A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the ProExports Colombia to attend an event to find out more about Colombia as a MICE (meetings, incentives, congress, expo) destination. A few people that I work with have gone to see rose growers in Colombia and have expressed what a beautiful destination it is. While they never had any fear for their lives, they understood that the concerns were there.
Someone please tell me that they've got other things than just FRIED stuff in Colombia!!
I was waffling on whether or not to attend. I just didn't see it as a safe destination for my group - you've heard it all: shootings, kidnappings, murders, muggings, robbery, drug trade, civil wars...the list goes on and on. However, my curiousity of the unknown got the best of me and I decided to attend.
Preserved Fig in Arequipe (dulce de leche)
Let me explain something - I hate going to industry events. Don't get me wrong - they're always well run with free flowing booze, food, prizes and take aways. The problem is that I'm a department of one and as such I have to attend these big events by myself. And since I'm on my own, the only people for me to talk to are the vendors. I'm not big on small talk (I'll generally ask all kinds of personal questions that are none of my business within 5 minutes of meeting you) so these types of functions actually kill me slowly and painfully.
As Eli Gorin, CMP from Miami was giving the presentation from a US meeting planner's perspective, I started to perk up. Benefits:
- about 8 hours or so from LAX to Bogota
- 2 1/2 to Cartagena from Miami
- produce and foods grown/produced locally without relying on imports (cost savings if you do events)
- strong dollar
- no tax for foreign companies
- PADI 5 scuba diving, water sports, culture, history, shopping
Did I mention the strong dollar value??
As for safety, I'm no dummy. I realize the challenges that are faced there. I also realize that some of it really relies on the common sense that you would use when you travel anywhere. Don't wear flashy jewelry, don't flash the cash, lay low, and be respectful. Why wouldn't you follow that premise where ever you go?? Kidnappings in Bogota are usually of government officials, military officers, wealthy businessmen, etc etc. It's not going to be some meeting planner from LA. I'm poorer than the kidnappers. By the time the presenation was over, I was totally on board and thinking about visiting Cartagena or Medellin for my vacation this year!
That's when it happened: I answered a question correctly and won a 2 night stay in Medellin! Woah. That never happens! A few minutes later, they announced that they were going to do the grand prize drawing - Airfare AND hotel at the Intercontinental...and they picked ME!!! I won a trip to Medellin, Colombia!!! Dates are still TBD but I'm actually excited about going! (despite the "don't get kidnapped" comments I've been receiving.) Incidentally, I'll probably get some sort of insurance - I'm not completely out of my mind.
**Incidentally, the only thing that I know about Medellin comes from watching Entourage and, as I was reminded, Clear and Present Danger...sad, I know...