World Tunnel Congress 2019


Basic Event Information

Date: 3-9 May 2019
Location: Mostra d’Oltremare, Naples (Italy)
Organizer: AIM Group International
Client: SIG (Società Italiana Gallerie) for ITA-AITES (International Tunneling and Underground Space Association)
Event type: Scientific Congress & Exhibition

EVENT CATEGORY: CATEGORY B2C – Best Association Conference.

Event description and key objectives

The World Tunnel Congress is a major international Congress organised by the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA-AITES) and the Italian Tunnelling Association (SIG). It gathers more than 2.000 renowned worldwide experts on design and construction of underground works, focusing on tunneling, engineering, and innovation.

One of the main goals of this edition was to combine a powerful learning experience with innovative formats. This objective was accompanied by the idea to enrich the programme, blending traditional topics with unusual ones. Besides, it should be defined as a strong connection to the destination and the local professional community. Naples was the third Italian city ever chosen for the World Tunnel Congress: the bid to host the congress in Italy was jointly managed by SIG and AIM Group International. The proposal to establish a strong connection with the destination and build around it a personalised, innovative, scientific congress programme was one of the key differentiators.

A particular “cultural mixture” was one of the event’s stand out features. Engineering-related topics were combined with typical elements of Italian culture, such as Archaeology, Architecture and Art, which are themes very evident in Naples. This allowed us to create a unique blend. A smart approach that enabled AIM Group to manage a complex event, offering engaging, scientific sessions coupled with exclusive experiences in unique locations.


Key challenges

Looking back to the previously specified objectives of the event, it turns out that the main challenges were to:

  • combine knowledge sharing with innovative formats
  • blend traditional topics with unusual ones
  • establish a strong connection with the destination

In order to meet the first requirement of combining learning with innovative formats, it was decided to include bespoke off-site activities and technical visits into the scientific program, and repeat them for small groups so that attendees could experience the visit in a direct and more engaging and emotional way. Being able to manage the complex mechanism of large congresses while offering personalised experiences to delegates are the right answers to the very actual clients’ needs and participants’ expectations. These are key aspects of our profession, moving forwards to a more strategic approach and enhancing the relationship with our clients. Secondly, the “topics blend” was assured as the scientific program integrated traditional topics related to tunnel engineering with sessions dedicated to the so-called 3A: Archaeology, Architecture and Art, which are evocative elements for a city such as Naples.

Finally, the rich social programme made it possible for guests to experience a strong connection between the event’s topics and the destination. Also, the stunning locations chosen ensured some exclusive and unique moments (read the paragraph “Event Results: Execution” to know more about the Social Program)



Creativity was certainly used together with the client, while defining the topic of the event. WTC should become a congress with topics that went beyond technology, innovation and engineering. That’s why the idea came to integrate the themes of Archaeology, Architecture and Art. Moreover, finding the right plenary hall that could welcome thousands of delegates, could be a real issue. In order to avoid any problem, creativity was crucial! In fact, two different rooms were used for the Opening Ceremony and all plenary sessions. Both the rooms were connected with a streaming system, so that all delegates could follow the speeches. But there is more. Two moderators were chosen to coordinate the stage: one in each room. One moderator was Mauro Moretti, Chairman of the Italian Railways’ Foundation, representing the “technical” aspect of the congress; while the other moderator was Serena Rossi, famous Italian singer from Naples. Apart from representing the destination and the local flair, she presented in a very engaging way, while entertaining the audience with some musical breaks.

Also, a painter was standing in a corner on stage. He brought a white canvas, that he filled with a futuristic, quite dreamlike, representation of a tunnel. Another way to add a splash of art in this very technical program. Finally, the emblem of the event was recreated in the expo area, as the entrance and the passageways reminded the circular structure of a tunnel.



Naples was the third Italian city ever chosen for the World Tunnel Congress (Florence in 1986 and Milan in 2001). Returning to the same country is quite rare for such a world congress, but this edition programme was unprecedented as it highlighted the multiple connections among the tunneling world and other disciplines considered so far unrelated. That was really a big innovation, which marked the scientific contents and the social programme of all the congress.

Moreover, the e-poster digital interactive area was implemented for the first time and furthermore, a dedicated app allowed delegates to find and read content as well as arrange appointments with the authors. This was a new, appreciated feature introduced in this edition: arranging a direct appointment with the authors helped to establish connections among delegates and to deepen the knowledge sharing.

