A few years ago the economy of “the city of eternal spring”, as Medellin is also known, was driven by industry. Today, we have a completely different situation: Business tourism, fairs and events are the new engines moving the GDP of the capital of the Antioquia department.
The economic bonanza Medellín is undergoing at the moment is the result of an internationalization strategy put in place by several of the city’s most iconic braintrusts. The focus of this strategy is the Business tourism, fairs and events sector; and it quickly established Medellín as one of the most attractive Latin American cities for investment.
The latest DANE numbers (DANE = Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística, or National Statistics Administrative Department) show that 29% of the city’s GDP is made up by the commerce, hotels and tourism industry. 22% is personal services (creative industries, artists, freelancers, content creation), and thirdly, industry occupies the other 20%.
For Gabriel Jaime Rico, Management Director of Plaza Mayor (the largest convention center in Medellín), the internationalization process that the city is experiencing at the moment is synonymous with employment. According to DANE, by April 2014 the unemployment rate in the city was at 10.4%
“During the last 20 months, the unemployment rate has been decreasing pretty steadily. This phenomenon has a close correlation with the growth of the fame of the city at an international level. The economic impact can be seen on the recent employment boom brought about by Medellin’s number one job creator: the commerce, hotel and tourism industry.”
The arrival of visitors into the city is synonymous with hotel occupancy, taxi usage, and expenditure at restaurants and other businesses. “When a tourist or visitor arrives in a city they spend about $500.000 and a million pesos a day. This is immediately reflected on Medellin’s economic results,” Rico stated.
One of the most important events the city has ever hosted was the World Urban Forum‐UN Habitat at Plaza Mayor, which had nearly 60.000 attendees, 11.000 of whom where international visitors from 156 different countries. Calculations say that this represented a $50 billion USD profit for the city.
Plaza Mayor is the main event manager in Colombia. Last year, 2.167 different events took place there, earning the city $100 billion COP/Colombian Pesos. The Plaza Mayor events alone saw a combined total of 1.3 billion people just in 2013.
“Our business is to make these numbers stand the test of time and to get more attendants outside of the Colombian usual big attractors: Colombiamoda, Colombiatex, Expofinca and Expoartesanos. We want these events to continue happening in the long run, which will happen only when the world’s perception of our country improves a bit,” Rico concluded.