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Federation of Congress Organizing Entities of Latin America (COCAL): Education and Professionalization of Events Industry

Federation of Congress Organizing Entities of Latin America (COCAL): Education and Professionalization of Events Industry

Photo: courtesy of the interviewed

Exclusive interview with Mrs. Elizabeth Tovar, president of COCAL.

First of all, it would be convenient if you could offer us an overview of the work that the organization is currently carrying out.

The Federation of Congress Organizing Entities of Latin America is a non-profit association that brings together the value chain of the Meetings Industry through members representing countries and individual members. These, in turn, provide COCAL with around 4,500 professionals with whom we have contact through our database.

Our Federation has had as its main objective the education and professionalization of the industry, allowing us through these actions to be more competitive and productive in this very global world.

Additionally, as of August of this year, we have added three additional pillars to our education efforts: networking, transformation and inclusion.

For this we have set up seven working committees, which will have the functions of transforming COCAL into an association with more benefits for its members.

In this context, we have signed agreements with various international associations such as PCMA with which we specified the promotion of the Digital Event Strategist certifications in its 3 modalities and with AIEE for its CEM certification in Spanish and Portuguese.

We have signed a collaboration agreement with the Latin American Association of Bureaus that every two years will join the COCAL Congress to hold its own meeting.

We were also able to carry out a program of forums via broadcast in Spanish, English and Portuguese, which began in June and will end in November, some of which have had the cooperation of Meetings Alliance, Shocklogic and Eventia.

COCAL developed a magnificent relationship with IBTM Americas and IMEX through which we have been able to validate qualified buyers for their free attendance at these events and secure significant discounts to participate in their face-to-face and virtual events.

Our participation with the Events Industry Council as members of the Recovery Committee and the APEX Committee has been of great importance.

We have signed an agreement with the Monterrey Cluster to direct the Meeting Design Certification in Latin America, an avant-garde tool in Spanish.

In general, we have developed a strategy to approach the industry’s entire value chain.

How is the panorama of the post-pandemic meeting industry defined?

The outlook has been one of uncertainty in 2020, where positive reactions are timid and where events were completely virtual. For 2021 we estimate a partial recovery, since it is the opinion of the experts in the field of infections and pandemics that, despite a possible vaccine, we will have to live with the virus from now on. However, we will begin to be more proactive, with more air connectivity, more activity in the industry and an incorporation of technology to make almost all events hybrid. From 2022 onwards we will see that the recovery will be complete and the hybrid events will continue permanently.

What experiences has this stage contributed to the federation with a view to the future organization of events?

We analyzed the need to fill the void of a technological education by providing the international DES certification for Latin America, and of a management education that would allow us to understand the reengineering that we must apply to our companies for their subsistence. We were also able to create a repository of documents that would serve as reference material for governments in Latin America with regard to COVID-19 regulations and protocols.

The vision, lobbying and proactivity of COCAL have made it possible to reformulate several measures taken in Latin America that could have delayed even more the recovery of the industry.

What strategies has COCAL designed to support the recovery of this segment in Latin America?

The first measures have been forceful when participating for the first time in the Committee for the Recovery of the Events Industry Council in the drafting of the standards for said recovery. We have also been part of the Board of Directors of mostly American associations such as PCMA and EIC, which in turn execute lobbying plans with governments in order to help reopen hotels and airports in our communities with biosafety.

COCAL has also created social media campaigns supporting safe reopening actions, bringing to its public chats the best practices in the operation of meeting destinations.

In order to highlight the importance of the meetings industry, what is the role of this sector in the global economy today?

The industry could now be the best injection of economic, social and psychological spillover for destinations.

It has been proven that this industry has always recovered rapidly. However, the unfair lack of trust in the protocols leads us to spread the feeling of fear towards events that we have not developed by going to other sites.

Nowadays, the world economy has stopped receiving due to the paralysis of the meetings industry, almost 60% less than the 13% that it contributed to the World Gross Domestic Product before the pandemic.

Today we will hardly reach 5% of the World GDP, not counting the damage to the small and medium-sized industry that constitutes a large part of the service providers in the sector.

Next year a new COCAL congress will be held. What will be its objectives? What expectations does the organization’s executive have with regard to this event?

The objective of the Congress is to show the possibility of having a biosafe and successful congress in terms of the expectations of participation, networking and education, accompanied by innovative technologies and a quality program.

The first congress in two years will be in the Dominican Republic, since the last was held in Panama in 2018, then the Lima meeting was canceled and we are looking forward to seeing each other again.

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