Moscow: Subtle, central, and drop-dead-gorgeous.

Interview with Tatiana Anisimova, Head of the Moscow Convention Bureau

Let's face it, we've all wondered at some point about Moscow: do they actually have champagne and caviar for breakfast? Does Moscow really pack 42 enormous congress venues and over 400 hotels within the city limits? Is it true that Moscow is turning into a hi-tech queen of Europe? And, most importantly, what's actually going on in Moscow? You've heard the hype — now's the time to learn the truth. Tatiana Anisimova, Head of the Moscow Convention Bureau, shares local expertise and cuts stereotypes down to size.

 

Tatiana, to start with: why Moscow? Could you name five reasons why the Russian capital stands out in the line of world megacities?

 Certainly. The first thing that strikes a visitor in Moscow is the sheer size of everything. Our capital, the largest city in Europe, really is the city of superlatives. We’ve got the tallest sky-scraper in Europe, the largest shopping mall, the biggest bell among other things, and hundreds of other sites and pieces that can only be described as immense. But it’s not just a city of overwhelming proportions. Everything you see is intricate, subtly beautiful and carefully placed. Just take a walk downtown, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by an impressive set of UNESCO world heritage buildings.

 The second reason is utterly practical: Moscow means business. A majority of home companies have their HQs here, and most multinationals operate in Russia via their Moscow offices. As the government seat, the capital is where all the important political decisions are made. With this huge concentration of business and power working as a natural financial hub between Europe and Asia, Moscow is where money meets, multibillion international deals are made, and opportunities can be found knocking on doors.

 Thirdly, our city is a fantastic place to meet. We’ve got the infrastructure, with 12 major exhibition and convention centres and 30 congress hotels, offering a total of over 40 000 sqm of congress space and 560 000 sqm of exhibition space, Moscow is capable of hosting international events of any shape and size. And when we say "convention and exhibition centres", we mean world class facilities, stupendous architecture, classy interiors, state-of-the art congress equipment, superb catering and everything else it takes to organize an international event in style. This also includes experienced PCOs, an excellent choice of accommodation options and incentive programmes that will surely keep guests coming back for more. 

 Over the past few years, Moscow has hosted quite a number of major association meetings, including the World Petroleum Congress, the World Entrepreneurship Congress, the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) Scientific Assembly, and the Eurasian Congress for Psychotherapy. Now we’re looking forward to next year’s FIFA World Cup, which will transform our city into the world football Mecca.

 But it’s not just a hub for football, Moscow is the place to be for any art and culture conniseur. Throughout the city we’ve got 450 museums displaying world art masterpieces from Durer to Van Gogh to Kandinski, 182 theatres, not to mention the celebrated Bolshoi Theatre. Also open to visitors are 64 grand palaces and splendid   parklands trodden by the likes of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and other cult figures of Russian literature, music and art. I remember meeting with a big international association head in Moscow who showed me his visit itinerary, and  it turned out that, being an accomplished writer himself, he’d planned to visit about a dozen residences of Russian literary classics. Even the names of the restaurants he was intending to eat at had a literary twist to them: from Pushkin to Zhivago.  

 Another thing: Moscow never sleeps — at least, a big part of it doesn't. Clubs, concert venues, restaurants, cozy little cafés and bistros are at your service and entertainment in the after-hours. All the shops and malls are open until 11 p.m., some even run 24/7. Here in Moscow we are as much about night life as we are about big business in the daytime. We excel in both areas — as simple as that.

Moscow is reinventing itself as one of World's leading centres for technology.

What types of international events are you especially keen on attracting to Moscow?

 Our distinction is not making any distinctions. We strongly believe that Moscow always has something unique to contribute to any event. Of course, the ones that benefit the most from this symbiosis are international conventions in various branches of science. The scientific community of Moscow incorporates thousands of researchers in technical sciences, natural sciences and the humanities. It’s a multinational mix, with scholars from across the world coming here to lecture and study. 

 As the city’s Convention Bureau, we never lose touch with the academic community, and maintain working relationships with over 100 local hosts representing the Russian scientific elite looking to network with international colleagues and promote Moscow as a competence centre in their respective fields. More than once we’ve succeeded in winning bids for hosting big events on the power of Moscow’s reputation as a world-class academic and research centre alone. A recent example of this is the European Congress of Psychology, one of world’s most prominent conventions in the field. In 2019, the Russian capital will welcome over 5,000 specialists not only from Europe, but from all over the world. 

 Moscow has also recently been selected to host the 2018 Young Presidents' Organization Conference, and one of the chief reasons for this is our city’s position as a financial and business centre of global importance. This high-profile event will bring over 400 regional and multinational company leaders to Moscow. The impact of this meeting is not to be understated: almost any contact can potentially mean big international projects with Russian participation, which, in turn, might bring substantial financial and promotional benefits to our city. 

 

What’s new and surprising that you’re currently doing in Moscow?

 It must be understood that we live in a world now where fossil fuels don’t make an advanced country: innovation is the oil and gas of tomorrow. That’s why nowadays Moscow is reinventing itself as one of world's leading centres for technology. With its very own silicon valley, 26 science and technology parks, some of Russia's most skilled researchers and substantial investment both from the Federal Government and insightful multinational companies, it’s safe to say Moscow is on the fast track to becoming one of the hi-tech centres of Europe, specializing in fields such as IT, nanotechnology, microelectronics, robotics, space research, and biomedical technology. 

 We do our best to involve the city’s meetings industry in this process and have started the city-wide project Technopark Event. Have you ever thought of organizing a major event in a silicon valley? In Moscow it’s becoming common practice. The audiences are curious about what’s happening behind the closed doors of science and technology, and that’s what creates the added value of science parks as convention centres. 

 Recently we’ve introduced Moscow science parks as possible venues to some of our foreign partners and colleagues, and the idea has really caught on. We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm and are now discussing several international meetings that might soon run in Moscow’s innovative centres.

 With the international political climate being somewhat tough, how does Moscow manage to stay atop of the international destination ratings? As the city’s representative in the international meetings industry, do you feel any of the pressure?

 Thanks for asking, but, really; hardly any. I believe in that old adage “any publicity is good publicity”. Moscow is constantly making headlines in the leading international media, which only works towards generating more interest and curiosity towards our capital. It makes you wonder: “What’s it really like over there, behind all the white noise of the media?” And that in itself is a good, healthy question.

 Speaking of which, one of our city’s most charismatic superstar endorsers is Robbie Williams with his controversial video “Party Like a Russian”. It is meant as a critique, but, in all honesty, it has an opposite effect: it cements Moscow’s reputation as a luxurious and sophisticated place. Which Moscow really is, although nowadays the drastic shift in the exchange rate has brought the prices down for international meeting planners. The reputation remains, but now the luxury can be enjoyed at less than half the cost. Of course, we don’t go so far as to have champagne and caviar for breakfast – at least, not every breakfast. We serve them at big sumptuous banquets along with sturgeon, pancakes and good company. The Russian hospitality is legendary, second only to Russian cuisine.

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