by Michael J. Shapiro | August 01, 2012

What makes a city draw droves of international association meetings year after year? Here's a closer look at why Vienna, Paris and Barcelona consistently hold the top spots in annual rankings by the International Congress and Convention Association. (For more details and methodology, go to

1. Vienna, Austria Austria's capital and largest city, Vienna topped the ICCA destination list with 181 qualifying association meetings in 2011. (ICCA's ranking counts regularly scheduled meetings with at least 50 attendees that rotate between at least three countries.) And as of this past June, arriving and departing became even easier for attendees. A new, bright and spacious terminal at Vienna-Schwechat Airport, dubbed Check-In 3, promises shorter check-in times and faster security screenings. Free Wi-Fi, special family zones and a large terrace with runway views are some of the amenities offered by the new terminal.

Early this year, the Vienna Convention Bureau was awarded the Austrian EcoLogo by the country's minister for the environment — meaning the VCB is now licensed not only to assist in reducing the environmental impact of a meeting, but can officially certify events as Green Meetings, as defined by the Austrian government. The new designation is an additional draw for planners seeking to demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability.

New lodging options in the city include the 233-room Austria Trend Hotel Park Royal Palace, with more than 9,500 square feet of meeting space. The property, which sits next to the Technical Museum Vienna, opened in October 2011. The 25hours Hotel Wien debuted last August, a 34-suite boutique property that will unveil an additional 187 rooms next spring. The hotel is home to the Dachboden night spot and next spring will also feature a lounge, a restaurant and a "well-being" area for guests.

Just last month, the 213-room Leonardo Hotel Vienna opened for business, offering four meeting rooms, a business center and an on-site restaurant. Another recent debut, the 182-room Hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, offers contemporary luxury and impressive city views. The property has a spa and a fitness center, as well as nine meeting rooms for up to 130 attendees.

This month is scheduled to bring the opening of the 202-room Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, in a landmarked 19th-century building on Schubertring. Among the new luxury property's amenities will be a spa, a fitness center and an indoor pool that plays music underwater. Among the nearly 9,700 square feet of meeting space will be a ballroom, three meeting rooms and two boardrooms. Early next year, Kempinski intends to open the 152-room Palais Hansen Kempinski, a transformation of a historic downtown building. Currently, the palais is being restored and renovated; it will offer meeting and banquet facilities, including a grand ballroom that can accommodate 280 attendees. Also slated to debut in 2013 are the 143-room Park Hyatt Vienna, with 6,889 square feet of meeting space, and the 255-room Me by Mélia Vienna, to be housed in the tallest building in the city.

Points of interest in this historic city are accessible by way of a strong public transportation infrastructure. So attendees needn't miss out on sites like the Schönbrunn Palace or Burggarten (a former palace garden) — or even Tichy, for that matter, a venerable ice cream parlor in the 10th District open only from March to September.