Swedish sensibility: EW talks to Carin Kindbom EuropeExpert Opinion

Carin Kindbom, the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre (SECC) president and CEO, charts the venue’s changing visitor profile, and its architectural challenges

Which initiatives in the industry are you passionate about?

I am passionate of the power of co-operation and collaboration. It gives an enormous competitiveness to have excellent co-operation within the destination, the academia and the industry.

Collaborations of different kinds within the company as well as outside the company will be even more crucial to create unique competitive advantages.

Another important issue is the effects that we see from our work with sustainability. We have integrated sustainability as one of our five main corporate strategies, with the emphasis on environment, accessibility and social commitment.

We choose to support organisations and projects that work for good causes at local level and have successfully implemented ISO 20121, meeting all the requirements for Event Sustainability Management.

This is one of many ways of making room for a better world and at the same time another important competitive advantage.

How are you embracing digitalisation?

Digitalisation increases our contacts but it never replaces the personal meeting and the value of experiencing something ‘live’. Trust is made between people and you do business based on trust.

Digitalisation also challenges our mindset, there will be other and new ways of working. I would summarise that digitalisation is challenging and at the same time provides many possibilities for value-add in different perspectives. It will definitely pave the way to competitive advantages.

Another challenge is keeping track of the rate of change. Constant changes in our world influence us. No one can, for sure, say how. We must develop our ability to capture trends and driving forces, and act in a way that creates value for our customers. All we know is that what the customer is willing to pay for will differ from today.

What are the challenges getting Millennials involved in events?

We can see that Millennials, like an increasing part of our visitor base, want to take part in many different experiences under one roof.

The visit often starts online, so you have to create content that engages and makes it easy to buy tickets, find the right digital way and present restaurants, shops and hotels they can experience during their stay.

Our exhibitions gather inspiring speakers and exhibitors that create a creative meeting place where we blend offline and online experiences.

Our location, in the heart of the city, also gives our visitors walking distance to the city centre and is an experience itself with its rich offering of culture, amusements and sports. I think that is a strength when meeting Millennials.

What makes Gothenburg and the SECC unique?

We’re an extremely friendly city and a good size. There’s a trend for ‘bleisure’ and we’re well equipped as a city for this, but also as a venue. We want to create a city within a city.

Infrastructural boosts in Gothenburg will aid this goal, with an underground tube line expected to have a stop directly at the venue’s entrance, which itself is currently being dramatically refurbished.

When re-designing our venue, we looked around the world for inspiration, particularly to Asia, where venues like Marina Bay Sands can provide real attention to detail and options no matter what your budget.

Gothenburg has 9,000 hotel rooms within 20 minutes walk, and its event venues are uniquely concentrated in the heart of the city. The SECC and Gothia Towers are located beside multipurpose indoor arena The Scandinavium which is near Ullevi outdoor stadium and football stadium Gamla Ullevi arena.

We all know an all-new arena is coming, and the proposed site is right within our area. The wider activity in Gothenburg is really boosting us, but our own events also help increase the demand for new builds.

How are visitor demographics changing? 

Most of our business comes from Europe, but Asian visitation is growing. Despite this, capturing the exhibition market going forward is a challenge, partly for reasons that apply globally. There are now fewer product launches at exhibitions.

Most large companies prefer to do launches in their own way. We need to establish why it’s important to be in the same place with your competition, and the SECC is looking at how it can contribute to the investments of all parties involved in an exhibition, and helping them find relevance in the event.

We offer an all-under-one-roof concept that has added five restaurants providing everything from grab and go food to Michelin star dining. We’ve gone from having 700, to 1,200 rooms, and by 2030 we plan to have 2,000.

How much does venue design matter?

Art is a big part of Gothia Towers and SECC, The sculptures, the paintings, including a large ceiling mural, helped meet our 2014 target to become ‘Europe’s most attractive venue’. We are funded by a foundation that allows us to invest in projects on their own merits.

This has given SECC and Gothia the freedom to pursue artistic as well as sustainable schemes including a facility dedicated to the production of honey.

Tom Hall

Tom Hall

Editor, Exhibition World

Tom Hall

Editor, Exhibition World