Overcoming borders and bringing people together

Reflecting on business events in the context of 30 years of German reunification


On 3 October 2020, Germany celebrates the 30th anniversary of its reunification. Four decades after the Federal Republic of Germany's and the German Democratic Republic's dual founding and 28 years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, the inner-German border was reopened in the fall of 1989. This event and subsequent developments, culminating in the day of German unity on 3 October 1990, showed how supposedly insurmountable borders can be overcome after all.

At a time when the world is confronted with a global pandemic and needs to develop new solutions, we can still learn a great deal from it today, time and again. This is especially true for conferences and congresses, which are platforms for knowledge exchange and international communication and as such always possess the potential to overcome borders.

Momentum for Germany as a business events destination

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and with reunification, Germany’s meetings and congress market experienced an epochal change as well. As an open and centrally located country in Europe, Germany was able to achieve a top position in the European meetings sector. According to ICCA statistics, 1,992 association congresses took place on German soil between 1990 and 1999. The number of Germany’s international congress locations has more than doubled since the reunification (see figures below).v

Map of Germany with International Congress Locations between 1980 and 1989

Map of Germany with International Congress Locations between 2010 and 2019

However, it is not only Germany’s central location within Europe and its excellent infrastructure that have contributed to the conference and congress location’s strength since then, but also its expertise in key sectors of business and science. This expertise provides a diversity not limited to only a few metropolitan regions, but spread across the whole country, with many smaller cities also boasting highly specialised institutions and companies that are leaders in their field.

Industry expertise is of major importance for the events market: according to the latest Meetings & Events Barometer, an annual survey of the German events market, over 83 percent of business event organisers today state that they select destinations or event locations suitable for their customers' respective industries.

New borders, new solutions

Fast forward to the year 2020. While the "Iron Curtain’s” fall put an end to many physical and political barriers and gave Germany as a destination an initial spark to open new source markets, the world of communication and collaboration is still facing significant challenges in overcoming borders. In a globalised world with seemingly anything possible technology-wise, a virus currently shows us how quickly things that we assumed to be safe can suddenly become impossible. What we need now are creative solutions to bring people together even under the conditions of a global pandemic. This requires an optimal interplay between technological innovations and personal, emotional encounters.

With the hybrid multi-site congress "BOCOM - Experience Borderless Communication" on 3 September 2020, the GCB, together with many partners, created a successful showcase for this dual focus. At four conference locations and in the livestream, participants and speakers from all over the world reflected on the past months and gave a constructive outlook on future communication and collaboration.

For one thing has not changed even 30 years after the end of the inner-German division: Humans want to meet, exchange their knowledge, create new connections – and every generation brings forth smart minds who take on these challenges with full commitment.

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