In addition to that, the general assembly of the Young members was broadcasted live on the congress website in order to allow other young professionals from all over the world to be updated and participate in the discussion even if they weren’t able to attend the congress. Finally, lunches and breaks were settled at the exhibition area in order to stimulate the exchange among delegates and exhibitors. In fact, the booths recorded an intense flow of visitors and dialogue with exhibitors was facilitated by technologies, most of them had interactive presentations, also with virtual and augmented reality.



Three key elements can be outlined as per the event’s execution:

  • The innovative programme
    This edition programme was utmost original, particularly with the inclusion of the Triple-A sessions – Archaeology, Architecture and Art, making the scientific agenda very rich.
  • Off-site Events and Technical Visits
    Delegates have been involved in off-site events and technical visits to some of the local significant tunnel projects: the Greek-Roman tunnelling system, the underneath itinerary of the Galleria Borbonica and the award-winning Metro station in Naples. Furthermore, they visited other interesting Italian projects such as Rome’s Metro construction site, the high-speed railway Naples-Bari and even the Brenner Base Tunnel, the longest underground railway tunnel in the world!
  • Outstanding social moments with a truly local taste
    Some working lunches were organised at the remarkable archaeological Pausilypon site of Seiano Caves; the Gala Dinner was hosted at the Pietrarsa Railway Museum, with delegates reaching it on a historical train; a special concert was organised at the prestigious San Carlo Theatre; a party dedicated to young under-35 members was held onboard a historic galleon at Mergellina harbour.

Measurable results

The congress ran very smoothly, participants were able to enrich their knowledge and networking, whilst discovering Naples at its best. The results achieved are just stunning: the number of attendees increased by 80% attracted by the rich scientific programme and the appeal of a renowned destination. Also, the number of countries represented increased, surpassing 70 countries. The exhibitor numbers were boosted by more than 50%, attracted by the opportunity to present their services and products to such a huge gathering. The scientific programme also benefitted from very active participation: 750 papers have been presented and 180 oral presentations were held at the congress (marking an increase of 27%). Challenges for the next world event? Hitting the same level of attendance and enrich the programme with real Value!

The WTC2019 in numbers:

  • 2,700 attendees +80% vs previous edition
  • 150 speakers
  • +70 countries represented
  • 2,500 square metres of Sold Exhibition Area
  • 230 exhibitors and sponsors +57% vs previous edition
  • 750 papers received
  • 180 podium presentations held +27% vs previous edition
  • 400 e-poster presentations
  • 280.000 post views and 2.160 followers on social media channels


In collaboration with a specialized communication and advertising agency, a complete communication strategy was implemented for WTC2019. Starting from the logo of the event to every single post that was published on bespoke channels on social media. The logo was created in order to include one of the main local landmarks, which is the Vesuvius volcano and the evocative Neapolitan bay. This logo was used on all digital platforms that were implemented in a multi-channel strategy.

In fact, a communication strategy was designed and executed following a specific coordinate image, that could be recognized on all platforms: event website, direct email marketing, social media, app. The same colours, font and general mood could be found back also onsite. In fact, the registration desk was all blue and white and the banners between one area and the other presented the same graphics, as well as all totems, screens, flags, direction indicators, etc..

Regarding the social media activity, bespoke accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were opened sometime before the event. Month after month the engagement on social media grew very hard, especially around the hashtag WTC2019. In the end, 2.160 was the total number of followers gained on these channels, while post views went up to more than 280.000 from the page opening!

The use of sustainable practices

In line with the choice to establish a strong connection with the destination, for this edition and for the first time, it was decided to leave a legacy on the destination, while supporting local causes. WTC chose to support the not-forprofit Arché Foundation as charity partner and specifically its project of building a community house with 14 flats where to host mothers in need with their children, offering them a semi-autonomy condition. Fondazione Arché was hosted with a dedicated booth at Mostra d’Oltremare congress center, where some volunteers could inform people about their activities, collect free donations and present sponsorship opportunities. Like tunnels help to overcome difficult roads, Archè projects help people to overcome difficult times and find an easier path for their lives.

Furthermore, WTC participated in a Food for Good Program and, for the first time, recovered and donated all the excess food to local charity organisations (family homes, soup kitchens and refugee centers)”.

Finally, all lunches at the congress centre were served in biodegradable plates and sustainable cutlery and flatware were supplied to the guests, in order to avoid using single-use plastic.

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