The meetings industry of the region has been affected by the pandemic crisis as much as everywhere else, but as the situation slowly but steadily ameliorates, Stavanger’s economy re-emerges strong as ever. Associations will soon be able to make the best of a city that is preparing to welcome them, as Per Morten Haarr, Convention Director at the Region Stavanger Convention Bureau (SCVB) reassures. “Society is opening up once more and optimism is gradually coming back to the people. Big association events in Stavanger are rather postponed than cancelled, which motivates us further to be in constant touch with the local association market, PCO’s and suppliers in order to make things possible for when we are able to be fully operational again”.
This optimism is reinforced by the fact that the city’s key industries still stand strong. Wedged among some of Norway’s most impressive fjords, Stavanger boasts a wide range of water-based and engineering industries, such as shipbuilding and production of rigs, platforms and subsea installations. Tourism – Stavanger aim to take a large share of domestic leisure tourism – and agriculture seem to be on a continuous growth, while health and science businesses excel, specifically in the fields of resuscitation, cardio-vascular and nursing, as well as in new fields such as biotech, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Energy Meets Innovation
But the city’s irrefutable jewel is its energy sector. For the past forty years, Stavanger has been drawing from its energy resources and building industry-related activities as a major supplier to the global markets of hydroelectric power production, then oil and gas and, more recently, wind, sun and bioenergy. Europe’s Energy Capital, as it is rightly called, houses major national and international industry players like Equinor, BP, Shell and Aker Solutions. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority are both also based in the area, complementing the businesses with hands-on policy making, hence creating a strong cluster.
Phil Chandler, Director at the Society of Petroleum Engineers, believes that the city plays a key role in upgrading the energy sector. “Stavanger’s greatest contribution is to innovation. The energy industry is changing rapidly on so many levels, so to stay on the cutting edge requires you to evolve, adapt, and be flexible. The departure of many of the historical super majors from this region has allowed new companies to invest with a different mindset. For the remaining companies and new start-ups in the area, constant innovation has been the key to maximize the return on their investments. In my view, the Norwegian energy industry is a global leader in technology development, innovation, and being able to adapt and reinvent itself. The City of Stavanger truly understands the importance of this sector to the regional economy and facilitates growth by engaging with its major employers.”
The energetic ecosystem is supported by a dynamic research and development environment settled within the University of Stavanger as well as numerous research centres. The Norwegian Continental shelf has become an area of exploration and innovation, testing new technologies for the world’s energy industry, focusing also on the emerging renewable energy sector, such as offshore wind farms. The merging of so many stakeholders in the area has gained a place for Stavanger in the Energy Cities Alliance, a gathering of major energy-associated destinations – i.e. Aberdeen, Abu Dhabi, Lausanne, Calgary and Stavanger – working together to grow their business event sectors.
A Strong Cluster Is Attractive to Associations
And it has been successful. The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) has been organising its conferences in the city year after year. Chandler explains why: “SPE has maintained a significant presence in Norway for 46 years, with the first professional section starting in Stavanger in 1974. It makes sense for us to hold events in areas where there is a strong concentration of members and industry activity. We continue to return to Stavanger because it remains at the forefront of the Norwegian Energy Industry as well as in global technology development, where it nurtures the new energy companies entering the region’s ever-changing landscape.”
Every second year, the city also welcomes the global oil, gas and energy global industry to one of the world’s leading energy meeting events – ONS, gathering more than 65,000 visitors from 100 countries. Likewise, the High Wind conference, postponed until later this year, has chosen the city to discuss the potential of wind power. Meetings of this calibre could only take place in Norway’s leading conference centre, Stavanger Forum, among others. With a total of 25 meeting rooms with capacities ranging from 10 to 1707 people and close to the city, the venue makes for the perfect host to such events.
Stavanger Convention Bureau has grasped the importance of all partnerships involved and is the main facilitator to that end. Chandler concludes: “The Convention Bureau, The Mayor’s Office, and the management of the Forum have been instrumental in bringing the SPE/IADC International Drilling Conference and Exhibition to Stavanger. In today’s business climate, it takes like-minded organisations working together to be successful. The Convention Bureau understands this and has established partnerships where all involved parties can achieve their goals. That has been the secret behind our relationship with Stavanger.”