Sylvie Biancheri, General Director of Grimaldi Forum Monaco
ML: Can you tell us a little about your background, and the path that led to your current position of General Director, Grimaldi Forum Monaco?
SB: I am Parisian, and moved to Monaco in 1995 with my husband Franck, a Monegasque, who had the opportunity to join the Department of Finance and Economy as General Director.
It was a turning point in my career. Since 1983, I had mainly been working for banks (Export Financing) and insurance brokers (Political and Financial Risks). I spent two years at the Monaco Tourism Board where I learned about business tourism and then in 1998, when the Grimaldi Forum was still under construction, I was asked to put together a small team of three to elaborate a strategy, both in culture and business tourism, and to prepare the Forum’s operations. It was an amazing experience as we started essentially from zero!
ML: Can you please provide a brief history with some key facts and figures for our readers who may not be familiar with the Grimaldi Forum.
SB: Inaugurated in July 2000, the Grimaldi Forum Monaco is the Congress Centre of the Principality of Monaco, hosting one hundred professional events per year: trade shows, product launches, conventions, conferences, gala dinners …
This state-of-art building offers 35,000m² of exhibition and functional space, comprising also the Salle des Princes, which, with 1800 seats, is the largest auditorium in Monaco.
With nearly €17 million turnover, the Grimaldi Forum has achieved record results in 2016 and 2017, generating more than €55 million in economic benefits for the Principality. It is a great source of pride for the 136 employees representing 46 trades through events that welcome more than 220,000 visitors per year.
Since October 2008 the Grimaldi Forum has held ISO 14001:2015 environmental management certification.
ML: Does Grimaldi Forum focus on business and trade?
SB: No, the Grimaldi Forum is also an unparalleled venue providing a cultural programme focused on three major themes: exhibitions, music and dance.
Every summer the Grimaldi Forum Monaco puts on a major thematic exhibition devoted to a leading arts movement, a heritage or civilisation subject.
ML: Since the award of its ISO 14001 certification in October 2008, Grimaldi Forum has continued with its eco-initiatives to reduce waste, water and energy. Can you tell us about the Forum’s commitment to the environment, and how this aligns with the government’s objective of a carbon-neutral Principality by 2050?
SB: As we are ISO 14001 certified, we work daily to reduce the impact of our event activity on the environment. This translates into concrete action in terms of reducing our energy and water consumption, effectively sorting waste, adapting a policy of purchasing eco-labelled products or services, and a willingness to raise awareness via our communication.
In other words, we immediately responded to the government’s call for a successful energy transition in the country. We signed the National Pact, and have seen strong results already: a 19.2 percent reduction in power consumption with a 62.7 percent reduction in water consumption since our certification in 2008.
We focus on searching for new energy solutions, such as solar panels, like the plan drawn up by the State as part of its Energy Transition initiative.
ML: How do you plan the yearly agenda? Is there a division of events dedicated to culture or congresses, for example?
SB: The development of our agenda is a clever mix between the needs of our business customers who are solicited as part of our commercial prospecting – which represents nearly 80 percent of our events, the requests of cultural entities of the Principality who wish to take advantage of the Grimaldi Forum to showcase their great performances, and Grimaldi Forum’s own productions, shows and especially art exhibitions, like in the summer, which require two years of preparatory work.
ML: Regarding congresses and conferences, how does the Grimaldi Forum compete internationally in Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Events (MICE) market? Which cities do you see as your main competitors?
SB: The MICE industry is developing today into an increasingly competitive environment. All tourist destinations try to attract congresses and conferences, which constitute a significant economic windfall. Our main competitors are the major European capitals – Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London … but also the more Mediterranean destinations, like Barcelona and Cannes.
But our assets give us an edge over our competition: a destination with an international reputation, finely-tuned operations, expertise and quality service to meet market demands – which our customers greatly appreciate. And thanks to innovation in all areas, we are always looking for ways to strengthen our attractiveness.
ML: What are the trends you are seeing in the business tourism market and how does Grimaldi Forum Monaco adapt to these demands?
SB: Business tourism is living in exciting times – for participants, planners and venues! The Grimaldi Forum Monaco builds its strengths on successful customer experiences, its capacity to innovate and its strategy to satisfy a constantly emerging MICE market. Main trends in the business tourism market:
Value for money: The Grimaldi Forum offers an unequalled quality/price ratio. This is mainly due to the expertise and professionalism of our teams (140 people covering more than 40 different professions), as well as our high standards in terms of customer service. Hospitality and specialised service are very important features at Grimaldi Forum Monaco, which is a key player in helping to make Monaco a business and cultural destination.
“All-inclusive venues for human-friendly event playgrounds”: To quote Event Manager Blog, venues have an increasingly impactful role in helping planners enhance event experiences. As an event-friendly venue, Grimaldi Forum provides end-to-end services while remaining flexible to planners to help them create immersive experiences.
Innovation: Today events need to reach out, connect and share! We have responded to this market demand by proving the necessary digital and technological infrastructure, and also by designing new services for our clients.
Safety and security: Whether physical or cyber, security is top on planners’ agendas. Monaco benefits from a well-known reputation in this field.
Sustainability: For the last 10 years, sustainability has been a growing trend in the industry. Due to our ISO 14001 certification ten years ago, we focus our attention on six priorities: Energy, Water, Waste Sorting, Green Products & Procurement Policy, Prevention of Environmental Risks, and Communication.
ML: How much secondary revenue do congresses and conferences at Grimaldi Forum generate for the Principality?
SB: A congress at the Grimaldi Forum is on average between 600 and 1,500 people … per day. For certain events, such as the World Anti-Aging Congress, we exceed the 10,000 professionals who need to stay, eat, move and work in good conditions, and efficiently –everything is within walking distance … The economic spin-off represents around €55 million per year.
ML: What have been some of the Forum’s biggest ever successes – Francis Bacon, the Forbidden City, TEDxMonteCarlo, Top Marques, sports, music?
SB: The most successful event held at the Grimaldi Forum was the Grace Kelly exhibition in 2007 with 135,000 visitors in two months.
But success is not only measured by attendance, it depends also on the nature of the event, whether business or cultural … but we do emphasise that any event taking place at the Grimaldi Forum is considered a quality event. This is the strength of the Grimaldi Forum brand, which echoes the richness of our programming.
ML: Any future events or expansion plans for Grimaldi Forum you can share?
SB: The future development of the Grimaldi Forum inevitably involves the land extension
project, which will allow us to expand over the next 10 years. With almost 6,000 m2, we will increase our exhibition space by 50 percent and be able to organise three simultaneous events. This is a great opportunity … In the meantime, our goal is to minimise the impact on our business and to remain fully operational to our customers.
For more see the Grimaldi Forum Monaco website. Article first published February 15, 2018.