In late August, the customer relations managers of the world’s airlines gathered in Helsinki, where Finnair hosted the annual WACRA (Worldwide Airline Customer Relations Association) conference for the first time.
– As soon as we heard that we would have the honour to host the event, we started thinking about who could help us with the arrangements – we knew beforehand that the workload is demanding, says Sami Mäenpää, Finnair’s Director of Customer Relations. Sami is also one of the six members of WACRA’s Board of Directors and the Host Carrier Director for this 58th WACRA conference.
When Sami called SMT’s event management team, it was time for Event Manager Tiina Katainen to roll up her sleeves. – SMT made even our wildest ideas come true, and also made their own suggestions based on their years of experience in event management, Sami says with gratitude.
Enjoying the seminars and the archipelago
The four-day conference was packed full of content from Sunday evening to Wednesday morning. The participants were some 70 representatives of 24 airlines. The nature of the event was determined by the annual traditions of the conference and the number of international participants, among others. When a conference has participants from around the wold, this emphasises the cultural differences and the significance of practical arrangements, including visas and flight connections.
Naturally, in addition to the business aspect, the hosts wanted to present Finland and the country’s nature and culture. The theme of the conference was “Under the Nordic Lights”, and the venue decorations used northern lights glowing on walls and the ceiling. This was also a nod to Finnair’s new A350 airliner, which uses similar lighting technology.
– The guests were impressed by the Finnish nature and peace and quiet. It was Tiina’s idea to arrange dinner at the Restaurant Boathouse, located on an island near Helsinki. The guests were sitting on the rocks, marvelling at the sunset that coloured the shore and sea orange, just like on the cover of our conference brochure, Sami explains. – We were very convinced by SMT’s network. Whether we wanted to have a tram tour or buses with Finnair’s logo on the side to show the guests around, they could arrange everything.
Never underestimate the significance of technology
Technology was essential in the event arrangements. – The talks and presentations are the main content of the event, so everyone should hear and see them well. We all remember how the audio feedback in last year’s conference nearly drowned out the voice of the speakers, Sami says. – After the Helsinki conference, I really understood how much a great AV system and lighting affect the atmosphere of an event.
Technological solutions were already put to use before the event. Finnair implemented SMT’s attendance management service, which also enabled Sami to view registrations in real time. The same solution was used for managing the participants’ hotel bookings and conference fees.
What did you get from the collaboration?
– Professional help with the arrangements made things easy for us, provided actual cost savings and freed our resources. Tiina could anticipate and resolve all the potential problems even before they occurred, Sami says smiling.
– Outsourcing event arrangements saved Finnair time and money. It also enabled us to focus on our core competence – attracting valued international speakers and promoting our visibility. The conference was very successful, and we really set the bar high for next year.