Next fall, the Netherlands will host more than 180 international customs agencies at the World Customs Organization Technology Conference & Exhibition in Maastricht. This year, the Dutch Customs Administration has the honor of organizing the three-day international conference for some two thousand participants. In addition to boosting personal contacts, the conference on 18, 19 and 20 October is the place to discover the latest technological solutions to make international trade safer, faster and smarter.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) is an intergovernmental organization of more than 180 customs agencies, responsible for overseeing more than 98% of world trade. As the only global organization dealing with customs issues, the WCO is committed to making international trade easier, safer and more profitable. Members meet annually at the WCO Technology Conference, which in 2019 took place for the last time physically in Baku, Azerbaijan. After two online editions, Maastricht is now the first live meeting platform for customs services. Ministries, the private sector, regional governments, industry organizations and academia also join in Maastricht.
Maastricht as host city
Maastricht, located in the heart of Europe, has been chosen by the Dutch Customs Administration as the host city for the conference. The combination of the historic city with the Burgundian lifestyle, the international character, the wide range of restaurants and hotels and the renewed conference facilities of the MECC was decisive. Being the host for this conference gives the city and region a substantial financial boost. Conference participants spend an average of €365 per day. With two thousand participants staying in the city for three days, the economic spin-off will amount to €1.6 million.
Maastricht Convention Bureau (MCB) is closely involved in the preparations. The conference program is being set up in collaboration with delegations from the Dutch Customs Administration and the World Customs Organisation, and hotels, restaurants and service providers have been visited.
Partners from the Maastricht conference community are looking forward to the opportunities that the WCO conference offers. Following the lead provided by MCB, MECC, Château Neercanne, Château St. Gerlach and Rederij Stiphout are currently finalising the details for the arrival of participants. For example, Château Neercanne is hosting a grand gala dinner. Service providers in airport transportation and local transportation are also connected. To facilitate transportation, the ‘Go to Maastricht’ booking tool, developed by Jacobs Travel, MECC and MCB, has been launched. This service guarantees a direct connection between all international airports or train stations and the city of Maastricht.
In close cooperation with the Brightlands campuses MCB is looking at how the regional expertise can be used to strengthen the program. For example, the organizing committee already visited the Brightlands Smart Services Campus. A clear link with the WCO conference lies here in the rollout of new technologies with which digital innovations for the Dutch police are developed.
Frank Heijmann, Head of Trade Relations Customs Netherlands and member of the project team, is impressed with the approach: ‘This region has a strong conference community that walks the extra mile to ensure maximum impact of the WCO conference. The highly innovative and international character of the region makes this a great location for the type of conference that we as Dutch Customs Administration want to put on for our international colleagues.’