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The preliminary results of the ICCA are in and Colombia has moved up three places giving way to more than 6,000 international associations that are seeking destinations for conferences and conventions.
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) reported progress in Colombia’s hotel infrastructure and events segment increasing the country’s world rankings to a more competitive level in the corporate tourism segment.
According to the latest report of the ICCA from 2012, Colombia moved up three positions in the event hosting world ranking, placing the country at number 29 out of 109, while in 2011 it was ranked 32nd place.
This classification is regarded as the most important business tourism ranking in the world for meetings industry, as it is known around the world. The scoring is made up of the total number of international conventions and conferences held in the country throughout the year. In 2012, Colombia hosted 138 events, 25 more than in 2011 and 33 above and beyond 2010.
"This positive trend is based on the growth process of Colombia’s hotel and event infrastructure which places us as safe and modern country to conduct conferences and conventions," said Maria Claudia Lacouture, president of Proexport.
Colombia has more than 30 convention centers and about 200 hotels with a specific target for corporate tourism. According to the National Tourism Registry as of June 2012 the country had 168,845 rooms and 308,437 beds.
To position the country as a destination for corporate tourism, Proexport works together with regional authorities, bureaus and / or chambers of commerce to host events and increase the influx of foreign travelers. According to Colombia’s National Directorate of Taxes and Customs, in 2012 a total of 126,982 travelers arrived in the country to participate in events.
Attendance to conferences and conventions is the third reason of foreign visitors traveling to Colombia.
Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin also improved in the ranking done by the association that examines more than 300 cities. While in 2011, they occupied spots number 45, 58 and 127 respectively, last year they managed to climb to position number 42, 57 and 86.
According to Proexport, about 85 percent of the international events that take place in the country are hosted by these three cities, being the Colombian capital the leader in hosting more conferences and conventions and the city that gets the highest number of visitors.
Alexandra Torres, Executive Director of the Bogota Convention Bureau attributed the results to the "joint work we have developed in the public and private sector in recent years. It is a commendation to the desire, support this segment and to being proactive " not only to host events, but to be better equipped.
"This new report in addition to bringing us the satisfaction of accomplishment it also brings new challenges. We must continue to work to be the best in the region," stated Francisco Vergara, Executive Director of Cartagena de Indias Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The capital of Antioquia meanwhile had the greatest ranking in 2012, climbing from number 127 to 86. According to Diana Arango, the leader of the Medellin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the outstanding performance of the city is described "by the excellent locations we have and the work we have done in the segmentation process of hosting events."
One of Colombia’s greatest achievements this year was the inclusion of Cali and Santa Marta in the standings.
The arrival of international hotel chains and construction of convention centers, halls and auditoriums with large capacity, has raised the awareness of the ICCA.
"For us it is extremely important to reappear on the international events radar. It allows us to show the world that we are ready to welcome them as we will do in the coming days at the Pacific Alliance Summit," said Nora Hurtado, Director of the Business and Institutional Development of the Cali Pacific Region Convention Bureau.
Many wholesalers and foreign tour operators specializing in this segment have been invited by Proexport to tour several cities including Cali, which has prompted 20 entrepreneurs to experience the readiness this city has to offer for those who decide to hold their conferences and conventions in the country.
According to Javier Lombardo, representative of Tour Travel in Uruguay stated that the fact the capital of the Valle del Cauca has "hotel development and an event center that is considered nearly the second most important in America (.) it magnifies the tourism potential" and therefore, the possibilities of welcoming tourists.
Some people go even further and say that both businessmen and travelers "should be interested" in Cali, because there are not" just kind and caring people, but also they take event management very seriously" such is the statement made by Andrea Sanchez, Salmor from Metropromociones in Ecuador.
This is a similar case for cities like Armenia, Barranquilla, Manizales, Pereira, Santa Marta and San Andres, which are being promoted by Proexport in over 30 countries as meeting destinations where visitors can enjoy cultural activities, fine dining, while still attaining business commitments.
In addition, Proexport supports those cities, which do not have a dedicated promotion office in charge of capturing events (bureaus) and those who want to promote their cities internationally.
Corporate travel is one of the most dynamic segments of tourism worldwide. It is characterized by constant activity, which offsets the low leisure holiday season and the one with the greatest resilience to economic crisis as the main travel drivers are simply business related and unemotional.
According to ICCA, the so-called corporate travelers spend three times more than traditional tourists with an average of $ 500 a day.
"These features make the MICE tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) very attractive in Colombia as conferences and convention hosting generate jobs leaving large economic returns for other sectors of the local economy such as restaurants, commerce and transportation,” stated Lacouture.