CMW’s Ramy Salameh talks to Gilberto Salcedo Ribero, Vice-President of Tourism for national tourism board, ProColombia.
Latin American meetings show Fiexpo is set to begin in June, starting a three-year tenancy in Colombia. With the country’s overall popularity as a tourism destination growing year-on-year, I asked ProColombia’s Vice-President of Tourism, Gilberto Salcedo Ribero, about the country’s MICE future and his agency’s strategies for capitalising on this potential.
What makes Colombia an attractive MICE destination?
Colombia is in an excellent moment with the meetings industry. There are five powerful reasons.
The first is competitive prices; a recent study by ProColombia identified that the costs involved with an event in Colombia, on average, are 75% less than in the United States.
The second reason is connectivity. We have direct flights from the UK and six other European destinations to Colombia.
The third reason is top events infrastructure. We have enough convention centres, different destinations and venues to manage any request. Our study also showed that 70% of events held in Colombia are hosted and managed within the country’s hotel infrastructure, and this includes international chains such as Hilton, IHG and more.
The fourth reason is high quality of service. There is a strong emotional connection and our MICE staff in Colombia are well qualified.
The fifth links in part to the success of the tourism industry in general and the ability to find unique experiences in the country. If you are attending a congress or incentive trip, you can extend your time and find a lot to do. We have two oceans – the Pacific and Caribbean – and you can explore the Andes or the vast tropical plains where you can even find safaris.
There are also many (incentive) products related to the coffee region and landscapes, including visits to farms to see and be part of the whole production process.
Our MICE study also revealed that 23% of the economic impact of tourism as a whole, comes from the MICE industry, so it is huge.
We have also increased the number of events held in Colombia by 34% since 2012. In 2018, a total 585,000 non-resident foreigners visited Colombia to attend events.
What major conferences do you have coming up in the next few years?
Currently, Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Barranquilla and Cali are the main hubs for the MICE industry. In March of 2020 we will have the Generally Assembly of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Barranquilla, in 2021 we are going to host the ICCA World Congress in Cartagena and we are going to hold Fiexpo, the most important MICE fair in Latin America, for 2020, 2021 and 2022. This should encourage and promote a lot of business related to the MICE industry.
We are also promoting other destinations such as Santa Marta, San Andrés and the coffee cultural landscape. We try to promote not only the destinations but also the people and the talent we have.
If an event organiser asked what can Colombia offer, what advice would you give?
Competitive prices, a beautiful destination, a very business-orientated government. Also, the high quality of services and experience of hosting worldwide events. These include, the One Young World Summit in 2017 (probably our biggest event in recent times) and a World Urban Forum several years ago. So we have plenty of experience of hosting huge events.
What are the main knowledge clusters in Colombia?
We are very much focused on promoting the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and right now the Fourth Industrial Revolution affiliate centre (as announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019) which is covering the whole of Latin America, is in Medellin. We have a lot of industry knowledge across many sectors.
ProColombia is a government agency in charge of promoting Colombian non-traditional exports, international tourism and foreign investment to Colombia. Website: www.procolombia.co/en