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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite the political turmoil, a weak economy, and a worrying health epidemic, Brazil finished 2015 as the 11th most popular destination in the world for international meetings and conventions. 2015 was a record year of growth for this market, one that more and more countries are focusing on given its potential to generate jobs and income.

Brazil, Brazil news, Rio de Janeiro
The new Riocentro Convention Center in Barra da Tijuca highlights importance of convention market, photo by Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil.

According to Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), a non-profit organization headquartered in the Netherlands, just released the results of its yearly survey this past week showing that in 2015, the international meetings and conventions segment hit a record high in 2015 with 12,076 such events taking place around the world, 571 more than in 2014.

The ICCA survey showed that Brazil hosted 2.4 percent, or approximately 292 such events in the world last year. Though this is one more than in 2014, for 2015, Brazil fell out of the top ten, dropping one position from the previous year, going from the 10th to the 11th position.

Since the start of the survey in 2003, Brazil has seen remarkable growth in this area as the number of international meetings and conferences held in the country has more than quadrupled, from 62 to the current 292.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, business events and conventions represent 21.9 percent of the foreign tourists visiting Brazil. Importantly, the average expenditure per person from this segment is US$103.06 per day, which is 18.5 percent more than the average per day expenditure from people visiting Brazil for leisure.

“I believe that tourism will be one of the levers of recovery for the Brazilian economy,” said Minister of Tourism, Henrique Eduardo Alves, “the business sector is crucial for the country to reduce the effect of seasonality and increase earnings in the travel industry.” Secretary Alves added, “The country needs to invest in event attractions to generate employment and income for the population, this is one of our greatest challenges.”

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil conventions and meetings have quadrupled since 2003, photo courtesy of Brazil Ministry of Tourism.

To be counted in the ICCA rankings, the meeting or event must follow certain criteria: they must be organized by a group or association, be held on a regular basis, have at least fifty delegates, and rotate between at least three countries.

In the survey, the ICCA explained that although the rankings provide pertinent data on the relative performance of a country, a complete diagnosis can only be made after a thorough analysis of all the data relating to events that occur in a destination.

“It’s always risky to draw conclusions from a single year of information, but it seems that the competition is getting harder for the traditional market leaders, as there is rapid growth beyond the top ten,” said the ICCA President, Martin Sirk.

According to Sirk, the figures also showed a trend where many of the major destinations are beginning to create their own international events, rather than seeking traditional events organized by associations.

The top country for international meetings and conferences in 2015 was the U.S., which had also taken the top spot in 2014, with 925 events last year. Rounding out the top five were Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and France.

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