For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: MEGAN M. KELLEY
Scoliosis Research Society
During the 900-year reign of The Habsburg Dynasty through 1918, the family empire ruled or held influence in countries as diverse as Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Italy, France, Switzerland and Spain. Nowhere is that multicultural fusion felt more viscerally than in Vienna, a city absolutely shimmering with European charm and grace.
“We chose Vienna for its culture and history. Yes, other European cities have similar cultural offerings, but Vienna is very clean, easily walkable and our delegates felt safe strolling the city even in the late evening,” says Megan M. Kelley, meetings director for the Scoliosis Research Society, a nonprofit association of about 1,000 spinal deformity surgeons.
She says the site selection committee’s choice of the 294-room Le Méridien Vienna and the Hofburg Congress Center for meetings was ideal for the international group of 870 attending the International Meeting on Advanced Spine Techniques.
“In Vienna, we knew it wouldn’t be a problem for someone to find the lodging they wanted at the price point they wanted, so we blocked out about five properties, all within a three to 15-minute walk of the convention center,” says Kelley.
The Hofburg Congress Center, located inside the Hofburg Imperial Palace complex, is just a 3-minute walk from Le Méridien. The 13th century Old World opulence is the heady backdrop for Viennese Ball Season, when 17 gala soirees welcome over 55,000 guests for wine and waltzing.
The 182,000 sf of space encompasses 35 rooms for events serving up to 4,900 people. Not counting the 18 historic wings, the palace complex also houses numerous museums, the National Library, offices of the Austrian Federal President and the Spanish Riding School, famed home of the Lipizzaner Stallions.
“There are two other, more traditional convention centers in Vienna, but the Hofburg Congress Center, in what was once the imperial winter residence of the Habsburgs, is in the heart of the city, steps away from a million restaurants, theaters and the museums. It’s so much more beautiful when you’re climbing up that grand staircase and walking winding hallways than meeting in a usual glass and cement convention center. We thought that’s where our delegates would want to be.”
Did attendees explore a lot of Vienna?
“Oh, yes! The Vienna Convention Bureau staff were quite helpful offering passes for the subway and providing us with restaurants and activities at different price points. On the opening day of the session, they even obtained entertainers for us who dressed up for a meet n’ greet as the Emperor and Empress. We’d have never known where to start without their assistance.”
What did your group enjoy most?
“The food… so many incredible little gems on all these side streets. I couldn’t even describe where they are because we’d just be walking and stop somewhere.” Then she hesitates, adding, “The pastries and coffee were especially delightful.”
Do you mean the signature coffee steeped in cream and chocolate, topped with whipped cream? Maybe the world-famous apple streudel or the Viennese sachertorte—a chocolate cake thinly coated with apricot jam and lightly crowned by chocolate icing?
“All of it. You could find similar pastries in other countries, but you can’t recreate the quality in Vienna.”
Would you return?
“I’d bring another group there in a heartbeat.”