Conference Design

Looking to the Future in Bern

Maybe lesser known that some of its international big sisters, Bern is Switzerland’s capital city. Set in the heart of the country, with easy access by train, road or air, it boasts a manageable size that has, over the years, given it a competitive advantage. Combining a medieval city centre together with some visionary architecture, Bern has also been attracting the attention of European and international associations for some time.

Words Remi Deve

The canton of Bern might well be the perfect example of what Switzerland offers at its best: a UNESCO World Heritage capital city with all year cultural atmosphere, a combination of turquoise blue water lakes and the most impressive peaks of the Alps. Meanwhile, the city of Bern itself doesn’t have to blush with the superlatives it has been qualified with over the years: most beautiful flower city of Europe, birthplace of Einstein’s relativity theory, cradle of Toblerone chocolate and home to the largest Paul Klee collection in the world are all features that visitors can enjoy.

Strong research

With its large, modern convention centres and wide variety of accommodation options, Bern is also highly suitable for large association events. Professor and Chairman at the Department of Oral Surgery at the University of Bern, Professor Daniel Buser explains that it’s the city’s central location that is its stronger asset. 

“Bern is centrally located in Switzerland at the language border, which is a big advantage for congresses, since Bern is not only attractive for German-speaking, but also for French-speaking participants,” he says. “Besides, Bern offers two first-class congress venues for large congresses. The best known is the Kursaal Bern, which boasts state-of-the-art audiovisual facilities, including a four-star hotel, and everything at walking distance or easy accessible with free public transportation. There is also Kursaal Bern, which can host congresses of up to 1,400 participants, and BernExpo, ten minutes away from the old city, for events of up to 3,000 participants, which has a very large exhibition area.”

In that context, the University of Bern is one of the main drivers of the congress business in the city and offers top quality across the board. Enjoying special recognition in cutting-edge disciplines, it is reputed for the excellent quality of its teaching and offers a delightful setting, with a campus intimately linked to the social, economic and political life of the city – the capital of Switzerland. With more than 14,000 students, the University of Bern hosts two centres of competence in “climate science”, working on governance and conflict, health and sustainability. Research is also strong in computer science, space research and of course the humanities.

Professor Buser has, in fact, been instrumental in getting some high-profile events to the city. He even helped establish a PCO office, which grew considerably over the years and was renamed Bern Congress Organiser (BCO) in January. “I have probably organized the greatest number of national and international congresses in Bern since 1999,” Buser explains. “That’s about 20 congresses. The largest one took place in 2004 with 1,500 participants. Afterwards, the Kursaal Bern underwent a huge renovation based on my recommendation.”

Big change

The big change, lately, has of course been regarding the format of events. “Every year, we organize at least one major congress or symposium with 600 to 1,000 participants, all in the Kursaal Bern,” Professor Buser continues. “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to review the way we were doing business. So, in November, we will host our first-ever hybrid event – in collaboration with congress provider Habegger – with for reasons which you might easily guess. To me, hybrid congresses are clearly the future, with local participants on site, and virtual participants from all over the world through the internet. This kind of setup offers new opportunities for Bern as a congress city, and Kursaal Bern is perfectly suited to help us grab those opportunities do so.”

As Professor Buser acknowledges, conferences are vital for Bern in the bridging of our globe through science, technology and research, where experts from many countries come together – virtually or physically – in a relaxed setting to discuss the very latest advances and plan for future collaborations to solve pressing problems that are common to us all. Bern is beautiful, safe city and holding conferences here enables the exchange of ideas in a relaxed, comfortable setting. 

“Congresses like the ones I support definitely help increase the reputation of the city on a national and international level”, Buser concludes. “With the help of Bern Welcome, who bid to host business events of all sizes and formats but who also flawlessly support us with the accommodation of participants or the organisation of social events and partner programs – among other things!  we can make sure that the world knows about what is going on in Bern!”

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