Colombia growing stronger in the Meetings & Conference Tourism

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Content publication date

September 12, 2019
The equivalent of 23% of tourism's economic contribution in Colombia comes from the Meetings Industry. Business events generated 218,135 jobs and attracted 468,994 international attendees to Colombia during 2018.

An economic impact study by ProColombia and the Mexican firm STA Consultores revealed that the meetings industry brought US $2.4 Billion to Colombian economy, equaling 22.8% of tourism’s total spillover in Colombia. In addition, this figure represented a 0.43% share of Colombia’s gross domestic product. 

Total profit generated by this industry is distributed across many layers of the population, since over 60% of spending was made in non-tourism related sectors, such as exhibit production, translation, decoration, or facility rentals.

“The meetings industry is a market in which the national government has set its sights on, keeping in mind that it entails high expenditure and longer stays. There has been significant progress in the sector and to date ProColombia has helped secure 265 out of 450 international events, which is the overall goal for this year. In other words, we have already achieved 58% of the goal,” stated Flavia Santoro Trujillo, ProColombia president.

Additionally, in 2018, 469,000 of event participants were foreigners, representing 9% of all meeting attendees. A total of 217,000 attendees (4.2%) hail from the United States, Canada, and Europe.

In terms of international event markets, Mexico and the United States lead the way, followed by Brazil, Ecuador, and Panama, representing 18% of global meetings. In addition, Asian delegations are increasingly choosing Colombia as the destination for exhibitions and trade shows. 

The report indicates that Colombia hosted 67,951 events in 2018, with a total of 5.2 million participants (regional, national, and international) who stayed for a combined total of nearly four million nights in hotels across Colombia’s various cities.

The study took statistics from government entities—such as the National Department of Statistics and the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism—into account, in addition to interviews and specific surveys with meetings industry stakeholders, including tour operators, event planners, hotels, convention centers, bureaus, and national and international events attendees, among others.

The most common type of meetings held in Colombia are corporate or business meetings, followed by seminars, incentive programs, association congresses, and trade fairs or exhibitions. These are the types of events that the Mexican firm analyzed; however, Colombia has something to offer for other niches, such as sports and cultural events, as well as destination weddings.

The region that hosts the most events is Cundinamarca (where Bogota is located), with 51.7%, followed by Antioquia (Medellin), with 16.9%, and Valle del Cauca (Cali), with 10%.

ProColombia—the entity responsible for Colombia’s international promotion as a tourism destination and whose lines of action include attracting world-class events to Colombia’s various regions—works in markets such as the United States, Panama, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain, promoting Colombia as a destination and presenting business opportunities to meetings industry specialists.

In addition to attracting events, another of ProColombia’s objectives is to ensure a positive impact and social legacy on the destinations hosting events. This means that in addition to their evident economic contribution, events can also be socially, educationally, or environmentally beneficial to a destination’s development or transformation. Moreover, meetings are a perfect vehicle for importing knowledge, as well as attracting investment, business, and talent.

Colombia’s advantages in meetings tourism

Economic development and international promotion efforts are just some of the reasons for increased international travelers’ interest in Colombia. It has indeed become a leading destination in the travel industry.

International reviewers certify Colombia’s current popularity in this profitable market; for example, in its annual ranking, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) placed Colombia among the top 30 countries for hosting international congresses. Last year, Colombia hosted 147 ICCA-category events, positioning itself 29th on the list, above Russia, New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa, among other markets.

Colombia’s successful hosting of several important events over the last few years undoubtedly confirms the country’s capacity as a world-class event destination. Among events hosted are the following: The World Economic Forum (Medellín, 2017), the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates (Bogotá, 2017), One Young World (Bogotá, 2017), the Central American and Caribbean Games (Barranquilla, 2018), and the UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventures (Cartagena, 2019). Among confirmed upcoming events are: the Fiexpo Latam for 2020, 2021, and 2022—in a different Colombian city each year—and the 2021 ICCA Congress, in Cartagena.