The ranking created by the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) gave good reviews to the business tourism business in Argentina, who reached the 18th spot at a world wide level as host of international events in 2014, which means they were in the 2nd place in Latin America, over Mexico and only behind Brazil.

Argentina’s position in the ranking represents and increase bigger than 235% in the amount of international congresses held if we look at the results from 2007 versus the ones from 2013, they went from 60 international congresses in 2007, to 191 during 2014 in every Argentinian destination.

How did this happen? According to the Ministry of Tourism of the Nation and INPROTUR (National Institute of Touristic Promotion for its acronym in Spanish), the country has been since 2009 among the 20 countries of the world that have received the most international events and the country that has grown the most in the period of 2007-2013 in Latin America, a consequence of the implementation of the Plan of Strategic marketing of Reunions Tourism of INPROTUR launched in 2008, whose main objective was to make Argentina as one of the main destinations of the world in the international ranking of hosts for the realization of congresses, conventions, fairs, incentives and other international events.

“Business Tourism works in a different way, it has to do with agreements with business chambers or with working with organizations that are dedicated to this particular market. An intervention from the Estate and from the private sectors is necessary because this is a very profitable business. There are specific organisms dedicated to business tourism inside of Inprotur whose objective is to interact with international organisms that work in this market and with the corresponding chambers. It is a very different type of tourism because you have to offer very good flight connectivity, four of five star hotels, among other things. You have to offer certain services because these people are not tourists coming to a vacation but they are usually coming to work, most of them come directly to the event and sometimes they stay for a little longer before they go back” says Jorge Gobbi, an specialized blogger, consultant and lecturer in topics related to travel, tourism, and technology; he is also a founding partner of Digital Identities (Identidades Digitales).

It is worth noting that in the last 5 years before the Marketing plan was implemented (2008), Argentina was among the 40th and 36th spot in the world ranking mentioned above. In 2008, thanks to the Plan and the commitment of both the public and private sectors, Argentina moved 14 spots in the first year, and it strengthened its growth in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and probably 2015.

Buenos Aires, the Main Character

The growth of this segment takes the City of Buenos Aires, for its fifth consecutive year as the number 1 host of international events of the American Continent, with 91international congresses, in the 23rd spot in the world ranking (in 2012 it was in the 19th spot).

Growth is also reflected in the cities of the center of the country that for the first time have 12 Argentinian destinations located in the international ICCA ranking with more than 5 international congresses. Cordoba is in the second place with 19 events; Mendoza in third with 14 and the city of La Plata is fourth with 10. Following them are the cities of Bahia Blanca, Bariloche, and Salta with 6 events each; and Campana, Corrientes, Pilar, Rosario and Santafe with 5 congresses held in each of these.

Is the interior of the country a rival for Buenos Aires? “It is very hard for the rest of the country to compete with Buenos Aires, the main differences between them are the amount of flights and connections and the quality of hotels. However they are interesting, other destinations start to shine like Rosario, however Rosario has terrible connections but it has good hotels and it is a city similar to Buenos Aires. The other destination that started to become noticeable was Salta. The big difference is that Salta has great flight connections; they have been working hard to achieve this for two decades. The government of Salta has put a lot of effort in business tourism, first by trying to improve the city’s connections and second by transforming themselves into the Northeastern gate of the country” says Gobbi.

With all this, Buenos Aires is the main character of this market because of its international ranking. “It has all the international flights coming in, and this is what makes it be at Sao Paolo’s height, the city with the best flight connections in all of Latin America and besides a very attractive place for business. What Buenos Aires does have is a very attractive city. At an international level it has a very strong position and it’s seen as a city with services, which is relevant and important. This makes it a city in which you don’t have to worry about selling it, as it had to be done with Bogota and Lima,” he says.

Business tourism brings along with it other benefits that the regions that promote it looks to capitalize other economic sectors that weren’t traditionally linked to this activity, such as regulating the seasonality in touristic demand, creating qualified jobs, the big economic impact in the destination of the event (the expenses of business travelers is usually between 3 and 4 times higher that the expenses of tourists) and according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO) approximately 40% of the visitors that come to work come back to that destination with their families, friends or colleagues.

“Regulating seasonality is part of the planning the Estate has to do when the destination has strong seasons. Business tourism is a possibility, I’m not saying it’s a solution, but at least a possibility that is worth exploring to take tourisms at different times of the year. The fact that they spend more has to do with the fact that they stay for less time, especially the first time they come so daily expenses are high. When the trip is to somewhere outside of Buenos Aires they have to spend more money in tickets and in different hotels so it becomes expensive. They are busy people that cant stay for long and their main interest is professional but they can add a few more days in touristic destinations such as the Iguazu falls, Salta, Mendoza. Those are very short trips, but since they are professionals most of the time they have a good income and that’s why they can afford to stay a little longer” Gobbi concludes.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that Argentina has today, in its 6 touristic places, 44 suitable destinations for the realization of international events, 26 Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the support of the public sector.