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"The booking situation for 2021 actually looks very good"

Susanne Baumann-Söllner, who has been responsible for running the Austria Center Vienna since December 2012, believes in the future of the congress.

Will the virtual congress become the new standard?

Baumann-Söllner: I think and hope not. Sitting in the office, following the presentations on the screen, and discussing with one another online – that cannot be the way to go at the end of the day. Some customers who have tried that are already looking forward to their congress being held on site in Vienna again.

What are their plans for the organization of future congresses?

We're assuming that congresses will still be in demand, even if with special requirements. That includes a hygiene concept, which we offer. And, of course, extensive testing. There's a test that the IMBA in Vienna is currently researching which tells you whether someone is positive or negative within half an hour. The use of such a test in the future would give more certainty and therefore also enable larger event formats. What will really matter, of course, is that this test is affordable for the organizer and delivers reliable results. Even though many organizers have already switched over to virtual congresses, we would like to offer all participants and customers the option to hold their congress in a hybrid format. Those who want to come should come, and those who cannot come because of travel restrictions should be able to participate virtually. According to the experts, the pandemic could continue until 2022 in some parts of the world, while the economic consequences will be felt until 2024 or 2025.

What does that mean for the Austria Center Vienna in terms of technical equipment?

We're already upgrading in this area. We are currently designing packages that will enable us to offer our customers comprehensive, mature solutions for hybrid events.

The Austria Center is one of the largest event locations in the city. What does capacity look like under coronavirus conditions?

Since beginning of September, events of up to 5,000 people are allowed under the lockdown easing regulations. With future testing of all participants, we could of course utilize our capacities even better, as it might also be possible to ease the hygiene restrictions accordingly. Until then, our hygiene concept is in force: one meter's distance, and if that can't be kept, masks must be worn. Then there's disinfectant, clear route guidance and "one-way systems", distance between tables and chairs, and a constantly supply of fresh air.

Are there concepts for how you can give people participating in congresses that special Vienna feeling?

Our biggest customer, the radiologists' congress ECR, showed what is possible in July. There were virtual tours of Vienna, a virtual concert, and videos were made at a large number of places together with the Vienna Convention Bureau. In turn, other customers have focused on the Congress Center, filmed videos from here and used them to spread that Vienna feeling.

When will larger events start being held again at the Austria Center?

From September, we're starting with a series of smaller national events; larger international events will be held again only next year.

What are bookings like for 2021?

Very good. Our hope is to also be able to put on everything that's been booked.

You can find full information about the Austria Center Vienna on the website at www.acv.com.

You can find more information about planning an event in the Venue Finder of the Vienna Convention Bureau.

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