Rotary International Convention Inspires 26,000 Humanitarians in Hamburg

Motivated to go home and improve lives and bring lasting change to communities around the world

Every year Rotary International hosts a convention which brings together members of the Rotary family from around the globe to exchange ideas and establish new international contacts. Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million volunteer leaders from more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries who are committed to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. It is fitting that Hamburg was selected for this respected event as it was the location of the first Rotary Club in Germany back in 1927. Previous locations for this convention include: Barcelona, Salt Lake City, Lisbon and Sydney.

Representatives from the local Rotary District 1890 worked closely with the Hamburg Convention Bureau (HCB) to coordinate the intensive 18-month application process which included organizing and cooperating with the venues, addressing the Hamburg Senate regarding municipal support for the convention, securing hotel capacity, creating a bid book and planning and managing the three-day onsite inspections.

In 2015, in the statement announcing that Hamburg was selected to host the event, Andreas von Möller, at that time governor of Rotary District 1890 spoke highly of the cooperation between the Host Organization Committee (of local Rotary members) and the HCB as one of the reasons for the selection of Hamburg as host. “The positive outcome of this decision was made possible thanks to a great team consisting of the Rotary Host Organization Committee and the Hamburg Convention Bureau.” Because of HCB’s extensive experience hosting large scale public events, it was also able to provide expertise for the larger city-wide programs such as city dressing and other special events related to the Rotary Convention.

The convention itself took place on the exhibition grounds of Hamburg Messe from June 1-5th 2019. One of the main meeting spaces during the Convention was the “House of Friendship,” which was comprised of 334 booths showcasing international exhibitors, as well as, Rotarians from around the world who displayed a wide range of projects such as Rotary fellowships, Rotary Action Groups, and Rotary service projects and provided a source of inspiration for rotary members.

The entire Hanseatic city was the stage for this large-scale Convention. The schedule included a welcoming gathering in the historic Chamber of Commerce, a party at a club in the infamous Reeperbahn District. For those more athletically inclined there was also an 18 Km bike tour that began in the southeast of Hamburg and ended at the square in front of the city hall. There was also a 3K charity walk to draw attention to the work Rotary has done to eradicate Polio. On the cultural side attendees were able to enjoy two classic concerts in Hamburg’s landmark Elbphilharmonie, an organ concert in St. Michaelis Church, one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Northern Germany. Another memorable part of the conference was that local Rotary clubs welcomed attendees at their local clubs throughout Hamburg and shared hospitality and friendship.


More than 26,000 attendees visited the Rotary International Congress from 170 different countries (representing 3,605 rotary clubs) in what was the largest congress in the history of the Hamburg’s Trade Fair (according to “NDR” -Northern German Broadcast Company). Other impressive numbers—there were 35 keynote speeches including Dr. Peter Tschentscher, First Mayor of Hamburg, Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG, and Gerd Müller, German Minister or Economic Cooperation and Development. There were 98 breakout sessions and 334 exhibit booths, 200 of which featured Rotary humanitarian projects. As an added benefit this event generated an estimated $27 million for the local economy according to Rotary International.

One of Rotary International’s key initiatives has been to help eradicate polio around the world. Over the last 30 years Rotary has achieved a 99.9 percent reduction in polio cases. Rotary members have donated more than $31 million to this cause and starting July 1, 2020, Holger Knaack from Rotary Club will become the first German international president of Rotary International and will oversee this effort.

Andreas von Möller, Carolin Hegenbarth and Holger Knaack
Photo: Hamburger Abendblatt / Mark Sandten

The overwhelming feedback from the Rotary attendees is that they loved Hamburg and that the event was a huge success. See below the wrap up video to hear attendees share their feelings about attending the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg. They commented on the beauty and greenness of Hamburg, as well as, how unique its maritime architecture and bridges are making it one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe.

The motto of the Rotary is “service above self” so it is fitting that at the conclusion of the conference, Hamburg-based Mytaxi donated almost EUR70,000 generated from trips booked via the MyTaxi App to and from Hamburg Messe to be used for the following German Rotary Projects: a bee pasture project aimed at helping boost the bee and butterfly population; emotions training for autism to help support those with autism and HANWASH; and an initiative by local Rotary members to bring clean water to Haiti. Rotary members left Hamburg inspired to help improve lives and bring lasting change to communities around the world.

To find out how you can bring your next event to Hamburg and create such an inspiring atmosphere for your participants contact our team!

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Florian Gerdes

Karin Samland

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Photos: Hamburg Tourismus GmbH / Sebastian Fremder