Home' micenet eMag : micenet AUSTRALIA February March 2015 Contents looming large on the meetings rankings for some time. In 2013 the country was # 9 in the ICCA
rankings, after rising as high as # 7 in 2012. While Sao Paulo and Rio dominate, the country has
around 120 convention bureaux although many are small and privately run. Nevertheless, there
is a lot of product and a huge domestic meetings market.
The South America meetings sector tends to be divided by language: the Spanish-speaking
countries and the mighty Brazil which is Portuguese-speaking. A growth of a hybrid Portuñol
language, a combo of Portuguese and Spanish, is breaking down barriers. But Brazil’s domestic
association meetings are so strong there can be a reluctance to expand these into Latin
American or international versions which can see a loss of control and revenue.
The country everyone is watching is Colombia. From a high security risk what seems like only
a few short years ago, this destination is now hot. Adventurous backpackers led the way and
the leisure and business visitors are following now that the country is more stable. Investment is
pouring into the country and the government is investing in infrastructure, tourism and business
events, so much so that some other South American countries are looking on enviously.
Columbia has overtaken Chile for ICCA’s # 3 spot in Latin American following Brazil and
Argentina. Three emerging Columbian meeting destinations, all with their own convention
bureaux, are in ICCA’s top 10 Latin American city rankings - Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin.
Although the association sector is still young, there is a growing middle class in this third most
populous Latin American country after Brazil and Mexico. Rich in natural resources with
impressive biodiversity, a large oil producer, strategically located at the top of South America,
inbound visitors have quadrupled since 2007.
Panama is another competitive destination which has strengthened its proposition. It sits in
fifth spot in ICCA’s Latin American list. The number of international meetings it has hosted has
increased nearly 600 per cent in the last decade. A glut of hotel rooms, a new convention
centre, incentives offered, proximity to the North American market, and a special tax relationship
with the USA should all work in its favour to attract more inbound business events.
Although Pan South American or Latin American meetings are still in their infancy according
to local operators, this is expected to mature in coming years. Many regional meetings are still
embedded within national conferences rather than stand-alone events. The business events
industry has set its own example, combining to form a regional body called COCAL which
boasts 15 members stretching from Mexico to Chile.
The wildcard is Cuba. Now that President Obama has taken the first steps in normalising
USA’s relationship with Cuba, which includes authorised travel for professional meetings, you
can expect Cuba to step out of the shadows. It may take a while for infrastructure to develop,
but in time there will be new meeting hotels and no doubt a state-of-the-art convention centre.
How long before we are visiting the Cuba booth at IMEX America? m
Elizabeth Rich is a business events specialist who has developed a strong industry reputation during
her 30 year high profile career as an industry spokesperson and practitioner. Elizabeth continues to be
a keen industry observer and contribute through project work, writing and training. elizabethrich@
*International Congress and Convention
An artist’s impression of the new convention
centre in Buenos Aires, situated in city
parklands and partially underground.
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