#WebSummit: How does Lisbon compare to Dublin as a host city?

The tech event officially got underway on Monday evening

Web Summit 2016 is officially underway. This is the first time Web Summit is being held outside of Dublin and in its new home, Lisbon. While it’s difficult to do a direct comparison between the two cities, here’s a quick look at how some of the key issues from Dublin are being dealt with here in Lisbon.  

When it was announced that Web Summit was leaving Dublin, a number of issues were raised from their point of view. These included: outgrowing the RDS venue and an inability to secure assistance with transport and hotel prices. Wifi was also cited as an issue.

While we’re only a few hours into Web Summit 2016, it does seem as though they have ticked most, if not all of those boxes here in Lisbon.

Let’s run through some of the issues.

Venue: The MEO Arena has a capacity of 15,000 people and is next door to a separate exhibition hall that can hold many more thousands. These two venues combined means the event has room to breathe and can expand further, should it wish to do so.

Web Summit at the RDS felt squeezed for the final two years of its time there. It was spread across different parts of the campus, but there was no room for further growth.

Transport: This was a big one on Web Summit’s list. While the RDS is located within walk-able distance to the city centre, it was said that attendees expect a transport infrastructure that enables them to get around a city. Extra buses were put in place to help deal with the high volume of human traffic around the RDS when the event was in Dublin, but it seems that the infrastructure in Lisbon works slightly better for an event of this scale.

 

Lisbon Metro #WebSummit

A photo posted by Jess Kelly (@jessicackelly) on

This year, here in Lisbon, Web Summit struck a deal with the transport authority to be able to provide a travel pass for attendees that costs just €25. This gives users unlimited travel on buses, metro and any other form of public transport for the duration of the conference. This is a game-changer to many. The ability to move around and away from a conference at your leisure is something that should never be under-appreciated. I think the longest I’ve had to wait for a tram since arriving here on Sunday has been 6 minutes.

Food: You may remember food-gate from last year. Attendees had to pay €20 for a food voucher. They could then go to a food vendor at “Food Summit” in Herbert Park and buy lunch. The issue was that €20 wasn’t getting people a whole lot of food. The one that stands out in my head was the burger and a bottle of water. When I spoke to Mike Harvey from the Web Summit team on Sunday he told me they did away with the vouchers - attendees can use cash, or their travel pass to go off site and get food from anywhere they please! 

Buzz:

There is a definite buzz in Lisbon around the arrival of Web Summit.

As I disembarked the Metro near the MEO Arena yesterday I saw a large sign that basically said “We’re not the next Silicon Valley, we’re different” and that does seem to be the case. There’s much more to Web Summit than just the tech side of things and Portugal wants to soak every last drop of it up. 

What’s interesting, however, is I was speaking to a journalist from Paris yesterday afternoon and she said that a number of her colleagues opted not to travel this year. They had never missed one in Dublin, but Lisbon didn’t hold the same appeal. Now, I think that mindset is the minority, rather than the majority. Lisbon has so much to offer and from my point of view, anyway, has provided an excellent tech fest experience – and it’s only just begun!