The city of Mar del Plata (Argentina) is the host destination of the ICCA Latin American and Caribbean Summit 2023, prevailing over Santiago de Chile and Rio de Janeiro.
ICCA Latin American & the Caribbean Summit is the most important regional event of the international association dedicated to the MICE segment, made up of more than 1,100 companies and organizations from almost 100 countries around the world.
In this context, Travel2latam had the opportunity to talk with Valeria Méndez, General Director of the Municipal Tourism Entity of Mar del Plata about the organization of the event, national and international tourism in the city, hotels and investments, and all the details about the MICE segment.
What does it mean for the city of Mar del Plata to host an event as important as this?
Without a doubt it is a very important achievement. We are always trying to attract these types of events because Mar del Plata wants to position itself year after year to host major events not only in sports, but also in the MICE segment in meeting tourism.
We are members of ICCA, we actively participate in attracting and researching new events to apply as a venue, with the aim of making us known and differentiating ourselves from the City of Buenos Aires. We have been doing this work for a long time and today we are seeing the fruits. The fact that ICCA members from Latin America come to see a city that is a seaside resort but has a lot to offer is very important to us.
Mar del Plata is very productive, not only do we have the port, but it is a city of almost a million inhabitants, which receives more than 9 million tourists annually. What's more, two or three years ago 140,000 tourists arrived and in 2023 we closed May with half a million. In general we receive tourists nearby and in the summer from a little further away, such as the north of the country, but it is not only that, we have just had the Winter Enduro in Mar del Plata, which is a race that was held in the summer in another destination and Mar del Plata captured it, we also had the MaxiBasketball, and these great events are making the city internationalize. Furthermore, in recent years we have been participating in foreign fairs to explain the competitive difference with Buenos Aires that has to do with transfers and the sustainability of the destination, which today is one of the most sought after topics in the MICE segment. That is why we aim for this event to be clearly sustainable with products made locally, with recycled and reusable materials.
What would be the most interesting international source markets?
Without a doubt Latin America, not only for meeting tourism, but we are going a lot to Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia, which are very large segments for us. Chile is student tourism, Paraguay is tourism for young people who come to the city, like Uruguay, who are looking at a market that, due to the economic-financial situation, is worth visiting. We have quite segmented within these countries where we aim; On the one hand there is the young segment, since after Ibiza, Mar del Plata receives the most important electronic parties, and in fact we have private flights from San Pablo. Brazil is very connected with entertainment, and the same thing happens in Paraguay, visitors are very interested in theater and what we offer for leisure here in Mar del Plata.
Does the city receive foreign tourists who come to Buenos Aires and discover that a few hours away there is a pearl like Mar del Plata?
We have to continue working to target other segments that are unknown to us, which has to do with the American market, because Buenos Aires is well known and then the great pillars such as the waterfalls, the vineyards in Mendoza, Buenos Aires because there is tango and the South, and in the middle of them is the most important spa city for all Argentines. So of course we have many attractions with which we continue to target international tourism. Without a doubt, connectivity is also an important factor, train, bus and plane. We have two airports and we are not that far away either, and you don't even need a car to explore Mar del Plata, it is a city to walk around and where taxi and remis services or cars by app operate without problem.
The summer season is approaching, what is the expectation and how are you working in that context?
The summer is being very successful, it was already last summer and this year we celebrate the city's 150th anniversary, which means it is going to be an incredible season, whether the weather is good or not, because it is something that we cannot handle, but the activities There are, that is, the proposal of art, culture and great musical events, added to the celebrations for the 150 years, there will be a large number of activities in the city that we are already putting together.
How are you working with the private sector to expand hotel capacity?
We have always worked very well with the private sector, in fact the Tourism Entity has a board of directors, and we also make decisions in many cases jointly, and we are willing, together with our mayor, to receive new investments so that they come to bet on Mar del Plata, so that they generate jobs and defend the tourism industry and all other industries that occur in the city. Investments are an important point, beyond the fact that Mar del Plata has 55,000 hotel beds, it also has 350,000 non-hotel beds, meaning that we have diversity in the non-hotel area and new types of accommodation, such as glamping, cabins or petit hotels, which have become very fashionable in the last two or three years.