September 26, 2023
Congresses & Conferences

Conference, Business Tourism Booming in Medellin

In a presentation to the recent ExpoEventos conference at Plaza Mayor, Diana Milena Arango – the former director of the Medellin Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCVB) – touted huge growth in business/conference/congress tourism in Medellin.

 Such business tourism now ranks among the biggest generators of employment growth in metro Medellin, as business tourists spend about triple the daily average of a conventional pleasure tourist, she explained.

Business and conference tourism also has now been targeted as one of the six strategic investment “clusters” organized within the Medellin Chamber of Commerce (CCM) for Antioquia, alongside the technology-information-communication (TIC) sector, the construction sector, the electric power sector,  the fashion-textile sector and the health sector, she said.

What’s more, Medellin has become the fastest-growing tourist destination in Colombia, climbing from 480,000 visitors in 2013 to an estimated 600,000 visitors in 2015, she said. It’s now possible to estimate that Medellin will host 1 million visitors annually by 2020, she added.

To date, Medellin ranks only behind Colombia’s capital (Bogota) and its most historic coastal city (Cartagena) in business conferences, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), she showed.

Using the ICCA criteria, Medellin hosted 33 such congresses/conventions in 2013, compared to 42 in Cartagena and 49 in Bogota.

Measured by numbers of participants, Paris remains the world’s leading congress/convention destination, followed by Barcelona, Madrid, London and Vienna, according to ICCA. If measuring by country rather than by city, then the  U.S.A. is the world’s biggest congress/convention destination, followed by Spain, Germany, France and the UK, according to ICCA.

In Medellin, local and international “events” as defined by MCVB rose from 56 in 2012 to 77 in 2015, with 85 total “events” now seen for 2015, she said.

“International” events targeting participation of foreign visitors typically generate more revenue per-person than “local” events – and such events generate more “buzz” about Medellin’s positive transformation, Arango said. 

Among the more notable recent “international” events include an Inter-American Development Bank conference, the South American Games, the World Urban Forum, the Organization of American States conference and the World Tourism Organization general assembly, the latter of which will bring 800 delegates from 156 countries to Medellin.

More than US$72 million had been spent by foreign visitors to “international” events in Medellin in the past four years, she added.

Medellin’s Business-Tourism ‘Cluster’

In a related presentation to the ExpoEventos congress, Beatriz Velasquez — Director of Medellin’s Business Tourism, Convention and Trade-Fair Cluster — pointed-out that the business-convention industry has now grown to account for 2.5% of Antioquia’s gross domestic product (“PIB” in Spanish initials).

In total, about US$13.5 million was invested by local Medellin companies for business-convention services in 2013, an amount that more than doubled in 2014, she showed.

Recent conferences organized in 2015  by the Cluster (and coordinated by the “Setup” conference-logistics organization) included the “Big Data” conference, the “Human City” conference and the “Health Tech” conference.

The “Cluster” has a strategic focus on internationalization, which will require continuing expansion of bilingual/multi-lingual services for foreign visitors, she pointed out.

The conference/congress business “is a great industry with enormous opportunites,” Velasquez concluded.

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