Even before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, the city was already a global powerhouse of connectivity.
After all, some of the most high-level agreements in history have transpired here, including the Geneva Conventions following the Second World War. Both the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross famously operate headquarters in Geneva, as do 200 other international organizations.
Seventy percent of all tourism to Geneva is business-related and the city boasts more than 15 conference centers. Geneva’s airport even opened a new visitors center that offers a welcome area for conventions and conferences.
In essence, meetings are a primary component of the city’s identity, a place already soaked with natural splendor, a green aesthetic and a very high quality of life.
While Geneva’s population is only 190,000, it could be considered one of the smallest big cities on the planet, as almost half of the population is foreign and about one-sixth are active in international organizations.
For large groups, two facilities dominate. PALEXPO features over 1 million square feet of space, with dozens of halls and rooms, plus seven restaurants and a 10-acre park next door. The Geneva International Conference Center, just off the UN Plaza, is among the world’s most renowned venues for international meetings.
Caroline Pidroni, director of sales and marketing at the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, says Geneva’s reputation as a peacemaker translates to the meetings industry.
“Geneva is known as the capital of freedom and peace,” Pidroni says. “It’s got a longstanding tradition of humanitarianism and mediation, which is often called the ‘Geneva Spirit.’ Very often, [groups] are looking for a neutral place, for whatever reason, and I think Geneva is one of the only places on Earth where so many worldwide issues have been and still are being discussed…partly thanks to Switzerland being so neutral.”
Gary Singh is a frequent contributor to Meetings Focus. After covering Switzerland for several publications, he converted to being neutral for life.