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Lambertus Matthijs De Kool is the Executive Director of the William O. Jenkins Convention Centre (Centro de Convenciones Puebla)
Interview with Lambertus Matthijs De Kool
What examples are you trying to set here in Puebla?
We continue to be entrusted with many tasks, something which makes us very glad, because we are delivering results towards something new, which is what the governor is seeking. Therefore, being on a continuous growth path, you are often on the run. What I’m getting at is that, in a large organization like this, you are often required to put the house in order. But every time you are given fresh challenges and new tasks, that you have to take charge of new parks – for example, we have Puebla’s star attraction, which is the 260-feet high observation wheel – all of these have to be dealt with in this single organization. It follows that, as a director, you want to get organized in terms of making things work at home, if you get me. And this government’s great dynamism barely allows us to, which in fact is a measure of our success, and leads me to make another point. Why does the whole world have its sights set on Puebla? Because of this government’s great dynamism. There is so much dynamism in this government, there is so much work to be done, meaning our governor never rests; not because he’s my boss, but that’s the way it is. And we see him in all of Puebla, and all of Mexico sees him, essentially because he’s committed to what goes on in Puebla. We are creating conditions for businesses to invest, something which wasn´t the case for many years. Conditions in terms of safety, in terms of education. As I mentioned, this is the second state in the country with the highest number of universities. We have a very young and very skilled population, at all levels of training. Consequently, we have large companies, such as Audi or Volkswagen, with the latter having already decided to expand by two more production lines, since the governor has been in office. These companies cannot locate in Puebla without the necessary conditions, at the level of infrastructure, roads and safety, as well as social conditions. We have had no strikes, which is very important. So to wrap up my point, I feel Mexico must pay attention to the examples we are trying to set here in Puebla.
What are your comments regarding this great potential the State of Puebla has, and why should all these clients, businesses and people who may want to organize an event, a conference or the like, pick you?
To begin with, when you’re out to find a client who wants to organize an exhibition or a conference, you need an office to handle these relationships, which we have here at the Tourism Secretariat, jointly with Puebla’s Convention Center. There’s a lot of competition at the national level. There are over 70 venues, of all sizes. Perhaps not of our size, but we do compete with some five other destinations to attract important events. What matters to a client in the end? Essentially a stable labor climate, a stable social climate, safety and connectivity. Like I said, from the motorway to the exhibition venue takes just 3 minutes. The motorway is currently undergoing works temporarily, until we can benefit from a great motorway, which is to become one of the country’s main arteries: from Veracruz – the country’s main container port – towards Mexico City via Puebla. What else does an exhibition or conference organizer look for in this case? He seeks out what’s on offer in terms of hotel accommodation, which we have been able to increase by up to 70 per cent, not to mention the fact that over 1,200 more rooms are currently being built, in different stages, by a variety of hotel chains. What happened in Puebla is that hoteliers themselves were smart. They took to Puebla and sought out for themselves the conditions to invest and build their hotels. What does the government do? We are facilitators. We need hotels to be built without bureaucracy, avoiding lengthy procedures, thus ensuring investors are happy with regards to bureaucracy and with the necessary administrative steps.
What does an exhibition or conference organizer look for? He seeks out what’s on offer in terms of hotel accommodation, which we have been able to increase by up to 70 per cent, not to mention the fact that over 1,200 more rooms are currently being built.
Returning to conference organizers, proximity to the airport is also important, at the end of the day. We have grown the airport recently, with flights to Panama, which provides us with a hub covering all South America, connecting 78 different destinations. We also enjoy international connectivity with Dallas and Houston, which provide hubs towards the North, and the rest of the world, through Europe. You can travel from anywhere in the world to Puebla airport. At the national level, we have Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana and Cancun, which makes for a total of seven weekly flights from the airport. We also need to understand something I always underline, which is that Puebla in fact has two airports: that of Mexico City, the AICM, and that of Puebla. The former is between an hour and a half and two hours away, while the other is half an hour away. We also have perfect connections to Puebla airport with high-end Estrella Roja buses, as well as a number of shuttle services, which can be hired for your event.
Finally, there’s the actual venue. Now, we can certainly say we have a large venue infrastructure. The exhibition wing is just 5 minutes away from the historic quarter, where there are a number of hotels. It lies some 10-15 minutes from the Finsa Industrial Park, as well as various other hotel zones. As such, we have a wide range of hotels available within a 15 minute radius, allowing people to enjoy a comfortable stay,while knowing that Puebla is the country’s fourth largest city.
Given an extensive road infrastructure, it is possible to cross Puebla in 20-30 minutes, whether going from North to South or from East to West. Proximity is a very pleasant feature, which is also very important for your event. Furthermore, as a colonial city with UNESCO World Heritage status since 1987, with over 2,000 buildings protected by the INAH (the National Institute for Anthropology and History), we are well endowed for a particular kind of social event, in the different yards and esplanades, which is a plus; where people can organize their cocktail parties, dinners, meals and hold their various events. I gave you examples, but the fact that events come here is just one side of the story. One thing is how to conquer an event, so that it takes place in Puebla. On the other hand, how do we keep it here? In many cases, it’s not just about holding an event one year and letting it go away. Far from it. We want it to happen again and that’s where the strength lies. Then it’s up to me, here at the venue, to deliver the best possible service there is, to ensure clients go away satisfied. So we’re striving to achieve with excellence what I mentioned to you before, which is the need to attain a level of self-sufficiency in terms of what we offer internally, in order to resolve a client’s request within just a few minutes: additional services, chairs, tables, a screen, a projector, for instance, all of which we have in-house. A rapid response is vital for clients, as well as the issue of meals and drinks. And it’s then we realize, from constantly holding events, that a single event can give rise to two or three new events, with entirely different presenters. That is the challenge: to attain excellence, in order to keep filling this great venue.