Holland Blooms with Expertise

7th June 2019

Holland may be a compact in size as a conference destination, but it packs a punch when it comes to its knowledge infrastructure and congress capabilities. Its four largest cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht are as diverse as they are picturesque, each possessing their own pockets of expertise and innovation.

Meeting Professionals

The knowledge infrastructure in The Hague encompasses a wide variety of industries with more than 200 international organisations, knowledge institutions, startups and NGO’s operating from within the city, covering sectors such as cyber security, IT and tech, new energy and renewables, legal and finance, and oil and gas, making it a popular destination for associations to meet and add depth to the content of their programme. 

This broad range of knowledge is what attracted Meeting Professionals International (MPI) to host its European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC19) for the first time in the city in February 2019. The event welcomed 400 conference professionals from over 20 countries and took place in multiple locations, with the World Forum convention centre being used as a base. 

Working alongside The Hague Convention Bureau, MPI’s local Netherlands chapter organised several unique learning experiences involving local organisations. In addition to an engaging keynote, delegates were taken on ‘learning journeys’ around the city to learn from cross-industry innovations. They visited companies and organisations outside the meeting and event sector, such as research institute TNO, cress-food company Koppert Cress and Blijdorp Zoo to come up with new insights that could be applied within their sector. This not only provided knowledge and inspiration, but also offered the international guests a further introduction to the city.

For Bas Schot, head of congresses and events at The Hague Convention Bureau, the event was representative of how association event planners can really use the city’s assets to their advantage. “This is a great example of how we as a convention bureau can collaborate with conference organisers, associations and partners across the city to facilitate the organisation and really leverage The Hague’s pool of talent by taking the subject matter of the conference outside the walls of the convention centre,” he explains.

Urban Resilience

Rotterdam’s dominant knowledge hubs include medical and life sciences, food, maritime and cleantech. Since 2016 the city’s convention bureau, Rotterdam Partners, has been collaborating with local industry and academic ambassadors to proactively reach out to conferences which are linked to these economic sectors and themes. Rotterdam’s network of Knowledge Ambassadors now encompasses 87 academics, researchers and other experts connected to the Rotterdam region.

Arnoud Molenaar, Rotterdam’s chief resilience officer, became a Knowledge Ambassador in 2016 and has since helped secure several high-profile conferences, including Deltas in Times of Climate Change and Adaptation Futures. His latest win is the 2019 Urban Resilience Summit, which takes place in the city in July.

The event will bring together around 400 urban resilience practitioners from cities around the world to share best-in-class practices and innovations in helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21stcentury.

Given that 80% of Rotterdam is below sea level, it has centuries worth of experience when it comes to resilience, particularly on the topics of integrated water management and innovative climate adaptation. It was one of the first 30 cities to become a member of 100 Resilient Cities and released its Resilience Strategy in 2016. Molenaar says it is through events like the 2019 Urban Resilience Summit the city is able to tell its story: “We have become a city well-known for these topics and conferences like this provide us with an international showroom to demonstrate what we are capable of,” he says.

Science Park

Utrecht distinguishes itself as a specialist in healthy urban living, and the city and region has a large knowledge cluster with companies and institutions working on and contributing towards this shared goal.

The Utrecht Science Park, the largest knowledge centre in the Netherlands, is a key focal point. It is home to more than 100 renowned educational institutions, knowledge and research institutes, established companies and start-ups in the field of life sciences and health all working together to find new solutions for a longer and healthier life.

“Utrecht region appeals to regional and foreign companies because of the groundbreaking research done here and the unique collaboration between the various parties,” explains Monique André de la Porte, account manager at Utrecht Convention Bureau.

 The Princess Máxima Center is just one of the many research institutes within the park and counts itself the third largest centre for paediatric oncology in the world. It specialises in the treatment of children with cancer, working from bench to bedside (from basic research to the clinic). Another key player is the Hubrecht Institute, which focuses on development biology and stem cell research. Its expertise lies in pioneering fundamental research that can contribute to the treatment of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.


Amsterdam regularly ranks among the world’s best conference destinations. It has established life sciences and health, AI, financial services, creative and tech clusters as well as a vibrant startup community – meaning there are plenty of options for adding impact and value to conference programmes.

 The city’s marketing bureau, amsterdam&partners, collaborates with a wide network of local partners and ambassadors – like physician-scientistPeter Reiss, who it partnered with to host the 22nd  International Aids Conference (AIDS 2018) from 23-27 July last year in Amsterdam (pictured).

A professor of medicine at the Amsterdam UMC and a former governingboard member of the International AIDS Society (IAS), Reiss has been working as a HIV researcher since the early 80s and is an advocate for HIV and AIDS education, prevention and treatment. As co-chair of the conference, he brought together the city’s key stakeholders to secure their support in raising as much awareness of the event as possible. “We needed to do this jointly, so we got a group of key NGO’s representatives of key ministries and affected patient communities together,”he explains. “Because we are a relatively small city the lines between people are short, and you can make a lot happen by getting the key people round a table.” 

This widespread involvement and support from the city were clear throughout the entire event. A visual ‘dressing’ campaign saw AIDS 2018 branded flags, banners, and posters positioned at the airport, in and around the city and at the RAI Convention Centre where 18,000 guests from around the world congregated to inform, share and learn. 

“Frankly, nobody in Amsterdam could have missed AIDS 2018,” says Claudia Wehmeijer, director meetings & conventions at amsterdam&partners. “This event has proven once again that we as a city are able to connect knowledge, people and strong ideas. It makes us proud that we were chosen to host such an important conference and to contribute to the success of AIDS 2018. It makes us feel strong. And it makes us eager to host again association conferences that matter,” she adds.

This article, whose full version is available here, was written by Boardroom editor Chantelle Dietz. More information on Holland as a conference destinatio: nebakermans@holland.com/ www.holland.com/global/meetings. The right to use, part or all of it in subsequent works has to be granted by the Publisher.

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