Innovating Together: Highlights from AIPC 2023 Annual Conference in Luxembourg

16th August 2023

Boardroom founder Cecile Koch reports on the AIPC Annual Conference that took place in Luxembourg in July.

The International Association of Conference Centres (AIPC) organized its 2023 Annual Conference in the picturesque Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, basking in the warm glow of a mild sun, hinting at the potential for fruitful endeavors. François Lafont, CEO of the Luxembourg Convention Bureau, aptly described the city – and the country – as “easy to fall in love with” during his opening speech at the elegant European Convention Center Luxembourg (ECCL) situated high on the hill in Luxembourg City’s European quarter. The event brought together approximately 130 participants from 52 countries to forge connections and gain insights into new developments and trends in the industry.

Over the course of two days, the venue buzzed with intense discussions and learning opportunities, all masterfully organized and moderated by AIPC CEO Sven Bossu under the main theme of “Let’s Innovate Together.” 

Here are the key takeaways which can give you as association leaders valuable insights of what your service providers are about.

Centres for Sustainable Communities

The role of congress centres within the community and their integration into future sustainable projects took centre stage. Should centres offer associations easy access to the city? Local Luxembourg architect Steinmetz shared insights, stating, “We now plan differently, asking ourselves where nature exists and then implementing new projects with the smallest possible footprint, utilizing the principles of cradle-to-cradle thinking.”

Winners & Future Shapers

The AIPC Innovation Award reflects AIPC’s mission of “Encouraging and recognizing excellence in convention centre management”. This year, the Delegate’s Choice Award went to World Forum Convention Center in The Hague, recognized for its new security standard for the center. The Innovation Award was handed out to Calgary Stampede BMO Convention Centre, Canada, for its innovative concept of concierge services for exhibitors.

AIPC’s Future Shapers talent initiative is specifically designed for developing leaders ready to shape the global industry, where participants engage in a three-component program that includes masterclasses, group work to identify industry challenges, create solutions, develop business models, and present them to the community during the annual congress. The winners of the 2023 Future Shapers award were the group called “Visionary,” who presented a digital tool that enables clients to receive immediate and detailed proposals, including a 3D presentation of their requested floorplan.

Adam Paulitsch, Principal at Kansas City-based Populous, highlighted the shifting mindset of clients, stressing the need for architects to assist clients in producing sustainability reports for their stakeholders. Erik Waldman, Vice President, Venue Services, ay TVS Design, suggested integrating centres within communities rather than locating them far away on large plots of land, advising collaboration with local architectural teams and involving local stakeholders from the early stages to ensure the integration of local culture. He emphasized the need for a venue with multiple functions, akin to a Swiss army knife.

Survey Results

Two industry surveys indicated that congress centres performed better than anticipated last year, with a return to almost pre-pandemic levels. While there is room for optimism, close attention should be paid to profitability.

The Meetings Industry in a Changing World

Oscar Cerezales, Global Executive Vice President, MCI Group provided a thought-provoking introduction to the current situation, highlighting the changing ecosystem, unsourced offerings, growing short-term demand, volatility, and the industry’s lack of standardized metrics. 

Despite these challenges, the panelists – Stephanie Dubois-Cannon, Head of Global Event Management, SAP, Christian Folden Lund, Bellagroup CEO, and Sven Bossu, AIPC CEO – expressed confidence in adapting to the evolving landscape, embracing new trends, leveraging AI, attracting new customers, and implementing sustainability practices in their venues and in this way be able to deliver to associations the requested criteria.


Alexander Alles, Executive Director of JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council) and also responsible for the Net Zero Carbon Event Initiative (NZCE), introduced this industry-wide initiative as a “gift to the industry.”The NZCE aims to achieve a zero-carbon event industry by 2050 and provides a comprehensive roadmap for all stakeholders to participate in its implementation. To be noted that in collaboration with Boardroom a specific approach to associations will be made as well. So stay tuned!

Antwerp’s Food Philosophy Cherishing Nature 

Flanders Meeting & Convention Center, known as “A Room with a Zoo,” has embraced a bold and unique food philosophy, and incorporated, to this day, 80% vegan or vegetarian options on its menu. It aims to reach 100% by 2025 while maintaining the most delectable and mouthwatering dishes without sacrificing revenue. Sabine Deconinck, Director of Operations, passionately presented this philosophy, capturing the attention and thoughts of all participants.

Closing Keynote

Professor Dame Sue Black, one of Europe’s top 50 women in tech and a professor at the Durban University in the UK, delivered an intense and powerful presentation on the transformative power of following one’s initial ideas despite life’s difficulties. As the Director of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the computer science department, she has dedicated her life to bridging the gender gap in technology and empowering women to improve their lives.

The 2024 edition of AIPC Annual Conference will take place in Costa Rica.

The AIPC Board
President: Gregory O’Dell, Oak View Group; Vice President: Julianne Jammers, SwissTech Convention Center; Treasurer: Taubi Mothlhabane, Cape Town International Convention Center; and Board members: Parittha Buri, BITEC; Ross Steele, Te Pare Christchurch Convention Centre; Gabor Ganzcer, HUNGEXPO, and AIPC CEO Sven Bossu
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