Travel Trade Caribbean interview with Charo Trabado, general director GSAR Marketing.
As part of its strategy to diversify its tourist offer, Cuba is betting on positioning itself in the MICE (meetings, events and incentives tourism) segment on a regional and world level. According to Charo Trabado, general director GSAR Marketing, the company organizing the MITM Americas fair, the destination has all the tools to achieve this objective. An important step forward will be the hosting of the 22nd edition of this event. MITM Americas HAVANA will be held in the Cuban capital September 18-21.
This is the third time that Cuba is the venue of MITM Americas. What determined this decision?
Yes. It is a sector that Cuba has been especially interested in for years, which is why already in 2004 the Ministry of Tourism applied to be the venue of MITM Americas as well as in 2009.
A short time ago there was a news item about Mr. Escarrer affirming that Cuba would be the key point of tourism in the Caribbean and there is no doubt that in meetings tourism it has an incredible potential. By 2030 it is expected that Cuba will have 103,000 rooms, which will enable it to increasingly receive this type of clients. Because of all this we have returned to Havana and, of course, to its flagship hotel in this sector, the emblematic Meliá Cohíba Hotel, which has all the necessary infrastructure for this type of clients.
The event stands out for being the oldest MICE tourism fair in the Americas and the Caribbean. How much has it contributed to the development of that segment in the region?
Since 1997 the MITM fairs have contributed to the incursion, development and positioning of numerous destinations in Europe as well as in the Americas. Yes, it is true that Europe was much more developed in this sector than Latin America.
Our fairs’ host destinations receive an international promotion valued at a million euros. Throughout our extensive trajectory we have achieved that all the countries in which any edition of the MITM Americas has been held, both those who already had some MICE business and those that had almost no general tourism, nowadays are vying in this sector so important for any destination as is meetings tourism. There are clear examples, and it is that the countries where MITM has been held more than once have stood out over the rest, for example, in Mexico eight editions were held and in Ecuador three. You just have to revise the newspaper and periodicals library to see the figures.
During FITCuba 2018 you said you were very pleased that the fair would be returning to Cuba. What are your expectations with the event?
We are happy to return to Cuba because it is one of the countries in which when we held the first edition it was trying to open a place for itself in this market and in 2004 MITM Americas gave it the opportunity to show the world that you could have a small piece of the mayor market and Cuba showed all the international participants that it could, that it had a great deal to offer and that its product was different from other extensively valued destinations. In 2009 we enthusiastically returned and the fair was increasingly more successful. This 2018 it is even more so and this is reflected in the more than 500 registrations to participate received from 57 countries.
In all the promotion we are carrying out for MITM Americas HAVANA we are highlighting with special emphasis Cuba’s culture, music, art and world renowned traditional gastronomy, but also the genuine flavor of the Cuban people: their character, their way of receiving visitors. All this makes the difference when choosing a destination for the organization of a congress, a convention, or an incentive trip. When a company carries out a trip of this type for its employees or clients, it not only seeks holding a meeting (it can do that at home). It seeks a unique experience that will strengthen the company trademark and in which its participants feel they are part of the family. That’s why it is so important to choose well the destination for any MICE event.
Havana is a magical city in which any event can be held with guarantee of complete success, complementing the hard work and networking with a beach destination in a luxury resort. In any destination, like Varadero or Cayo Santa María, there are beaches considered some of the best in the world.
What role does MITM Americas play in the world panorama of the MICE sector?
I believe it is a very important role, we have been transgressors, pioneers in this type of events. All the MICE B2B fairs that currently exist emerge as an attempt to copy. That must be because we have done it very well.
As part of the event the first Congress of the Group for the Culture and Tourism of Latin America (ACTUAL) will be held. How did this initiative emerge? How will both meetings be linked?
We have been strongly linked to Latin America and its culture for 22 years and we have demonstrated our constant support to these wonderful peoples. GSAR Marketing is also the organizer of CULTOURFAIR – the only tourism fair specializing in cultural tourism (heritage, gastronomy, religion, folklore, etc.). This fair promotes tourism through each country’s culture and that’s why the idea came up of the importance of carrying out a congress in which the different actors could participate by contributing and exchanging ideas to make this sector grow.
MITM Americas begins on September 18 with its own program until the 21st in the morning and the ACTUAL congress begins at noon with common activities for both participants.
It is the second consecutive year in which MITM has a Caribbean country as its venue, in 2017 it was the Dominican Republic. What other area destinations could be candidates for the next editions?
We have always believed in the Caribbean, and that’s why we came to Cuba in 2004, 2009 and in 2017 to the Dominican Republic.
There are more islands interested in being the venue of MITM Americas and they all have good infrastructures and singular attractions.
How would you assess the development of events tourism in Latin America and particularly in the Caribbean?
This sector has enormously grown in Latin America especially in certain countries and above all taking into account the figures on which it was based (in many countries they were inexistent). The Caribbean still has a long way to go in this sector and we are here to contribute to this.