Colombia hosted 147 international association meetings in 2016, ranking it 29th among all the countries in the world, according to a recent report published by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). The Andean nation ranks fourth in Latin America after Brazil (244 meetings), Argentina (188), and Mexico (182). Chile placed a distant fifth with 104 meetings in 2016.
In all, 73,320 people attended the 147 association events, the vast majority of which were held in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena. The meeting total is nine more than Colombia held in 2015 and more than twice as many as the 62 that took place in the country in 2006, according to the the organization’s 2016 “ICCA Country & City Rankings.”
Medellín was the only city in Colombia that showed significant growth in this segment of the event tourism market. Its 42 international meetings in 2016 represent a sizable jump from 36 the previous year and allowed Colombia’s second city to tie with Chicago and Zurich for 62nd in the global city rankings.
In 2006, Medellín only hosted six events, according to ICCA. The impressive growth rate since then — seven times as many association meetings — highlights the safety, security, and reputational gains that the former murder capital of the world has made over the past decade.
Photo: Medellín hosted 42 international association meetings in 2016. This was the same number as Chicago and Zurich — and seven times as many as the former murder capital of the world held in 2006. (Credit: Jared Wade)
The Caribbean tourist destination of Cartagena actually saw its total fall, from 36 meetings in 2015 to just 32 in 2016. Bogotá’s volume was unchanged with 45 meetings in each of the last two years. Cali also hosted seven international meetings last year, while Barranquilla held five.
Colombia’s desire to continue rising in this event tourism market is evident by the government’s decision to advertise within the ICCA report, which is distributed to the organization’s members, including many association leaders and conference destination decision makers.
Along with Malaysia and Singapore, through its ProColombia promotion agency, Colombia was one of the countries to procure ad space in the 54-page publication. Cities including London, Toronto, and Berlin also advertised within the report.
The ICCA says that the motivation level of the local arm of any international organization is key to attracting events to their country. “The initiative to host a meeting often comes from the local counterpart, e.g., the national association,” stated the ICCA in the report. “If that body is difficult to motivate to organize the meeting, the chances are high that the meeting will be scheduled elsewhere.”
Overall, the ICCA tracked 12,227 international association meetings held across the world in 2016. These events span a wide range in terms of event size and industry. Medical meetings are the largest segment, while academic, scientific, trade organizations, professional associations, and social groups also figuring prominently in the results.