Exclusive interview with Abraham Maciques Maciques, president of the Palco Business Group
Maciques, 2019 has a special connotation for the Palco Business Group, since it is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Havana Convention Center in 1979, an event that marks the origin of the current Palco Business Group. How has the Group’s evolution been until today?
The Convention Center turned 40, and we consider it the genesis of the current Organization. We started with the organization of congresses, but as the fairs developed Pabexpo was built, then over the course of several years we added the Palco Hotel and facilities and services that today make up the Palco Business Group.
Once we started working as a Group, the internal structures were reorganized, nine companies were constituted, the Cariflor Enterprise was incorporated, revenues in total currency and the export of services were doubled and tripled, the Integrated Management System was established, which is perfected every year, among other actions.
That is, the Group has had a satisfactory evolution and today has its 2017-2021 Strategy where its Strategic Objectives and future development lines were established.
How have you planned to adapt to assimilate the development dynamics of the MICE segment, as well as update the technology according to the current trends to reaffirm the leadership in the events sector in Cuba?
Since the inauguration of the Convention Center, in 1979, its general maintenance has been a tradition every year in August (a month in which events are not held), as well as the updating of its equipment and technology.
Efforts have been made to transfer this policy to the rest of the Group’s infrastructure, adapting it to its services and characteristics.
Today we are closing a strong investment process in Pabexpo. A very wide-ranging investment program began this year in the Convention Center that will be extended to between four and five years, to update its own technology and renovate the facility as such.
The exhibition pavilions in Expocuba have been perfected for years in order to adapt them to the current demands of fairs.
Other facilities associated with the development of congresses and fairs have also received significant investments, such is the case of the Palcograf Printing Enterprise that has modernized its equipment and the Palco Hotel, still engaged in maintenance and investments in its rooms and premises.
These investments, the strengthening of the annual calendars of congresses and fairs, alliances with specialized entities such as Fira Barcelona, participation in international associations and agencies of which we are members ―International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE), Federation of Latin American Congress Organizing Entities and Related Activities (COCAL), International Union of Exhibitions and Fairs (IUEF), International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)―, will allow us to maintain and strengthen the leadership in the events sector in Cuba and our international position.
At FITCuba 2019, the construction of a new multipurpose fairground was announced, in collaboration with Fira Barcelona, what can you advance regarding this project?
The development of congresses and fairs, based on what has been achieved so far, and international trends and national interest in increasing the export of services is included in our current and future lines of work.
A few years ago we established, following this line, an agreement with Fira Barcelona for the holding in Pabexpo of specialized international fairs, with themes of national interest, which have had very good results. More than six fairs that generate revenues in euros for the export of services have already been held.
And we can continue growing in congresses, with the holding of our own events, attracting international venues, holding new international fairs and expanding the marketing of square meters in the already convened fairs. But we have already reached the limits in the spaces we have.
The Convention Center already requires certain rooms, certain capacities for events and spaces for associated exhibitions that we do not have today. In Pabexpo the fairs cannot be increased, the current calendar is tight and dates for new exhibitions are no longer available.
This is why we have assessed with Fira Barcelona the construction and management of a new fairground, with multipurpose spaces, offices, advanced technology, both for managing congresses and guaranteeing the protection of the environment.
In these talks, in consultation with the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX) and Tourism (MINTUR), as governing bodies, we have in mind an investment process with foreign capital and the possible constitution of a joint venture. That is what we are thriving for.
Having this new fairground will allow us to increase annual congresses and fairs, specialized and business exchanges between Cubans and foreigners and the Group’s positioning in this sector, but fundamentally we will create a space for the promotion of Cuban goods and services, the realization of new projects, the increase of foreign investments and of income from the export of services.
Allow me to ask you a personal question: You are a very respected and beloved figure in Cuba’s corporate sphere, who has undoubtedly imposed a legacy in the country, how do you feel when looking back at the work you have guided during these years?
I assumed with responsibility the direction of the Convention Center two years before its inauguration, surrounded by a young and committed group of people, a significant number of whom even today, 40 years later, are still with us.
We have worked tirelessly, assuming the organization and holding of national and international congresses, the sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the Non-Aligned Summits, the Iberian-American Summit, the Summit of the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States); the congresses of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Federation of Cuban Women and the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions, etc.
We have responded to important and dissimilar tasks of the Cuban Government and State, new facilities have been incorporated into the Palco Business Group as part of the institutional reorganization process in the country, we have expanded services and assumed new responsibilities toward our clients.
I appreciate your opinion that I am considered a respected and beloved figure, since I have been consistent with my professional principles and commitments, but I do not consider it a personal merit. It is the result of collective effort. That personal recognition reflects the work of executives, specialists and even the simplest worker of this Organization. It is everyone’s merit.
I appreciate the working relations with TTC and the opportunity for this interview.
HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF HAVANA’S INTERNATIONAL FAIRS
- 136 nations have participated
- 10,331 national enterprises and 33,277 foreign companies have been represented
- 21,514 national and 51,869 foreign exhibitors have been present
- 551,018 net square meters of exhibition