Hosting international events has not come easy to Poland. Although the country regained its democratic government almost 30 years ago and joined the European Union more than 12 years ago, many meeting planners are just now becoming aware of the strength of Poland’s economy and the vibrancy of its urban centers since breaking its ties to the former Soviet Union. In fact, Poland boasts one of the strongest economies of any former Eastern Bloc nation, and Warsaw, with its investment-friendly policies, attracts hundreds of multinationals to a revitalized city center with 10 5-star MICE hotels and a beautifully restored UNESCO-designated Old Town. Its savvy, new, gourmet restaurants put to rest the rumors about Warsaw’s eateries serving only pierogi, kiełbasa and cabbage (although traditional cuisine is still available); and the strikingly modern, three-year-old Museum of the History of Polish Jews, designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki, offers one of Europe’s most interesting off-site venues for MICE groups. “Too few professional conference organizers around the world were aware of what Warsaw had to offer,” said Mateusz Czerwinski, director, Warsaw Tourism Organization’s Warsaw Convention Bureau. “But that changed in February 2015 after we hosted over 80 international MICE buyers and showed them all the benefits that Warsaw can offer their groups.” The Warsaw Convention Bureau impressed buyers with the Palace of Culture and Science, the PGE National Stadium, the Expo XXI Convention Center, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Warsaw Uprising Museum and several high-end, downtown hotels and new office towers. The MICE buyers enjoyed Warsaw’s superb cuisine and its historic attractions and took notice of the close proximity from downtown to Warsaw’s Chopin Airport, a distance of only six miles, 15–20 minutes by car. Warsaw’s 5-star hotel properties offer excellent accommodations as well as state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities. The Warsaw Marriott Hotel is a deluxe property across from the Palace of Culture. In addition to the 528 guestrooms, MICE groups have access to the hotel’s conference center, featuring 28,000 square feet of high-tech spaces, including 19,171 square feet of event space in 21 rooms. The Sheraton Warsaw offers 350 guestrooms, including 60 Club rooms and 24 suites as well as the fine-dining InAzia restaurant, one of the best in Warsaw. Other 5-star properties include the InterContinental Warsaw with 414 deluxe rooms in the heart of the city. It features two full restaurants and three other food and beverage venues, with a catering department that services 13 conference rooms (11,937 square feet) and the Opera Ballroom (4,714 square feet). The hotel makes good use of its upper floors, providing a private meeting room on the 41st-floor Club Lounge and the exclusive RiverView Wellness Centre and Spa on the 43rd floor. The downtown Westin Warsaw offers 361 guestrooms, including 17 Westin Guest Offices and 14 suites. Ten modular function rooms and the ability to create completely sustainable meetings make the hotel stand out for MICE events, along with its location close to the Palace of Culture and Science and the Zlote Tarasy shopping mall. For planners who prefer more traditional lodging, the 168-room Hotel Bristol has stood as a city landmark hotel since 1901, redesigned and updated by acclaimed London designer Anita Rosato. Its Neo-Renaissance façade and public spaces filled with Art Nouveau flourishes provide a historic ambience. The venue offers the formal Marconi restaurant and the Viennese-style Café Bristol, plus 10 conference rooms designed in the Art Nouveau style with high-tech amenities.
Warsaw offers an array of off-site venues that evoke the city’s rich history, available to MICE planners for receptions and conferences. With more than 60 museums, 13 concert halls, 38 theaters, 44 art galleries and numerous historic sites, the choices seem endless. The National Museum, one of Poland’s oldest and most important cultural institutions, occupies a Modernist building in the city center. It contains more than 830,000 works of art and offers unique meeting venues in its main building and courtyards. Or consider the Fryderyk Chopin Museum as a cultural venue for private functions. Chopin lived the first half of his life in Warsaw, and the museum’s interactive exhibits include benches that play Chopin music while visitors sit on them. Warsaw’s 15th-century Royal Castle usually hosts high-profile events such as state and diplomatic ceremonies, international congresses and jubilee galas, but its five halls are available for private receptions and conferences. In June 2015, Teach for All CEOs and staff representing 18 countries (70 participants) came together at the large European System Change Conference in Warsaw. The group used the 4-star Mercure Warszawa Centrum hotel and organized functions at restaurants like Czerwony Wieprz, Folk Gospoda and Charlie Food & Friends Restaurant, where they booked a cooking class with a local company called Polish Your Cooking. “We utilized the Copernicus Science Museum for our main National Student Leadership conference, and smaller groups visited various schools in Warsaw. In our free time we enjoyed walking around Warsaw’s city center, where there is so much to see,” said Miguel Rato, senior director, communications and strategic initiatives, Teach for All. In July the 2016 Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will convene in Warsaw, with the city welcoming heads of state from the 29 NATO members as well as leaders of the most crucial partner organizations of NATO, including the United Nations and the European Union. About 2,500 delegates and 1,500 journalists will attend meetings at the city’s PGE National Stadium. “The National Stadium is a modern and multifunctional venue with the largest conference center in Warsaw,” said Paweł Rozen, Warsaw Convention Bureau. “It offers fully equipped conference rooms which can be arranged both for large conferences as well as smaller business meetings. The Stadium, with over 237,000 square feet of exhibition area, is also the perfect venue for trade shows and exhibitions.” The Warsaw Convention Bureau assists MICE planners with impartial advice on venues, hotels and all supporting services. An incentive for MICE planners considering Warsaw is price; of the 100 biggest non-U.S. cities in the world, Warsaw ranked 90th least expensive for business travelers, according to Business Travel News’ 2015 Corporate Travel Index.
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