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Leon, Mexico: Ready for International MeetingsTweet
Oscar Garcia Ramos, Director of Leon\\\\\\\'s CVB, invites Meeting Planners to come get to know LeÃ³n. Send him an email today!
Mexico Meetings Network (MMN): Tell us about your experience in Meetings Tourism and how you came to the job.
Oscar Garcia Ramos (OGR):Â Iâ€™ve been working directly or indirectly in Meetings tourism for 11 years. For six years I was the commercial director of Expo Guadalajara, working on selling that venue to organizers.
After that, I spent two years from 2006 to 2008 working for Aerolineas Mesoamericanas, a low cost, point-to-point airline. In that job, I visited 27 CVBs and other tourism institutions and began to get a sense of what I would do if I were to get the opportunity to run a Convention Bureau. I learned a lot about the things a CVB can do to bring tourism to a destination.
Afterwards, I went to work as the Commercial Director for New Events at the World Trade Center in Mexico City. Most venues in Mexico don\\\\\\\'t understand the creativity and challenges of this job, the importance of working with organizers to give them the support and ideas they need to develop a new event. Poliforum LeÃ³n (Leonâ€™s Convention Center) happens to be one of the few venues that does understand this.
After working at the World Trade Center, I was offered the job in LeÃ³n. My professional profile is a bit different than most CVB directors in Mexico. Â Usually, hoteliers or other tourism professionals are put in charge of the CVBs in Mexico. Â My focus has not Â been on tourism as much as on strategic and financial planning of new products and events. My vision is all about results, about the ROI. What I do in LeÃ³n will be tangible and measurable.
Leon\\\\\\\'s focus has been on the national arena and now we are prepared to Â grow and present ourselves as an international destination.
MMN: How long have you been the Director of the LeÃ³n CVB?
OGR:Â Just four months! But Iâ€™m taking the bull by the horns. Doing this job well means being able to do things quickly and efficiently. I have a small, but dedicated team of seven people and weâ€™re working on our strategic plans for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Â CVB\\\\\\\'s business development team was here before I came and theyâ€™re very talented people, like Sherlock Holmes looking for events. Now we are looking to solicit international RFPs.
MMN: Why did you choose LeÃ³n as a place to focus your talents and efforts?
OGR:Â LeÃ³n has a lot of potential, but we haven\\\\\\\'t taken full advantage of it yet. It has one of the first and best established venues in Mexico (Poliforum LeÃ³n). The venue and the city have experience putting on all kinds of events. Itâ€™s the capital of Mexicoâ€™s shoe and leather industry. It has colonial history and architecture. Since 2003, when Poliforum LeÃ³n expanded, we have had the second largest venue in the country. And, in the past five years Leonâ€™s hotel offering has expanded tremendously.
My job is to fulfill Leonâ€™s potential. If Leon were a car, I would say itâ€™s time to shift gears from second, into third and fourth. Weâ€™re eager to present the international market all that LeÃ³n has to offer. Weâ€™re ready. LeÃ³n is open for business.
One of the things that people should know is that LeÃ³n, by virtue of its central location, guarantees a large participation in any event. We are two hours from 50% of the country\\\\\\\'s population, which makes LeÃ³n very easy to get to.
MMN: Your English is excellent. Â Where did you learn it?
OGR: Â Iâ€˜m a border town boy. I was born in Mexico City, but I grew up in Tijuana and lived there until I got my masterâ€™s degree. I learned English by listening to it and speaking it. I crossed the border every day. My family and friends shopped in the US. In those days, there wasnâ€™t much Spanish language television in Tijuana. I watched ABC, CBS and NBC all broadcast from San Diego. If you live on the border you learn to understand Americans and the American market.
When I was thinking about studying university in the US, I took the TOEFL and scored a 630, which was good enough to get me into any school.
We have a full-time English teacher in our office to help our team learn the language. Â One of our staffers worked at Disneyworld in Orlando and speaks perfect English, so anyone who calls will be well taken care of. I want to offer our potential clients excellent service. Â If they donâ€™t find what theyâ€™re looking for, weâ€™ll help them to figure it out.
MMN: Why should a Meeting Planner contact the LeÃ³n CVB, instead of going directly to one of the cityâ€™s venues?
