If you haven’t been to Angers, the western gateway to the Loire Valley, in a few years, you would hardly recognize the city of 400,000—considered one of the greenest in France. The well-connected hub sits just an hour from the Nantes Airport and less than 90 minutes from Paris on the high-speed TGV. It’s the connectivity factor, coupled with a rapidly growing city centre and brand-new convention centre, that’s making it one of the more attractive locales for associations meeting in France.
In early May, Boardroom was invited to attend the inauguration of the completely reconstructed Angers Convention Centre (pictured), which can host up to 1,200 visitors and sits just a 15-minute stroll from the train station. By 2020, the new tram will connect the two making it even easier to reach the 18-room Centre, which was completed in a quick 18 months with a few features that put the top-ranked green city, or ville verte, on prime display for delegates.
In addition to a high-tech, 1,200-seat auditorium and amphitheatre accommodating up to 266 people (overlooking the gorgeous next-door neighbour, the botanical gardens), the Centre added a 400-sqm. panoramic terrace that extends over the garden, emphasizing the fact that you’re meeting in the heart of one of the city’s top selling factors: green space. “We’re at the crossroads of the west and in an interesting position geographically,” says Thierry Gintrand, CEO of Destination Angers. “We want to link events to our terroir, our surroundings, and improve our visibility on the French map.”
From the Centre’s opening to the end of 2019, it’s doing just that, with over 85 events already marked on the calendar. Three of the major international conventions coming up include the first Chenin Blanc International Congress (CBIC) in July, which will draw 500 delegates and highlight the surrounding wine-growing region, the third-largest in France; En Mode Senior in October, created by the newly formed Destination Angers as a way to generate innovation and solutions for better quality of life for the elderly; and the first double edition of the Global Forum and ICMASim 2019, the International Conference for Multi-Area Simulation, in October.
Around 650 experts and decision-makers in the fields of digital and stimulation are anticipated to attend the Global Forum(nicknamed the Davos for ICT) and “digital week,” which plays on the work of the region’s 40,000 students and 250 researchers, as well as Angers’ rapidly developing IoT sector and start-up ecosystem, which, in 2015, earned the city the French Tech Hub label.
When asked why the Global Forum decided to host the 28th edition in Angers over Aix-en-Provence or Paris, where it has formerly been held, vice president Sébastien Lévy simply responded: “connectivity.” He added that Angers’ horticulture, electronics and digital sectors (which count companies like Atos, Afone, Octave and Evolis as local residents), as well as the 200-member cluster of the West Electronic & Applications Network, are also draws for the high-profile policy makers and stakeholders attending the conference. “The ‘digital week’ in Angers is an opportunity to network and develop innovative solutions and partnerships in a stimulating and inspiring environment that brings together a diverse international audience,” he explains.
The city centre was a maze of construction when we arrived, but Gintrand assures that the projects underway will improve the quality of life for residents—and boost the experience for visitors. In addition to two new trams and a new four-star boutique hotel next, which will debut next to the recently opened Musée des Collectionneurs, the Maine riverbank is undergoing a rejuvenation that will have it looking just as pedestrian-friendly as Paris’s Seine. While each project is unfolding in piecemeal fashion, the city will look practically new (while still placing its heritage sites like the landmark château on prime display) by 2022, when Angers plays host to the 31st International Horticulture Congress (IHC2022), aka “the world Olympics of horticulture.”
This article was written by Boardroom editor Lane Nieset. More information on Angers as a conference destination here.