Bestival, Berlin: Truly an innovative format

Post Covid I planned to visit one of my favourite countries, Germany (my 56th visit to Germany) this time to cover a totally new event – Bestival in Berlin. In its 2nd edition visitBerlin team spared no efforts in bringing 800 trade and meeting professionals from across the globe (happy to inform Global Features was the only Indian media present) to Berlin. Spread over two days tourism and convention professionals were enlightened by expert lectures, workshops, events and thematic tours. Co-ordinating with Joyce Olivia Bernitt, Market Management/ Project Manager, Press and Fam Trips, visitBerlin I planned the visit.

The festival kicked off with a welcome party at the 100 + year old Clärchens Balhaus (a ballroom) providing a chance to interact with ones fraternity as well as the organisers. For me it was such a pleasure meeting Joyce face to face after all the e-correspondence and also catching up with my dear friend Robert Luft, Senior Business Development Manager Conventions. It also provided an opportunity to interact with the visitBerlin top management – Burkhard Kieker, CEO, Ralf Ostendorf, Director Market Management (including India) and Marco Oelschlegel, Director Conventions.

The next day the inauguration of Bestival was done at Kino International (a film theatre located in East Berlin and now a prominent venue for Berlinale, the annual Berlin Film Festival) by Burkhard Kieker, CEO visitBerlin.

In a pleasing tone he said “More than 800 national and international industry experts from the visitor economy and the convention industry are coming together in Berlin today for the Bestival. In a unique mix of lectures, workshops and live experiences, we will introduce them to our city and discuss current trends. Thanks to the excellent teamwork with many Berlin partners, we were able to realize this event.”

Stephan Schwarz, Senator for Economics, Energy, and Public Enterprises, welcomed the participants via a video message “I am pleased that event and tourism experts from all over Europe are coming together in Berlin for this innovative event format. Berliners and the city’s guests, love the capital for its creativity, its innovations and its diversity. It is great that all of this can be experienced on site and in person again this year.”

Post Burkhard Kieker speech the audience was enthralled by Jocelyn B. Smith performance and her keynote Matla Ahuna – The Power is Within Me as well as her compositions. She touched the audience with her motivational and inspirational story. A “Science Slam” was also held with audience voting the best science project presented.

In the afternoon we all shifted to Café Moskau, right across the road for a diverse programme of informal presentations, workshops, tastings, fashion shows etc. The space was divided into 5 thematic areas: “Urban Jungle” – with sustainability-themed offers such as urban gardens and vegan restaurants; “Glamor and Lifestyle” – dedicated to fashion and fine dining; “Wild Berlin” – which presents avant-garde culture and the scene of partying in clubs; “Art and Music” – street art, galleries, museums and concerts; “Berlin Innovative” – ​​to talk about science and start-ups.

Apart from interaction with partners of Bestival – DMC, hotels, venues, restaurants, catering services agencies, there were numerous talks and panel discussions enlightening participants with their experiences, ideas and vision. Some of the eminent personalities involved included Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism (Cape Town and Berlin have become Sister Cities), Cornelia Wiemeyer, CEO of greenstorming GmbH, Mariette Rissenbeek, MD of the Berlin International Film Festival etc.

The pleasant surprise was meeting the charming and delightful Julia Sonnemann, PR Manager (ITB Berlin, ITB Asia, ITB China, ITB India), Messe Berlin at the event. We sat together at the panel discussion of the CEOs of the sister cities – Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism and Burkhard Kieker, CEO visitBerlin creating a marketing “twinning” concept driven by mutual benefits.

The last day was focused on experiences. During the day I visited The Circus Hotel (while it was quite warm the whole week as I reached The Circus Hotel there were heavy showers which lasted the whole day), which was recently renovated. Being close to the tube station was a blessing.

The dynamic duo Juri Westermann and Anne Fillard took us all on a journey of this boutique property. The reception is located adjacent to a lounge, a library and a bar. The rooms are cosy and the rooftop terrace is nice place to relax watching a sunset. We noticed the solar panels and Juri explained “Sustainability is a top priority. We are eco-friendly with solar panels, Sustainable Cooling System etc.” The hotel has a lovely little courtyard garden and they have some of the softest, crispy and large Croissants. Assured them that I will visit to experience and do a full review.

From there I proceeded to visit The Ritz-Carlton and Berlin Marriott Hotels both located just 150 meters away and right next to the historic Potsdamer Platz – the famous Berlin wall. Marina Sol Raniolo, Multi Property Sales Manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin & Berlin Marriott Hotel took us around. Both have excellent rooms and great views from the top.

I was not able to visit MOA Berlin hotel which was on my agenda (thanks to the dynamic and persuasive Marc Henning, Sales Manager) due to heavy rains. Hopefully next time.

Bestival ended with the unique concept – Long night of the hotels where we all went on a Berlin-style bar hopping with the partner hotels. Out of the several hotels you can choose several that you feel worth visiting. Feeling a bit fatigued I chose just two hotels starting with Waldorf Astoria where Jan Martensen, Director of Government Sales was the contact point. While explaining the history of the brand Martensen pointed out the lobby and said, “Called Peacock Alley it is in every Waldorf Astoria hotel as well as the Grandfather’s Clock.” The hotel has 149 Deluxe Rooms and 79 suites – providing spectacular view over Berlin. The Presidential Suite spread over 280 square meters occupies the entire 31st floor. The Signature Wall in the lobby has signatures of famous visitors.

My next halt was Novotel Berlin Am Tiergarten where I met Sebastian Loelf, stellv. Direktor. The hotel has 274 rooms and 11 meeting rooms. The S bahn station is just across the road making it convenient for both leisure and business travellers.

Late night I returned to my hotel Bristol Berlin (Ex- Kempinski brand) which was one of the first high-end hotels in the 1950’s. The hotel has 246 rooms and 55 suite. Though a historic place to stay, the hotel does need refurbishing of their rooms. The breakfast was superb with a lavish spread and the staff is quite friendly.

Will certainly plan to visit Bestival 2023 and lookout for mew initiatives at the event from visitBerlin.

Sustainability in focus
The entire conception, organisation and realisation of “Bestival” follows a sustainability strategy based on the “Sustainable Meetings Berlin” initiative’s criteria as well as ISO 20121 for sustainable event management issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For example, full CO2 compensation is provided by Atmosfair, a gold standard certified provider. All of the service providers, including their supply chains, are obliged to work ecologically and to measure and document the emissions they produce. In Café Moscow, which is the main “Bestival” venue, daylight is used and lighting is reduced to a minimum and their ventilation system is only used for ventilating and not for cooling if possible. All of the catering for “Bestival” is vegetarian or vegan. The aim is to implement “Bestival” in a long-term and climate-neutral way. The event is part of the restart programme for Berlin’s event and tourism industries and is funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises.

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