There’s an old adage that rings very true in the meetings industry: you can’t judge a book by its cover.
In this case, the book is the country of Colombia, and I had the opportunity to open it and scour its pages at PCMA’s first-ever Colombia Advisory Summit. At the end of April, PCMA partnered with ProColombia to invite seven veteran planners to Bogota and help our peers in Colombia understand the needs and expectations of European and North American meeting professionals. As organizations continue to look for opportunities to connect with prospective members and attendees in emerging meetings destinations, our Advisory Summits are powerful educational tools to prepare developing markets.
However, the education doesn’t just flow one way. We all left Colombia with new insights into what motivates Latin American audiences, which technology trends are impacting Latin American venues and how global economic changes are shaping this region. In addition to a more well-rounded perspective on Latin America as a whole, here are three ways I realized that Colombia sheds the typical stereotypes of an “emerging” destination.
1) Internet access is incredibly good.
Wi-Fi is fastest in the United States, right? Wrong. To be honest, the Internet access in Colombia was even better than many of the venues where I’ve spent time across North America. No matter where our group went, we had high-speed and reliable service. It’s common for planners to have plenty of concerns about the technological infrastructure of developing business destinations. While some places may be behind the times in IT and connectivity, Colombia is up to speed.
2) Women leaders are front and center.
While there are plenty of women in the convention and tourism industry in North America, men seem to dominate the C-level conversation. In Colombia, though, the country is trusting a cast of smart and innovative women to lead the country’s meeting destinations forward as they develop into a more mature meetings destination. The majority of CVB and convention center CEOs I met from around the country were women.
3) New strategies to address security issues are emerging.
The safety and security of attendees is a sensitive subject no matter where you go. Still, the topic seems to be even more of a concern in unfamiliar destinations. That’s why our group discussed it openly in Colombia, and I found the country is tackling the issue by exchanging tips and ideas together. Consider this story: a planner was exploring Medellin, the second-largest city in the country, as a prospective host city for her group. When she shared her worries about security, organizers invited her inside the city’s security authority for an up-close and personal view of how they monitor safety with cameras around the destination and a system that sends alerts of any potential dangers. The result? She was reassured about bringing her group there. Regardless of where a planner might be thinking of taking a group, this strategy is a strong way to ease concerns. Rather than reading headlines, ask the destination for an honest perspective.
Have you considered taking your attendees to an unfamiliar destination? What’s holding you back? Share your thoughts on your biggest challenges in the comments section below. I’m hoping for new insights to help me understand how PCMA can assist our members in their efforts to go global.