After two positively-rated annual BestCities Global Forum (Dubai in 2016, and Tokyo in 2017), the third edition re-united senior international association executives and the twelve partner cities to Bogotá, Colombia. Hosted by the Greater Bogotá Convention Bureau (GBCB) along with the BestCities Global Alliance, the event fully encompassed its theme with a constant flow of inspiring stories about the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Bogotá – essentially making it an excellent experience to learn about the only Latin-American destination member in the BestCities Global Alliance.
Ken TJX reports
Bogotá Seized the Spotlight and Shined
Nestled in the heart of the Andes, 2,640 metres above sea level is a vibrant melting pot of all the cultural and gastronomic diversity of Colombia. An eclectic and energetic fusion of tastes, music, and colourful streets (that double as an open gallery of imaginative street art that captures the history, stories and hopes of the warm local inhabitants).
The capital of Colombia is an active economic epicentre and business hub of the country. Bogotá is well-connected to the world with over 700 air routes from 44 destinations; there are 1,500 multinational corporations operating in Bogotá (including 73 of the most important companies listed on the Fortune 500, and 62% of the 500 largest businesses in Latin America). This megacity is Colombia’s most competitive city with the largest per capita income in the region.
Bogotá is certainly equipped with the necessary infrastructure to carry out large events (having successfully hosted the One Young World Summit and World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in 2017). The newly opened Grand Hyatt Bogotá was an impeccable choice as the headquarter hotel for the BestCities Global Forum 2018. Bogotá’s newest convention centre Ágora Bogotá, the Grand Hyatt Bogotá, and Torre EAR Calle 100 – Convention Center all hosted a day of the Global Forum.
By nature, MICE events are opportunities to show (first-hand) how security concerns are managed. Generally perceived as a dangerous city, I experienced a different reality during my stay. If you consider the fact that Coca-Cola moved its business unit from San Jose to Bogotá, and Amazon chose this location for their first service centre in South America, the fear and safety concerns seem superfluous.
The Power of People
While the current sense of stability, facts and figures are sufficient to give Bogotá a chance for your next global business event, it is the optimistic, enterprising and passionate people of Bogotá who will truly win you over. After all, it is the people driving the strong business structure that has managed to coordinate the public and private sectors to collectively strengthen the destination’s economic and social development.
As Jorge Mario Díaz, President of the Board of GBCB says:
“We strongly believe that each person has the power to make a fundamental difference, that can shape the future and make a positive change. People are the essence of this industry, and this industry is a vessel to achieve wider and bigger impacts. As an alliance, we want to highlight the true power of the people within it and believe the forum will help us achieve this.”
People play a unique role in making significant changes and progressions in the meetings and events industry, and there isn’t a better time to enshrine ‘people’ at the core of the message. By focusing on the people, we can look beyond ROI and truly leave lasting legacies. The event was a testament that business events can help facilitate local stakeholders to do more, and the innumerous ways local community can value-add to the business events industry, and capitalise on it as a growth platform for their community and cause.
Real, Inspiring Content
The four-day session (9-12 December 2018) featured inspiring local speakers, thought-provoking workshops, and transparent knowledge-sharing between partner cities. The event was infused with GBCB’s ‘Synergies for Change’ initiative which puts people at the core of the project. Staying true to the theme, the programme showcased innovative ways locals drive change from within their battled communities regardless of surroundings or situation.
Inspiring highlights include Neyder Culchac, a youth leader from Putumayo who shared about his life story, the power of determination, and his initiative that transformed the lives of 480 families within his community (despite growing up surrounded by conflict). Carlos Lopez from Magicians Without Borders recounted his heartening experience of bringing his trained band of children magicians from Ciudad, Bolivar (a zone with the highest number of displaced individuals) to New York for a sold-out performance at a Broadway theatre. During the ‘Sound of Bogotá Breakfast’ session, we learned about the power of people behind music – As UNESCO’s Creative City of Music 2012, Colombia’s diverse music genres created opportunities for the people; live events promote local talent and strengthen the infrastructure.
The most inspirational experience of all was the ‘Weaving Peace tour’, which featured powerful stories of big transformation led by peace weavers and their communities, such as Juan Antonio and his son from Distrito Chocolate, and Hernando and Christina Chindoy from Wausikamas Coffee. The impactful tour exposed us to the heart and soul of Bogotá, as we met (chat, and sample the products of) Colombian farmers who were victims of the drugs trade, rebuilding their lives from illegal (cocaine) to legal (cacao and coffee) activities, planting the seeds of peace towards a sustainable future.
Bogotá is worth a visit to witness their exciting state of transformation – from a country of problem to a country of solution. If every city can awaken the power of her people, perhaps that’s how we can begin to change the world for the better? People are a key driver for change; creativity and entrepreneurship can stimulate change. I believe BestCities Global Forum 2018 has successfully achieved its goal of inspiring associations to create bigger, better, and more impactful meetings. The next edition of the Global Forum will be taking place in Copenhagen from 8-11 December 2019.
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