"Small and exquisite - a congress house like Switzerland"

Interview with Michel Loris-Melikoff, CEO of the Kongresshaus Zürich AG

Michel Loris-Melikoff, CEO of the Kongresshaus Zürich AG
Michel Loris-Melikoff, CEO of the Kongresshaus Zürich AG

On 5,300 m2 of multifunctional event space, the Kongresshaus Zürich hosts not only conferences, workshops, and general meetings, but also select concerts and exciting cultural events. CEO Michel-Loris Melikoff revealed in the interview which changes the pandemic brought and which decisions were made during the comprehensive renovation work from 2017 to 2021.

Wirtschaftsforum: The Congress House Zurich promises inspiring moments and unique memories. What exactly can your guests expect on site?

Michel Loris-Melikoff: Even the external circumstances promise ideal conditions for events of national and international format: Due to our location right in the city, we are naturally a popular address for banks and insurance service providers that are based in Zurich, as their own branches are often just a few minutes' walk from us. At the same time, we are completely uncomplicated to reach both by public transport and by private car. The idyllic location right on Lake Zurich with a beautiful view of the Alps furthermore promises a very aesthetic setting. Inside the Congress House itself, our guests from all over the world can then expect 5,300 m2 of multifunctional event space, ranging from small, but naturally highly modern, meeting rooms to the congress hall with more than 1,500 seats. In total, we can thus provide an ideal venue for smaller seminars and workshops up to larger congresses and concerts in 20 rooms. In short: Our house is small and exquisite like Switzerland!

Wirtschaftsforum: The future of the Congress House Zurich was long uncertain, however.

Michel Loris-Melikoff: Overall, the location has a history of more than 100 years and is therefore naturally also charged with a certain tradition. About 15 years ago, heated discussions were indeed held in Zurich about what should prospectively be built at this location: The ideas ranged from the total demolition and construction of a convention center far outside the city core to a thorough renovation. The latter option ultimately prevailed, and from 2017 to 2021, extensive construction and modernization measures were subsequently carried out with a total budget of over 170 million CHF. From my point of view, what has emerged is a beautiful combination of tradition and modernity, in which the grown aesthetics of the Congress House have been preserved unaltered, while we now at the same time can take advantage of the benefits of a highly modern infrastructure. Because it is now a given that digital control of the show technology from the lighting to the sound design to the ventilation of the rooms must be able to be effortlessly carried out digitally at every event.

Zurich Congress House Congress Hall
The congress hall with 1,500 seats is the centerpiece of the house
Zurich Congress House Convention Hall with state-of-the-art technology
As part of the comprehensive renovation, state-of-the-art digital technology was installed

Wirtschaftsforum: What long-term changes have resulted from the pandemic for the event business in your venue?

Michel Loris-Melikoff: I vividly remember all the forecasts that the future belonged to hybrid events. We even had a studio set up to perfectly meet the emerging requirements – however, it is not used anymore today. Especially right after the pandemic, we felt a significant catch-up effect in the event and conference sector, which continues to this day: People want to meet in person again, to exchange ideas directly and to be inspired. The swan song for large-scale events was without any basis.

Wirtschaftsforum: Has the character of the events changed nonetheless?

Michel Loris-Melikoff: This development is much older than the pandemic. In the early years of the new millennium, there was a long trend towards ever larger events – everything had to be particularly loud and spectacular, with as much technology and effort as possible. Perhaps this sometimes caused to overlook the concrete purpose of each particular event. With the financial crisis and the ensuing economic downturn, the 'Reason why' came more into the focus of the organizers. This questioning has taken place again in the context of the pandemic. As a result, there is certainly a stronger focus: An event must promote a specific goal and generate clear added value. A congress center that can coherently support its customers in this regard certainly enjoys significant competitive advantages.

Wirtschaftsforum: You yourself were appointed CEO of the Kongresshaus Zurich in November 2023. What inspired your commitment?

Michel Loris-Melikoff: I have been in the business for over 30 years because this industry is the most fascinating in the world for me. The Kongresshaus Zurich is a particularly attractive venue that I have wanted to work for a long time. When the opportunity arose at the end of last year, I gladly seized it. I am particularly impressed by the variety of events we host in our venue: From professional conferences to exciting workshops and exquisite concerts, there is a rich offering for both the business guest and the culture enthusiast.