Congress manager with heart and a love of perfection

KölnKongress Chief Executive Bernhard Conin has been leaving his mark on the Cologne conference business for 40 years
Bernhard Conin, Managing Director KölnKongress

Bernhard Conin, Managing Director KölnKongress

He is the driving force and mentor of the Cologne conference business. Bernhard Conin (64) is celebrating a special anniversary: 40 years ago he joined Koelnmesse. Ever since then he has made use of the time to set standards. With a great deal of personal effort, uncompromising perfection and Rhenish composure, he has made Cologne one of the leading German congress cities. On a steadily growing scale: what began in the congress centres of Koelnmesse, today also includes the event locations Gürzenich, Tanzbrunnen and the Flora Köln. Right up to the present day there is scarcely an event where he does not convince himself that everything is right - the host role is and remains a matter for the boss. 


64,000 events have been on his schedule since 15th August 1978 when, after completing his studies in business administration, the 24-year-old came to the congress department of Koelnmesse with its two members of staff as a brand new "acolyte". Since then, 24.4 million participants have entered their signatures in the guestbook. One of them was the then US President Bill Clinton who, in 1999 during the World Economic Summit was able to enjoy a personal tour guided by his host of the Gürzenich and the adjacent ruins of the church of Alt St. Alban. 


24.4 million guests - even for the proverbial convivial Rhinelanders, this is a number that they can be proud of. In 1984, Conin became head of the Koelnmesse department "Congress and Special Events". In 1994, he took over the management of the newly founded KölnKongress GmbH, which continued to manage the Congress Centers Koelnmesse. 


At an early stage he recognized the potential of Cologne's meeting place with its-rich tradition and special atmosphere. Firstly, KölnKongress took over the Gürzenich in 1997, which was reopened in new splendor after an intensive reconstruction programme and in which Clinton and Chancellor Schröder met with the heads of government of the G7 states at the World Economic Summit in 1999. 


In 1998, Cologne's most beautiful open-air stage, the Tanzbrunnen, and the Rheinterrassen were added to the KölnKongress portfolio. Further locations followed, including the Flora in 2006, for whose remodelling and refurbishment Bernhard Conin co-shared the responsiblity, and the re-opening of which was celebrated on its 150th anniversary in 2014. 


KölnKongress is a medium-sized company. Bernhard Conin has gathered a strong team of congress professionals around him, and over the years the original 2 members of staff have become  40, some of them have been in Congress department ever since Conin's early days. The whole team has adopted the boss's motto: a good event is one to which the participants and organizers are happy to return because they see themselves as being well looked after and they feel that they are very welcome in Cologne. 


Anyone who markets Cologne's event locations with so much passion, will always be an ambassador for his city, and who could do so better as "ne kölsche Jung" (native of Cologne) and from the bottom of his heart: Bernhard Conin is Business Ambassador  of the City of Cologne, a member of the IHK (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) General Assembly and Chairman of the IHK Committee for Gastronomy, Tourism and Leisure, as well as being a member of the Advisory Board of KölnTourismus. In addition, he is involved as chairman of the "Association of Friends and Supporters of Cologne's Traditions", as Chairman of the " Illuminated Cologne Club " and, among other things, he is a member of the Advisory Board of the "Förderverein der Freunde der Kölner Hänneschen-Theater e.V." and is a member of various social and cultural associations.  


On 1st September 2016, Bernhard Conin also became Managing Director of the newly founded KölnKongress Gastronomie GmbH, which took over the catering management of the Gürzenich in April 2017.  


Highlights of Conin's career were the World Economic Summit in 1999 and the almost simultaneous meeting of the European Council, also the XX. World Youth Day 2005 with the visit of Pope Benedikt XVI: 360,000 youthful pilgrims visited the Congress Centres, the Gürzenich and the exhibition and Tanzbrunnen grounds during World Youth Week.  


Despite - or perhaps because of - his many appointments, Bernhard Conin is a convinced family man: his four children and three grandchildren are the focal point of life for him and his wife Elisabeth. Here he finds strength for future tasks. Because the development of the congress city of Cologne is far from over...