Although the Dutch have the cute habit of calling anything higher than a speed bump a mountain, the Netherlands is largely a flat and soggy bog. Vast amounts of land has been reclaimed from the sea over the centuries, and the drained polders are protected by dykes, very few of which are plugged by little boys' fingers. More than half of the country lies below sea level and only in the southeast Limburg province will you find hills. The Netherlands is bordered by the North Sea, Belgium and Germany. The Rhine is the major river, slurping up runoff from the proper mountains in Germany and Switzerland and slopping it out all over the flatlands.
Mention plant-life in the Netherlands and most people think of tulips. Indeed these cultivated bulbs are in many ways representative of much of country's flora in that they were imported from elsewhere (in this case Asia) and then commercially exploited. A range of fruits, vegetables and other flowers fit this profile. Much of the nondeveloped land is covered by grass, which is widely used for grazing. The wet weather means that the grass remains green and growing for much of the year. The areas that are wooded, such as De Hoge Veluwe National Park, have mostly been planted with fairly young trees. Even the vegetation on the islands such as Ameland are heavily managed by the government to control erosion.
Birds thrive in the watery lands of the Netherlands and the marshes and wetlands are major migration stops for European birds. At various times of the year you can see gulls, terns, herons and many more species. The white stork with its huge nest is protected by numerous laws and the population seems stable. Ravens and many other birds find food aplenty in the pastures and farms. Larger mammals are mainly found in small numbers in the national parks and reserves. These include deer, fox and badgers. Small mammals such as muskrats are common in the country and less salubrious rodents such as common rats find ample shelter in the cities with their many old and damp places. A variety of fish species live in the nation's canals and estuaries. One of the most interesting species is the eel, which survives in both fresh and salt water and is common in canals, yet it would have been born from one of 20 million eggs laid by its mother at a depth of 250 metres in the Sargasso Sea off Bermuda! White bream, rudd, pike, perch, stickleback and carp also enjoy the canal environment. There are 12 crustacean species in the coastal waters, of which the common shrimp and the epidemic import, the Chinese mitten crab, are the most common.
The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate with cool winters and mild summers. It can get pretty drizzly here, especially in autumn and spring when it can seem as though it's going to be grey forever. But because the Netherlands is such a flat slab of a place, changes sweep through quickly when the wind starts to blow. Winter can get bitingly cold.
16,150,511 (July 2003 est.)
41,526 sq km
Dutch 83%, other 17% (of which 9% are non-western origin mainly Turks, Moroccans, Antillea
ICCA celebrates 50 years of international meetings excellence
ICCA’s anniversary celebration will last through the year and will end with a big bang at the 2013 ICCA Congress in Shanghai, China-P.R. The launch unveiled a dedicated logo and website, an interactive history timeline, with pages where ICCA members can share their ICCA Congress memories, social media campaigns, and video interviews with dozens of members. There will be celebrations and innovative new activities at the ICCA Research, Sales and Marketing Programme in ICCA’s HQ city Amsterdam in June, and at all other events and tradeshows where ICCA is present throughout 2013. ICCA will also mark this milestone by publishing a special 50 year edition of its international association meetings Statistics Report.
ICCA President Arnaldo Nardone commented: “It’s important to celebrate such big anniversaries and the many successes of the past, but this campaign is just as relevant to ICCA’s future. We want to demonstrate the incredible value that is generated by long-term membership, and celebrate the unchanged vision of ICCA’s founders that sharing information and building partnerships with colleagues around the world are far more powerful than working in lonely isolation. I am sure that “ICCA 50” will generate a fresh understanding amongst our members about the true value of belonging to our association.”
ICCA CEO Martin Sirk added: “This anniversary gives us a great platform for the next stage in ICCA’s evolution. During 2013 we’re projecting that we will pass the 1,000 member mark, so we’ll be investing in numerous projects to deliver more customised and personalised services, and we’ll also be rolling out a major upgrade to our services for international association meeting planners. It’s vital that as we continue to grow we retain the personal engagement that has been a hallmark of ICCA membership for half a century.”
Sharing information about international association meetings
The concept of ICCA was first discussed by travel agents Moises Shuster from Mexico and Jean Claude Murat from Paris at the beginning of the 1960s, to take advantage of the then-new phenomenon of international association meetings which were being stimulated by the introduction of commercial jet aircraft, and particularly the potentially lucrative medical meetings field. The unique original idea was to share information between friendly business owners based in different countries to obtain competitive advantage and win a bigger slice of the travel revenue from this fast emerging market.
Global from the start
At a meeting in Paris in 1963, Shuster and Murat together with five other travel agents from four different continents around the world founded the International Congress and Convention Association. Murat stated in an interview in 1985: “We came up with the idea in Mexico, we cleared the idea in Paris, we officialised it in Athens and then we regulated it in The Netherlands, so we were a truly global organisation from the start”. Today ICCA has over 950 member companies and organisations in nearly 90 countries, and 40 staff with 15 different nationalities working out of 6 offices in different regions. ICCA recently built an even deeper global presence by opening up new regional offices in the Middle East and South Africa.
Sharing information about international association meetings for business advantage continues to be the central theme of ICCA's Mission five decades after it was founded on that same principle.