CMW travelled to Santiago, Chile to meet Sergio Baritussio, director of Fiexpo – a regional meetings show with ‘no competitors’.
How did you first come into the MICE industry?
I started working in the industry in 1987, when I was in charge of the MICE department of one of the leading travel agencies in Uruguay. There I also started working with ICCA, as our agency was the only ICCA member in Uruguay and one of the few members in Latin America.
You are both a publisher, editor and show director. How do you divide up your time?
I started with the magazine Eventos Latinoamericanos (Latin American Events Magazine) in 2000. The objective then and now was to promote Latin America as a destination for international events. I enjoy it because it allows me to travel and to meet a lot of interesting people. The show is more complex, but we have a wonderful team that is growing every year.
A lot of work clearly went into the 2019 edition of FIEXPO in Santiago. What are you particularly proud of and how would you summarise this year’s event?
The show is growing 25-30% each year, with more participants and hosted buyers. But the most important thing is our team, that is like a family, with everybody working hard and with great commitment. The Political Forum is also growing, not only in quantity but in quality, with more authorities present every year, including governors, ministers, vice ministers, etc.
What did you change this year in terms of content?
We try to improve every year, especially with the academic sessions, and this year invited meeting industry leading authorities such as Christian Mutschlechner (ex-Vienna CVB), Didier Scaillet (SITE) and Sherrif Karamat (PCMA).
What have been your main challenges this year?
It was the last show in Chile, as we rotate every three years from one country to another. The 2019 show ran very smoothly as we have been working with the same hotel and venue for two years now. Now the challenge will be organising the next show with a different venue, in a different country (Colombia) with different suppliers.
What is the secret to building good partnerships for both you as an organiser and for your clients?
That we are in it together, in the same ship, with the same objectives. If the show grows, then we all benefit. We have a very good relationship with our clients, we are like friends.
FIEXPO moves to Colombia next year for three editions, right? What attracted you to Colombia and how are you hoping to develop the show there further?
It’s a real challenge because it will be the first time that FIEXPO is moving to a new country with three different venues. In 2020 we’ll be in Cartagena, in 2021 in Medellin, and the last show in Colombia will be in 2022 in Bogotá.
The Colombian government gave us their support and confidence because they know the importance of the MICE industry and FIEXPO, a leading show in the region.
How do you think FIEXPO stands out from the competition in the region?
Well, we have no competitors, because we are the only show where the exhibitors are only from Latin America and the Caribbean. Hosted buyers and visitors know what they are going to find.
We also are ARP (Association Regional Partners) of ICCA exclusively for Latin America and the Caribbean and we have signed agreements with SITE Global, JMIC and many regional associations.
We are also becoming UFI members and are planning to do many things together in Colombia at the show.
Tell us about your new show launch for the luxury meetings and travel market that you announced in Santiago.
It was something that the market was asking for. In Latin America we have many wonderful places that are excellent for incentives, especially luxury incentives. That’s why we launched the Motivation Luxury Summit during FIEXPO 2019, an exclusive business exchange between 50 incentive houses from around the world, all looking for new venues and destinations in Latin America, and 50 suitable convention bureau and destination representatives.
The first edition will be in Chile, in October 2020.
What is the secret to creating a good hosted buyer programme? How do you ensure quality?
With my partner Arnaldo Nardone (ex-ICCA President – ed) we have more than 30 years in this industry. We know the people and companies that work in this sector well. We don’t outsource the hosted buyers selection, but we have a special team that knows exactly what we are looking for.
I assure you that we have at least 95% of effectiveness in our selection with 60% new buyers each year. We consider the programme to be the heart of the show and the reason why clients return every year.
What were the final visitor and exhibitor numbers this year?
It was a record. More than 2,000 visitors, 800 exhibitors, 253 VIP hosted buyers, 750 buyers, more than 8,700 meetings. You must take into account that the show is not open for everybody, only for those accepted for registeration and who have meetings confirmed.
The social programme was very popular this year. What was your personal highlight?
We design the programme for networking, with breakfasts and lunches and presentations of destinations, but the iconic attraction is our Gala Dinner. We first did it for the celebration of our 10th anniversary and everybody liked it and asked us to do it again, so now it is something that all participants anticipate with great expectation.
This year our Gala Dinner was dedicated to Colombia, our next destination host, and they put on an incredible show with more than 40 artists. People enjoyed it and danced until late in the evening.
Tell us about the Awards.
They run alongside the Gala Dinner and we organise it so that all our regional associations have a place to recognise their members. We started with the Latin Award given by Eventos Latinoamericanos 12 years ago, together with FIEXPO. Now there is a range of awards: ACCCLATAM, ICCA, Latin Convention Bureaus. But we also give awards for Best Stand, Emerging Destination, as well as the FIEXPO Award and the Forum Award.
What is your best piece of advice for successful exhibiting?
The team. It is everything. If you look at the two most important shows in the world from this sector, you can prove it. One having a great team and success and the other not.
How did the pre-show educational content go; what were you most proud of there?
We have been adjusting the educational content each year, and I think that now we have achieved the right content and timings, inviting prestigious speakers, with a selection of themes that are right for our countries.