In December, BestCities Alliance participants gathered in Bogotá, Colombia – the only Latin American city in the Alliance – for the annual Global Forum. Now in its third year, the Forum has continued to gain strength, offering a wealth of content and wonderful hosts who can capture and engage an audience – traits that certainly befit this year’s ‘Power of the People’ theme.
Following Dubai in 2016 and Tokyo in 2017, the members of the BestCities Alliance invited a delegation of international associations to Bogotá at the end of 2018 as a way to enhance the skills and knowledge of association executives based globally. Held in collaboration with the Greater Bogotá Convention Bureau (GBCB), the Forum honed in on the concept of creating change regardless of your surroundings – a perspective that made all the more sense in the Colombian capital, a city recovering from a complicated past.
What is the BestCities Global Alliance ?
The BestCities Global Alliance is a worldwide partnership of convention bureaux whose objective is to deliver the world’s best convention bureau practices for the meetings industry. The Alliance comprises members in Vancouver, Bogotá, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Edinburgh, Houston, Melbourne, Singapore, Tokyo, Madrid and Berlin. The members exchange business leads, organize sales missions and client workshops, and share best practices and knowledge on the international meetings industry. Together with ICCA, BestCities initiated the Incredible Impacts Programme, which celebrates the “beyond tourism” lasting impacts made by associations; gives inspiring legacy examples; and awards much-deserved grants to internationally-based organizations.
Local elements weaved their way into the Forum in the form of personal stories. Neyder Culchac, a young leader from Putumayo, a region in southwest Colombia, shared some of the conflicts he faced growing up that later inspired an initiative that transformed the lives of 480 families in his community. Lina Tangarife, Director of Social Responsibility at the Social Alliance of Uniandinos, meanwhile, has strengthened volunteering among public and private sector companies, making her a prime example of “The Power of People.” While her story is impressive enough, Tangarifealso offered attendees sound advice on how to activate networks.
Besides traditional lectures – Rick Antonson and his cathedral thinking made a popular comeback – the Forum included hands-on, workshop-like sessions, which participants greatly appreciated. “I rarely attend these events, but BestCities provided the ideal platform for me not only to network with my peers, share my issues, and discuss my challenges, but also to participate in engaging discussions and find concrete solutions through innovative formats,” explained Diane Kovats, Executive Director of the International Society for Computational Biology.
The Power of Bogotá
At a time when geopolitical issues and religious boundaries can create barriers for knowledge sharing and collaboration, Bogotá set the ideal backdrop for inspirational thinking. Despite itsown set of challenges, the Colombian capital is a very appealing city. The friendliness, enthusiasm and warmth of its residents quickly twist the perception visitors may have of the destination, undermining flaws such as mobility (which the government is currently working on). Case in point: Bogotá is known as the bike capital of the continent, with a network of more than 350km of bike paths and “Ciclovías” cycling routes, used by approximately 2.5 million people every day.
As Colombia’s economic epicentre and business hub, Bogotá is an emerging conference destination with plenty of assets. Connectivity is just one highlight, with over 700 air routes from 44 destinations. Bogotá has also been voted the fifth best city for business in Latin America, and, with over 60 universities, knowledge and innovation are continuously on the rise.
With a strong portfolio of association wins – The World Summit of Peace Laureates and One Young World, the most important summit of young leaders, took place there in 2017; the International Conference on Production Research in 2018 – Bogotá has caught plenty of global attention lately — and the city is ready for more. In recent years, Bogotá’s diverse economy and favourable business environment have attracted large amounts of foreign investments, as well as business activities and events from organizations based all around the globe, securing the city’s position internationally as a business and conference hub in Latin America.
For some participants, this dynamism was an eye-opener. As Iain Bitran, Executive Director of the International Society for Professional Innovation Management, explained: “I was not sure what to expect when I came to Bogotá. But with its wide range of infrastructure for events and its wonderful people eager to make a positive change, the city is really inspiring; now I’m really considering organizing something here.”
The Forum’s goal was to show the power conferences and meetings have on communities, creating change and leaving legacies for and by the communities involved – a goal that was certainly achieved this year.
This article was written by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé. Picture: the whole delegation of partners and associations in Bogotá.