TBY talks to Nicolás Romero, General Manager of Guayaquil Convention Center, on turning the city into a convention and event hub, priority sectors, and expansion plans.
TBY Guayaquil Convention Center is located in the city’s former airport. Why did you decide on this location, and how was it possible to turn it into a convention center?
NICOLÁS ROMERO It was possible due to the infrastructure that has been developed over the last 20 years in the city. Guayaquil is a very modern city, with many interesting places to visit, as well as several historical spots. Guayaquil thus attracted private investment within the tourism industry, including new hotels and restaurants.
Guayaquil used to have a small but successful trade show and fair venue. In 2005, several businessmen started to think that it was about time for the city to have a convention center that met international standards. Afterward, the mayor started to look for entrepreneurs, and these few decided to invest. That is how the convention center was built. We opened our doors four and a half years ago. Becoming an important, regional international hub for conventions and corporate tourism takes a while. In the meantime, we have tried to expand local demand. If you look at our competitors, they have not decreased their sales. However, we are number one in market share for all kinds of events, and our share of the market overall is 40%. However, none of our competitors have decreased their volumes. That means that overall demand has expanded no less than 25% per year over the last four years. Conventions have more than doubled in the last three or four years. Meanwhile, we have been working toward becoming an important hub for conventions.
Which markets do you target as a priority?
Instead of countries, we target sectors. For instance, logistics is a very important sector. That’s why we created the Logistics and Foreign Trade Exposition & Conference. Besides being a convention center administrator and operator, we are also an event promoter. We have been trying to promote the kind of events that were non-existent in the city. The first two years we promoted and invested in live concerts on our own. This was due to the fact that Quito had 70% of the musical shows in Ecuador, whereas Guayaquil had 15%. We have achieved the role of increasing that percentage in the last three or four years. This year we have booked maybe 150% more concerts than last year. Over the last two years we have been focusing our efforts on creating and selling trade shows and conventions. Why and how we decide what sector to develop an event for is due to our competitive advantages as a company and as a city.
Logistics is a sector that has grown tremendously in Guayaquil in the last decade. In 2000 we had one public port with 10 piers, and now we have more than five ports, almost all of them private. Altogether, we have 20 piers.
Is there any international event that you dream can someday be organized in Guayaquil?
Our dream is to have one international world convention every month, meaning a convention of no less than 1,000 to 1,500 people. That is our vision for 2015.
One of our strengths is diversification. Our biggest customer represents less than 10% of our total sales, and not one single type of event represents more than 30% of our total sales. Trade shows are up almost 20%, congresses are up 10%, and conventions are also up 10%. We want to keep it like that.
Do you plan to expand your facilities or make investments in the near future?
We have not stopped investing since we opened. We started with trade show facilities. Then, we built a convention room. We developed an office facility within the building a couple of years later, building 9,000 sqm of offices, and targeting companies related to our industry. That strategy was intended to bring in business allies and potential partners. For example, there is CORPEI, an agency that organizes trade meetings and commercial missions. It has become not just a customer but an associate. We also have audio and video companies in our office building, as well as event organizers, among others. That’s how we fulfill our service promise to our customers to be a one-stop-shop facility. Last year, we invested heavily in technology. The latest investments included state-of-the-art software for rooms, spaces, inventory, as well as other sophisticated software and hardware. From June 2012, we will be able to tell a customer how many people are in attendance, at what time they entered the trade show, at what time they left, and how many minutes they stopped at particular stands.
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