Colombia-MICE is part of the Pelecanus Travel Group and we are specialized in corporate travel and all services around Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions. We are more than happy to help you organize your business meeting in Colombia.
As one of the top 30 countries for business meetings in the world (according to ICCA), Colombia certainly has a lot to offer regarding MICE tourism. Cities such as Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin are leading the way in terms of infrastructure and services around meetings, congresses, events, and incentives, but there are other competitive destinations in the country.
If you are uncertain about why you should choose Colombia as the host country of your meeting or event, we have a separate blog on business travel in Colombia that explains the reasons. However, here you have a summary. The South American nation has an option for every need in the market.
For those who already decided to hold an event in the country, in this blog, we will go over the aspects that you, as a CEO, meeting planner, or business in general should bear in mind when organizing a meeting in Colombia.
1. Selecting the location of a meeting in Colombia
Choosing the perfect location for your meeting is no easy task and depends on several factors. We have listed some below:
Size of the meeting
First, you must be clear about the size of the meeting you are holding as 15 people are not the same as 50 or 80. Of course. The point is that cities have venues and hotels with specific capacities and you should choose accordingly.
For instance, in general, all main cities in Colombia have luxury hotels with business centers and meeting rooms that can hold from 8 to 20 people and event halls for 500 people or more. There are also modern convention centers with capacity for thousands of attendees in different styles of event halls. Some of them are Centro de Convenciones Valle del Pacífico, Ágora and Corferias in Bogota, Centro de Eventos El Tesoro in Medellin, and Centro de Convenciones Cartagena de Indias. But you should be aware of the accommodation capacity since it is not always directly proportional to the event capacity.
Type of venue
The type of event will determine the type of venue to choose for your meeting. Nowadays, companies attempt to innovate and hold events in places where in the past no one would think to have a business meeting. However, specialized venues such as convention centers, auditoriums, and hotels are still preferred among many. Each type of venue caters to a specific need.
Non-traditional venues in Colombia
Theaters: Large meetings can be held in theaters because they have the capacity, logistics, and audiovisual equipment. Plus, typically theaters are located in strategic zones of the cities, for instance, La Candelaria in Bogota.
Chambers of commerce: These modern buildings are ideal for training and congresses since there are large and medium auditoriums equipped with the latest technology. Also, open-air spaces within or near the buildings can be found. A good option is, for example, the Chamber of Commerce of Bogota which has over 10 branches spread in the city.
Fincas: These farms have now improved services including event planning professionals. They are located in rural zones close to the urban area but still with a different environment suitable for disconnection and creativity. You can find these in the Coffee Triangle and Cali.
Museums: Museums, apart from keeping precious works of art, are silent buildings where inspiration can arise. Various museums in Colombia have auditoriums and meeting rooms to hold conventions or smaller business gatherings.
Botanical gardens: These big green zones in the middle of the concrete jungle also have auditoriums and halls usually offered for academic and research events but also suitable for different kinds of meetings. The collection of exotic flora and fauna species with beautiful landscaping around the halls is the perfect environment for distraction and leisure after the event.
Climate of the destination
As a tropical country near the geographic equator, Colombia has no seasons but a rather a stable climate that varies according to the altitude of the place under consideration.
The warm climate can be experienced on the Caribbean coast with temperatures above 20°C (68°F). MICE destinations in this zone include Cartagena and Santa Marta, which boast tropical beaches along with luxury hotels, conference venues, and leisure facilities. Cali is another warm city that lacks the coast but impresses with its culture and range of activities.
Those preferring more temperate climates should consider locations such as the city of eternal spring – Medellin, or Pereira, Armenia, or Manizales in the Coffee Triangle. These also combine nature with comfort and especially coffee.
Last, for a rather cold climate, the best option is Bogota, which sits at 2,600 meters (8,530 ft) above sea level on the Eastern Andes mountain and has temperatures generally around 12 °C (53,6 °F). Anyway, here you must be prepared since it can be really sunny and the next minute it’s raining cats and dogs.
