Destination Latin America

Continuing to prove its unrivalled expertise in the events sector, Latin America is now turning its eye to the MENA market. Panayiotis Markides explores.

Providing an exotic setting for an array of adventures, Latin America has witnessed dramatic growth within its lucrative events industry, successfully attracting travellers from all corners of the globe.

Events such as WTM Latin America have arisen to promote this destination even further. Exhibition director, WTM Latin America, Lawrence Reinisch told TTGexclusively that the deals signed at the show will further help cement Brazil and the continent’s growing position in the global travel and tourism industry.

Travel Forward 20

“Post-event research revealed that last year’s event generated business deals in excess of $341 million and this year will most likely be even more due to the phenomenal 21 per cent increase in visitors and press,” he revealed.

Reinisch also elaborated on the continent’s growth: “Improved infrastructure is playing a large role in the tourism boom, accelerating Latin America as a global economic powerhouse.”

Taking a closer look at the destination that boasts the historic Machu Picchu, Peru; director, Vicuña Travel Agency, Pellegrino Luciano enthused that in Peru tourism is witnessing a strong increase.

“According to the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, international tourist arrivals increased to an impressive 8.4 per cent in a four month period this year alone. That’s a growth of 1.13 million visitors to Peru; an increase greater than the typical tourist destinations of Mexico and Brazil.”

MICE PROWESS

It thus quickly becomes apparent that within the Latin American tourism product there is one particular segment that stands strong and proud among the rest: MICE.

With Brazil having proven itself capable of hosting world-class events such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and next year’s Olympics being set in Rio de Janeiro, it comes as no surprise that many companies are looking to hold their events in Latin America.

Speaking exclusively to TTG, executive-director at the Arab Brazil Chamber of Commerce (ABCC), Michel Alaby remarked that the MICE industry in Brazil is no small player: “The MICE industry in Brazil generates approximately $1.3 billion.” He added that event tourism is the second largest attractor of foreign visitors to the country, bringing close to six million international travellers, or 25.6 per cent of international tourists.

Alaby noted: “The MICE sector has grown about 400 per cent in the past 10 years. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are still the main destinations for MICE travellers but various cities are investing in modern venues. This is the case of Foz do Iguaçu, Recife, Joao Pessoa and Brasilia, which already have infrastructure for medium and large events.”

Homing in on the city of São Paulo, CEO, São Paulo Convention & Visitors Bureau (SPCVB), Toni Sando revealed to TTG: “São Paulo is the Latin American business and events capital city. Almost 75 per cent of all tourists coming to the city are included in this segment.”

He commented that to this end the city has the infrastructure to sustain this segment, with convention centres; venues for events; 42,000 major hotel chain rooms; and transportation to get travellers around, including 85,116 vehicles for rent, 34,000 taxis, 67 metro stations and 15,000 buses.

Sando highlighted the scale of the city’s MICE effectiveness, noting that SPCVB recently organised the Rotary International Convention, attended by 15,000 visitors, while this month The WordSkills Competition, is expected to attract 200,000 visitors to the city.

Keen to explain that Mexico’s Caribbean coast is equally adept at hosting events, with its fully developed infrastructure, promotion manager Europe and Asia, Cozumel & Riviera Maya, Tourism Board, Evelyn Pintado Cervera stated to TTG: “Because of our air connectivity, infrastructure, expertise and professionalism of the service providers, Riviera Maya has it all to host any MICE events.”

She also noted that elite events such as ILTM Americas will be hosted in the destination.

And now traversing on to the continent’s west coast, marketing manager, Tucano Peru, Carmen Gonzales remarked that Peru is well-poised to augment its MICE segment further, especially as its well-developed infrastructure makes it ideal for corporate and business events, as well as private trips, incentive tours, congresses and world-class festivals.

“You will find a variety of state-of-the-art halls and venues for events, as well as comfortable hotels and restaurants to suit any taste.”

HEADED FOR NEW MARKETS

Meanwhile, as Latin America seeks to strengthen its links with the world via its dynamic MICE capabilities, it also seeks to bolster ties with MENA, according to Alaby.

“The ABCC works towards further strengthening [trade relations between Brazil and MENA] across all sectors.” He added that the actions ABCC promotes include market intelligence consulting projects, participation at trade shows and organising trade missions with the Brazilian government, business entities and B2B meetings.

Alaby also noted that the fruits of the ABCC’s labours have indeed matured, noting that as a result of the actions promoted by the ABCC, the flow of Arab tourists into Brazil and vice versa has intensified.

Gonzales added to this telling TTG that Tucano Peru is seeking business from the MENA region, having attended ATM this year.

“We presented our major brands to international clients and partners, introducing Peru and [Latin America] to a new audience.”

This was echoed by Luciano who revealed to TTG that Vicuña Travel is pursuing Arabian tourism possibilities, especially from Kuwait and the UAE. “Some challenges we have encountered have been in finding direct and accommodating routes from the MENA region.”

Latin America is ambitiously showcasing its aptitude in the MICE segment, and the global events it is hosting are a testament to this, all the while strengthening its bonds with the MENA region.