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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best in the region of them all?


Do you even have the suitable capacities for organising our event in your city? Does your city have international hotel chains? I was perplexed upon receiving such questions from international event organisers a decade and a half ago. Do they really not know Grand Hotel Union is one of the most attractive congress hotels in the world, and that my city boasts two congress centres, who can, in my opinion, compete with the best? In the end, I came to a rational conclusion that we are unrecognised, or in the best-case scenario, known as a new promising destination.

That is when our system of evaluating meeting destinations, venues and hotels perpetually began developing. Having had prior experience in evaluating the satisfaction of congress attendees, it was clear that the only suitable methodology would be the hidden congress guest. I was convinced this approach was the only way to assess destinations and capacities objectively and without excess baggage.

In the beginning, I imagined our system becoming a reference point, a quasi Michelin Guide of the meetings industry. Plenty of time had to pass before the principal idea became what I am immensely proud of today. The basis of the methodology is to consider meeting planners and attendees and their needs throughout the evaluation. We award destinations, hotels, congress centres and boutique venues that prioritise attendee satisfaction above all else. Hence, our categories are a reflection of the needs of our clients. I recall the backlash upon introducing the category of boutique meeting hotels or spa hotels. In retrospect, it was a logical response to the concrete demand of our clients.

When preparing the debut Meetings Star, our goal was to offer international event organisers a reliable and trustworthy overview of the congress offer. Albeit they might have found the information with the help of Google, they would not have been given an objective grade. Similarly, browsing one of the numerous venue finders would have only provided them with technical information.

The cornerstone of our methodology was to offer information that can be analysed on-site based on a set of criteria and a visit by the hidden congress guest. The assessor’s task is to evaluate the criteria holistically and present opportunities for improvement. Hidden congress guests are experts with rich experience in event organising and extensive knowledge in the hotel business. Furthermore, the assessors have verified references in ensuring the quality of their work in the meetings industry, thus enabling clients to get objective insight and the maximum reliability of the methodology. Our hidden guest assessors strive for objectivity, are fair, meticulous, reliable, well-organised and pay attention to detail. In all of our years evaluating hotels, we have not received any complaints regarding their work. We did, though, receive countless compliments stating our system is a brilliant reference point for international event organisers.

Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek


We follow a simple philosophy when selecting hotels, congress centres and destinations for evaluation. Our focus is on the region of New Europe, or the best between Venice and Baku and Moscow and Istanbul. Another criteria we adhere to is creating a benchmark, thus providing a comparison of the best. That is why we also evaluate destinations and hotels outside the region. Our readers, who inform us of new openings, also send us their suggestions.

The bases of the final mark are two evaluation matrixes for destinations and venues. The destination matrix was dubbed the Meeting Experience Index. It is a reference system enabling us to compare congress destinations over time. Up to now, 118 destinations have been evaluated, including every important congress destination of the South East and New Europe region. The system is a systematic, structured and analytical process, encompassing numerous factors labelled as important by event organisers. We evaluate and compare 75 criteria for each destination.

Our evaluation matrix for venues was named Hidden Congress Guest. It comprises 490 tangible evaluation criteria, divided into various categories. Among others, the hidden guest assesses first contact with the guest, general impression upon arrival, employee behaviour and numerous others. The evaluation of each category includes the percentage of fulfilling criteria and the average grade, enabling the hotel to improve quality-wise. In the past year, 212 certificates were awarded. Up to now, we have already evaluated 333 hotels and congress centres (plus 128 private evaluation). Out of all evaluated hotels, the certificate has been awarded to 63,8 % of them.

Ljubljana Meetings Star Award 2020
Photo credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

I remember the negative response when we implemented the three categories of certification (gold, silver, bronze). Some colleagues wished for an evaluation resembling Trip Advisor’s model. Nonetheless, we never conformed to such requests. Our project strives to bolster the development of the entire meetings industry, fueled by quality. That is why it is vital to know who is truly the best.

Who do I consider the best hotel and destination? A question I can hardly avoid. After years of evaluating, I have come to the conclusion that the essence is in professionality. Above all, it is imperative to understand the needs of event organisers and, consequently, the meetings industry. This approach is evident on several levels throughout the process of assessment. I do not doubt that our project fosters the advancement of the entire industry. Not least, the acquired data is extremely precious and give insight into the heart of a product. The analytical power of information allows us to conduct complex benchmark analyses. All certified destinations and venues can be accessed in our venue and destination finder at Kongres Magazine’s website:

– https://kongres-magazine.eu/search-destinations/

Recipients of the Meetings Star are ambassadors of their countries and destinations. They present themselves and their achievements, and more importantly, their country. That is, ultimately, the most remarkable and noteworthy dimension of the Meetings Star project.

I wish the MEETINGS STAR to continue inspiring and encouraging the development of the meetings industry. In the same breath, I wish to sincerely thank those involved who place tremendous effort and energy into preparing and executing the project.

Gorazd Čad
Editor in Chief and Conventa Co-Founder

You can order an evaluation of your hotel at:

Štihova 4, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
T: +386 (0)1 430 51 03
E: gorazd.cad@toleranca.eu
W: www.toleranca.eu

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