The EICC is at the heart of Edinburgh's social, political and economic landscape. With Hans H Rissmann OBE at the helm, the EICC has hosted almost 3,000 events, welcomed over one million delegates and generated an economic impact in excess of £443 million. He retires at the end of October as EICC's first chief executive.
To mark the occasion we look back at some of the aspects that have shaped the EICC over the past two decades and what makes it the world-class venue it is today.
"We are here to serve and no matter who arrives at the EICC I'm always there to greet them. That spirit of service is very important and it is one of the reasons that people keep coming back to the EICC."
The EICC became a reality in 1993, when the City of Edinburgh Council acknowledged the vast potential benefits that a conference centre could offer the capital city. "The council leaders at that time had tremendous foresight in terms of what a conference centre would mean for Edinburgh," says Hans Rissmann. "Over one million international delegates later, the EICC can't be considered as anything other than a huge success."
Meticulous planning and faultless design saw a derelict space turned into a state-of-the-art conference centre, which started to attract events from all over the world. In his role as chief executive, Hans led the business from the point the first hole was drilled in the ground in 1993: "From the outset the design was masterful. We have always been ahead of our time in terms of the innovation and flexibility of our offering. This can be said for the original space and for our recent expansion," says Hans.
Taking the decision to establish a multi-million pound conference centre in Scotland's capital was partly down to what the city had to offer. As Hans explains: "Edinburgh's infrastructure, architecture, educational institutions, industry, financial sector and culture give the city the ingredients it needs to stand out as a location to host a conference. The capital has held great appeal for thousands of years, which keeps people coming back. And it's so much easier to get here now - we have a new tram network, Edinburgh Airport is regularly expanding its routes, and more and more hotels are opening.
"Edinburgh gets a lot of payback for its investment in this industry. In fact, the EICC alone has generated more than £443 million for the city over the past 20 years. Edinburgh, Scotland and the EICC is a very successful cocktail, which the world is eager to taste."
The world stage
"We have welcomed the world to the EICC," says Hans. "We have had kings and queens, presidents and international ambassadors." The EICC has been at the centre of some of the most pertinent decisions of our time, through the events it has hosted. Although each event is unique and brings with it some of the world's most high-profile figures, over the past 20 years Hans was most honoured to meet Nelson Mandela: "I once had a conversation with Mandela," Hans recalls. "It was enlightening, impressive and humbling. For a man who has suffered so much, he held no obvious grudges against the world."
What is not to be underestimated is the role that the EICC has played in facilitating history. Numerous events, conferences and awards ceremonies have taken place within its facilities that have helped to shape our world as we know it today. "From events on genetically-modified foods to the 2009 NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1997, the decisions that have been made during events held here are nothing short of phenomenal. Being part of this is something both myself and the team at the EICC are incredibly proud of," says Hans.
The EICC has won numerous awards over the past 20 years, including:
- UFI Sustainable Development Award
- Investors in People, Gold Award
- Green Tourism Gold Award
- European Foundation for Quality Management Award
- Excellence Through People
Beyond the 21st century
With so much to offer, it comes as no surprise that the EICC's delegates wanted more. "We listened and responded to the changing demands of the industry, which indicated a need for more exhibition space and more meeting space. So that's exactly what we delivered with the expansion last year," says Hans.
The stunning new expansion is firmly ahead of its time. The moving-floor technology provides the ultimate flexibility to clients, not to mention the countless technological features, which are second-to-none in the industry. "The clients we have had in the new space have made full use of it," Hans says. "Whether it be exhibitions, dinners or meetings, the flexibility of the facilities and our technical capabilities allow us to serve our clients to the highest degree."
In the last few months alone, the EICC has hosted two world congresses simultaneously, immediately followed by two European conferences, something that the facilities would not have been able to cater for in the original space alone: "This is the service we can now offer the world - the ability to run two congresses side-by-side. Having this at our disposal means we can considerably increase both the number of people we bring to Edinburgh and the economic impact which the EICC delivers for the city."
Here to serve
As Hans has said, the new space has allowed the EICC to offer so much more, which in turn has attracted a great many more delegates. But one thing that has never been compromised and will never be comprised is the level of service that anyone visiting the EICC will receive. "Customer focus is key," Hans says. "We are here to serve and no matter who arrives at the EICC I'm always there to greet them. That spirit of service within the team is very important and it is one of the reasons that people keep coming back to the EICC."
Testament to this, time and time again the feedback the EICC receives is flawless. "Our compliments file is full and our complaints file is empty," says Hans. "That's why the EICC has become a world leader in the industry. It is now a high-profile brand and it has had a hugely beneficial effect on our industry and I am confident that the best is yet to come. The future is bright for the EICC and I am incredibly honoured to have led it to where it is today."
Almost 3,000 events have taken place at the EICC since it opened. Here are just a few of the most memorable ones:
- Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 1997
- North Atlantic Assembly (NATO) 1998 & NATO Parliamentary Assembly 2009
- Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Quincentenary Opening Conference 2005
- International Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 2005
- 29th Antarctic Consultative Meeting 2006
- 7th European Zebrafish Development and Genetics Meeting 2011
- World Fisheries Congress, 2012
- European Space Agency's Living Planet 2013
- International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, 2013
- Scottish Business Awards Banquet in 2013 (keynote speaker, Bill Clinton) and 2014 (Sir Richard Branson)