Bordeaux’s Burgeoning Sectors Attract High-Profile Conferences

8th February 2022

Surrounded by some of the world’s most famous vineyards and France’s second largest Atlantic port, Bordeaux is an elegant city with stunning 18th-century architecture, tree lined boulevards and a culturally vibrant centre. But it’s also a congress destination associations can count on thanks to some strong industries and knowledge clusters that make it really stand out – together with a sincere commitment to sustainability.

Words Remi Deve

Situated within the French Department of the Gironde, where the mouths of the rivers Garonne and Dordogne merge, not far from the Atlantic Ocean, Bordeaux was given a UNESCO World Heritage listing for its outstanding ensemble of classical and neoclassical architecture. No wonder then that “La Perle d’Aquitaine”, also renowned for its world-class wines and top-notch gastronomy, was named the Best European Destination for 2015. 

Fast-forward to today, and there’s even more reason to look at Bordeaux as an exciting conference destination. Not only has the shiny new wine museum, Cité du Vin, opened its doors in 2016, but the high-speed TGV train line from Paris has made it even more accessible. Simply put, Bordeaux offers an exciting range of diverse meetings venues with a stylish modern hotel and transport system. Add to this the endless options for off-site events at the myriad of exclusive local chateaux and even river cruises, it’s easy to understand why there’s been something of a buzz about Bordeaux of late.

Cutting-edge sectors

Bordeaux’s success is, in fact, due to the combination of state-of-the-art infrastructure, and a dynamic R&D activity. If its famous wines are known the world over, the city has gained international acknowledgement for its cutting-edge sectors, including forestry & timber, robotics and oncology, but also neuroscience, cardiology, optics-photonics-laser, and more. The figures, actually, speak for themselves: there are 11 competitiveness clusters and over 60 clusters of international importance. Developing business tourism in Bordeaux and its metropolitan area is all about creating platforms for knowledge exchange.

In that regard, the neuroscience sector in Bordeaux has grown to become one of the largest communities in both France and Europe, with more than 700 scientists working in the Neurocampus laboratories of Bordeaux University. In the cardiology field, Bordeaux stands out as it’s placed the emphasis on cardiac electrophysiology, a subspecialty the research conducted at the Liryc University Hospital has become famous for. As for the optics-photonics-laser trio, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is home to the ALPHA-Route des Lasers & des Hyperfréquences (ALPHA-RLH) competitive cluster, one of the territory’s five international hubs.

It comes hardly as a surprise that, in this context, Bordeaux should welcome prestigious national and international events. In the pipeline lie the 2022 SFAP Congress of the French Society for Palliative Care (2,600 participants), the 32nd Annual Conference of the European Society for Biomaterials (1,200 participants), the 34th congress of the International Federation for Building, Urbanism and the Environment (1,200 participants), COBATY, of the International Federation for Building, Urbanism and the Environment (1,200 participants), or Robocup, the world’s largest competition in robotics and artificial intelligence for research and education, which is set to attract 5,000 visitors in June 2023.

In terms of infrastructure, Bordeaux, with more than 11,000 rooms in some 210 hotels, offers a wide variety of accommodation ranging from small, charming establishments in the vineyards to conventional hotels sitting next to conference centres. The latter make a trio: located 15 mins away from the city centre and the airport, the Bordeaux Lac Business District boasts France’s second largest exhibition centre (with 80,000 sqm of usable space,) the Palais 2 Atlantique for up to 6,000 participants, a 1,290-pax congress centre and 1,400 rooms on site; in the city centre the Cité Mondiale Convention Centre houses a 300-seat auditorium, meeting rooms of varying sizes, 1,270 sqm of exhibition space, and a hotel with 97 rooms in the same building;  last but not least, the Bordeaux Palais de la Bourse in the city centre features modern facilities for events up to 1,200 people.

Eco-friendly & innovative

Bordeaux may well be an 18th-century city, but it is proudly eco-friendly and innovative. A pioneer for urban regeneration, the city is fully committed to welcoming refugees, and fully accessible. In fact, it is making use of its existing resources and repurposing them to propel their smart tourism practices to the top. Bordeaux, understandably so, has been named European Capital of Smart Tourism 2022.

When it comes to conferences, this translates into a green experience for delegates coming to the city. The use of public transport is strongly encouraged: 93% of large-capacity hotels are within 30 minutes of a congress centre; all the facilities of Congrès & Expositions de Bordeaux are certified ISO 14001, a family of standards which help organizations minimize how their operations negatively affect the environment; and the Bordeaux Exhibition Centre boasts France’s biggest urban solar power station. Meanwhile, 200 professional partners across the whole supply chain have demonstrated a clear commitment to sustainability, enhancing their environmental performance. Bordeaux also ranks high on the GDS Index, the leading sustainability benchmarking and improvement program for destinations around the world, with a 78% score. 

As Amélie Dechenais, managing director of the Bordeaux Convention Bureau, concludes: “As a one-stop shop for association planners, we aim to attract high-quality national and international events to Bordeaux. To do so, we seek to align the conferences we bid for with the many burgeoning sectors – including aeronautics, geosciences, robotics, neuroscience and many more – that are currently flourishing in our region. In addition, we are becoming increasingly committed to hosting responsible events. At a time when it’s paramount to build back a better world, we have become an eco-responsible destination – even though it’s of course an on-going process and there are still things to be achieved in the matter.”

Contact: conventionbureau@bordeaux-toursime.com / congress.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk

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