Colombian cities profile
Your preferences for leisure activities may also influence your decision on where to have your meeting. You should agree with your employees and attendees about the kind of activities they are interested in for their leisure time or for team-building. Cultural immersion, luxury, nature, adventure, or relaxation… Colombia has a place for each one.
Interested in culture? If you want to experience art, history, architecture, music, language immersion, etc. Bogota is the perfect destination. Not only is it the capital city but the cultural center of Colombia. It is even known as the Southamerican Athens. Museums abound and free music and art shows are not uncommon.
Of course, private, luxurious events cannot be missing and the offer is varied. Also the Spanish spoken by the locals is usually easier to understand than in other regions so it is perfect for practicing the language skills.
Want luxurious relaxation by the sea? Cartagena is your choice.
The ‘heroic city’ is a popular destination both for Colombians and foreigners. Its biggest attraction is the walled city, the zone with a classic colonial style, and the San Felipe fortress. However, large hotel chains have set on the Caribbean coast and offer the best relaxation experience with all the comforts you can imagine. Visiting the luxurious Rosario islands is also an option worth considering.
Dance and gastronomy
For working on the motor and social skills of your team, Cali is waiting for you.
The world capital of salsa is a warm, vibrant city with intense nightlife and friendly people. There are salsa dance schools on every corner ready to teach even the quietest person to move smoothly and enjoy the rhythm of this tropical dance. Gastronomy is a strong point too, the cuisine of the Colombian Pacific is on another level.
Innovation and technology
If technology is more appealing to you, you could choose Medellin.
This spring city is the center of innovation of the country and its transport infrastructure exceeds that of Bogota and the other major cities. Museums and interactive science centers are widely recommended as well as more natural attractions such as the Arvi Park and the Botanical Garden.
Looking for a connection with nature? The Coffee Triangle is the best region to get away from the ‘civilization’ and connect with nature.
Having your meeting in a green environment can generate positive outcomes since it allows full concentration and creativity. Manizales, Pereira, and Armenia are privileged cities because they boast modern infrastructure for business tourism while conserving the magic of the Andes mountains and its biodiversity.
Perhaps you are interested in adventure. In this case, Yopal is the right choice. This city in the Llanos region is still undiscovered by international tourism but has great potential. Being a small and calm city is no obstacle to developing good business tourism infrastructure.
In addition, if you ever wondered how the cowboys lived, here you can discover. Spending time with the llaneros who are cattle ranchers by tradition and having a safari along the plains are certainly appealing activities.
2. Logistics for meetings in Colombia
Once the destination is decided, it is time to think about the logistics of the meeting. This includes
- The location of the hotel and venue
- The options for transport to any of the places on the agenda
- The catering and audiovisual services
- Among others
In most cities, the best hotels are near the main event halls or convention centers, if they don’t already have these spaces. We are talking about walking distances or short car trips.
Regarding transportation, average car speed is acceptable in most cities and the distances are rather short, except for Bogota. Here, the traffic is so heavy and the distances so long that getting anywhere takes about an hour, if not more. In any case, private transport is recommended.
Organizing the services required for the meeting may be easy or tedious depending on the offer of the venue. Typically all meeting rooms in hotels or convention centers include audiovisual aids and catering. But when it comes to unconventional venues the situation might be different. Additional services such as bilingual support (Colombians hardly speak English) or event planning professionals are mostly provided by specialized companies.
Last, beware of the local culture and infrastructure and its implications in the logistics of your meeting. As a rule, you must plan well in advance and have reserve time and plan b in case of an unexpected event. Schedules can be moved and services canceled at short notice. For longer stays, it is advisable to consider insurance for all attendees.
3. Local partner for business meetings in Colombia
All of the aspects mentioned above require extensive planning and logistics management expertise. This can be tricky and time-consuming. Therefore, contacting a local professional in business travel that understands your needs and organizes the perfect event for you seems a reasonable choice.