Conferences return with (elbow) bump to Amsterdam

Amsterdam welcomes conferences again Photo: RAI
Amsterdam welcomes conferences again  Photo: Pieter Magielsen, NFP Photography 

Elbow bumping should be the official mode of greeting at Amsterdam’s first major international conference in more than a year.

Announcing the reopening of the Dutch capital as a ‘safe’ conference hub, mayor Femke Halsema said that the city looked forward to building a new kind of tourism.

‘We have a tradition of welcoming guests from all over the world, but [in] the last years, we have seen that the image of the city internationally became a little bit common,’ she told a press conference at Amsterdam’s RAI conference centre.

‘That’s not the city we are so proud of, with its historic buildings, its tradition of international trade and intellect. So we are gradually transforming our visitors economy. With the RAI and other venues, we welcome a lot of visitors we love to see, the people who help our city become more innovative.’


The conference venue, which has served as a test and vaccination centre during the coronavirus pandemic, will welcome its first major conference for the fintech industry, Money20/20 from September 21 to 23.

Tracey Davies, president of Money20/20 said that far from the working from home trend killing in-person business, such meetings are even more valuable. ‘Our customers talk about the three days at the RAI being worth three months of business outside,’ she said. ‘That’s the scale of importance, and we’re delighted to be back…to welcome visitors from 65 countries here.’

Deputy mayor responsible for economic affairs Victor Everhardt announced that Amsterdam is investing €3.7 m euros in the next four years to attract conferences to the city, part of its strategy to promote ‘sustainable’ tourism and future business in the Dutch capital.

Before 2019, despite concerns that cities such as Barcelona were winning more conference tourism, conferences at the RAI Amsterdam were generating €690 million a year and the equivalent of 6,300 full time jobs.


A report from the CBS Dutch statistics office earlier this week showed that Amsterdam’s economy was still 8% smaller than in the second quarter of 2019 – making it one of the few Dutch regions that has not yet recovered. International tourism and hotel occupancy are a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, leaving a large hole in the city’s budget.

Halsema stressed that she believes Amsterdam can welcome visitors ‘very safely’, especially in the RAI where there will be on-site daily coronavirus testing facilities.

Davies added that while personal greetings are up to individuals, the elbow bump is likely to be adopted as the best etiquette for saying hello at the Money20/20 conference.

‘When I was meeting you this morning, I think we were using the elbow,’ she said. ‘Most of us as individuals have developed new ways of greeting face to face, so I imagine that will be in full force. Individuals will make their own choices, we will make sure that the show runs under all protocols but I’m thinking that the elbow bump is probably the new way of greeting.’

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