OGR: Working with the CVB can save you money on your event and give you access to things you might not have known about. Â We can get other parts of the state to participate in your event. We have access to the mayor, the state governor and the chambers of commerce. Â Weâ€™re in touch with the leading tourist attractions. Weâ€™ll work hard to make sure you get the best experience, the most memorable experience possible, and that everyone feels great when the event is over. We want you to come back to Leon!
MMN: Tell me aboutLeonâ€™s 2010 highlights.
OGR:Â Probably the biggest highlight was the World Youth Conference, held here in August of 2010. We received 20,000 people from all around the world and the event completely filled the city. Â
The ISO, International Organization of Standardization, held its 17th Plenary meetings in LeÃ³n in July of 2010.
We had another huge event, which was the Legionnaires of Christ schools conference. There were 20,000 people here for that event and they filled all our hotels from three to five stars.
Also, this year we enjoyed the halo effect of the Bicentennial of Mexico\\\\\\\'s Independence from Spain, and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Thereâ€™s a lot of history in the state of Guanajuato; it played important roles in the fight for independence and the revolution and many people came here to celebrate.
We also have a number of important annual events: our signature event is the Hot Air Balloon Festival, the Festival del Globo (FIG), which is the second largest hot air balloon festival in the world after the festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year we had 200 balloons and 350,000 people attended from Leon, other parts of Mexico and around the World.
We also have Moto Fiesta, a big motorcycle rally each November. Â The annual â€œSalon de la Pielâ€ event in September is all about leather design and production. And, we host Rally Mexico, a World Rally Championship event thatâ€™s like Formula 1. We have a great track here and people come to camp out around the racetrack.
This year we set a record with 187,000 people coming from other parts of Mexico and internationally to participate in events in LeÃ³n.
MMN: What are your plans for 2011?
OGR: In 2011, weâ€™re working to consolidate our position in the events market. Our challenge is to make LeÃ³n known as a great destination for events in the world. Â We need to be playing with the big guys. Â We have a big city (1.6 million people, fifth largest city in Mexico) and good infrastructure.
People need to know that there is a great city called LeÃ³n in Mexico.And, we are one of the safest places in Mexico. It is a city with a high quality of life and good security.
MMN: The Mexican Tourism Board has named LeÃ³n an Emerging Destination. What does this designation mean?
OGR: They have actually called LeÃ³n an Emerging International Destination, which is to say that we should not only be considered for the national market. We are emerging because Meeting International planners are used to working with Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara and CancÃºn. They don\\\\\\\'t know about LeÃ³n yet, but they need to. For us, itâ€™s very important that the Tourism Board has great expectations for us as a destination for international events. This makes us proud and we have to work to realize this potential.
MMN: For a Meeting Planner who doesn\\\\\\\'t know LeÃ³n, what cities in the US would you compare it with?
OGR: Well, I wouldn\\\\\\\'t compare it by size, since Mexican cities are so big. But I think you can compare LeÃ³n with San Juan Puerto Rico in terms of its quality of life. In terms of the size of its venue, it compares well with San Diego.
Another good example might be Philadelphia. Like Philadelphia we have a lot of history and important sites to visit. Pancho Villa was governor here during the Mexican Revolution. The city is 435 years old, so it has a lot of history. It began making shoes for the Spanish Viceroy in 1645 and became the shoe and leather capital of the world.
Leon is a great place to shop because youâ€™re not in a traditional mall setting, but can go from leather shop to leather shop in the Leather Zone. There youâ€™ll find high quality and good prices. There are shoes, leather jackets, boots, purses and bags, all great value. Â
MMN: What are the things that make LeÃ³n unique for MICE tourism?
- 1. Â Its central location. Â
- 2. The connectivity, in terms of highways and flights.
- 3. The high level of security and safety we enjoy here.
- 4. The wide range of activities for tourists.
- 5. And finally, its meetings infrastructure and the professionals here who are trained to help organizations and planners execute world-class events.Â
MMN: If a Meeting Planner wants to visit LeÃ³n to see if it is right for his/her event what should they do?
If youâ€™re a small group and want to visit us, we can put together a trip for you very quickly. We can host site inspections or fam trips. We can set up meetings for you with local authorities from the mayor to the chambers of commerce.
And when you get here, weâ€™ll invite you up in a hot air balloon to see LeÃ³n from the air.
Weâ€™redoing our website, http://LeÃ³n-mexico.com. You can find information there. But, really, we want you to experience LeÃ³n. Consider this a formal invitation to come get to know us.