event management sector and the deployment of services to offer association delegates the best possible – and safest – experience.”

Additionally, new ways of meeting are being explored. The teams working at La Cité have always feel pressed to audit their organization’s sense of innovation and technological capabilities, and it looks like the pandemic has certainly had a positive effect – in the sense that it accelerated the venue’s digital transformation. “I’m confident F2F meetings will never disappear,” argues Olivier Le Floch. “We’re all human and there’s only so much we can exchange and do through a computer screen. But at this stage I believe the future lies in hybrid meetings. And we’re busy setting up new digital solutions that, in this context, we’ll be able to offer our association clients.”

This article was written by Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve. The right to use it, in parts or in full, has to be granted by the Publisher.

These new initiatives will certainly go hand in hand with La Cité’s commitment to CSR and sustainable development. Driven by a green conscience profoundly embedded in its culture, the venue is getting ready for tomorrow: the organization of eco-responsible events and the reduction of the ecological footprint of events through the support of customers in a virtuous approach are deeply encouraged.

 All these elements come together so that association planners can make the most of what La Cité has to offer. But it’s a unified, common effort.  “I’m a strong believer in value co-creation,” concludes Olivier Le Floch. “It’s only by understanding what it is associations need and want to achieve that we can help them organize successful events – whether physical, digital or hybrid. And at La Cité, we have the hardware and the software to do just that.”

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