Interview published by Sandra Reed (Meetings Alliance) on April 8, 2020 via LinkedIn

Meet Elizabeth Tovar, General Secretary of COCAL, President of the Dominican Association of Tour Operators (OPETUR) and founder of Turenlaces.

Spotlight On is honored to introduce one of the most iconic women in the Meeting Industry of the American continent, Elizabeth Tovar, Founder and President of Turenlaces, and Secretary General of COCAL. She is a citizen of the world born in Venezuela who studied in Italy to reach the United States and finally create her home in the Dominican Republic.

Although she is an economist by profession, she loves traveling so much that tourism had a plan for her. It was on the Caribbean island that she founded Turenlaces with a great friend back in 1990, a company that today is the Caribbean leader in congresses and events, something accomplished by her perseverance, and as she says: “the sky is the limit”.

“Back then it was just tourism, it wasn’t meeting tourism, it didn’t look like an industry. Today we are just developing MICE in Latam and I want to see it flourish, we are at the roots and it is because we have not identified that we must be together to captivate the world ”, he pointed out with the assurance that more than 30 years in the industry give him.

Covid-19 is the obligatory topic. How do they do it in Turenlaces?

Inwardly, the first thing Elizabeth decided is to “stretch the blanket” as far as possible to avoid failing the human staff that has led Turenlaces to be # 1 in the region. Outwards, thanks to the trust gained with clients, suppliers and hotels, almost no events were canceled, they have been postponed between August and December.

“We are working at home as if it were the office, taking this time to train and improve our staff. We are seeing 2021 as a boom year ”, she stated with certainty.

From the COCAL showcase, what are you doing to address the crisis?

Beyond the basic recommendations from COCAL, a compilation of informative notes has been made in the 18 countries that make up the federation, which together with the opinions of its members and the monitoring of the strategies of the different governments, are seeking the particular form of help each nation.

One of the strategies that stands out is the use of lobbyist — characters with a high level of influence who can reach the source — to reach out to governments and make them see the needs of the industry. “We are making a common front, all of us interact with wealthy people, many of our clients have close relationships with authorities, that facilitates the route to get the message to the executor; thus letting governments know how much we produce and how quickly we can recover a country, “emphasized Tovar.

She also advised industry professionals, once this contingency is over, to dedicate time to universities to help get better professionals and who are duly certified to put the industry on top.

Does this virus tell us that the virtual age is getting closer?

For Elizabeth there is nothing like a face-to-face event, because there are unique things that arise like active exchange between professionals, continuous networking, which is a boiling of ideas and questions for anyone who gives conferences,  “we do not have that in the virtual, but if this virus persists, it could be an option ”.

“At COCAL we have had meetings with people from 18 countries and we are using technology. In fact, the Meetings Alliance has been an extraordinary ally for us in this regard. We have long collaborated with monthly webinars, but in this last month the Meetings Alliance has been who has offered us the virtual meetings, ”said Elizabeth Tovar.

What have been the most important moments in your professional life?

“My key moment in the world of tourism was when I was able to convey to the university students the tourism career, which is the Meeting Industry. I did it by managing with the directors of the universities to let them know that there was more than just the hotels, ”he began to remember longingly.

Her participation in the Latin American Federation of Banks was of great growth and gave her a vision: “It was a very American event in Latin territory, I understood that we do not always have to impose our culture, but rather do things well while respecting the customs of the venues ”, she advised.

The day she was named president of the Dominican Association of Tour Operators was special, because not being a tour operator — she has a license for her trade — and being chosen by her colleagues became more than a competition, a guide. She has lived three non-consecutive periods in that position and is currently in her fourth stint.

“It is a satisfaction to have received several awards with which I have been honored, but assuming the General Secretary of COCAL has made me see a world of opportunities.