It was when eating calçots. Sitting around a table, with a dirty face and sticky fingers, Mireia Esplugas realised that that group of colleagues of her, French specialist doctors, would always remember that moment, and that Tarragona could and should become the venue for the next Congrés de la Societat Espanyola de Cirurgia de la Mà (Hand Surgery Spanish Association Congress). Before the summer, Esplugas supported the candidacy before major rivals such as Barcelona and Las Palmas, but succeeded in the end: the Palau de Congressos de Tarragona (Tarragona Conference Centre) will become the venue for the meeting due in 2019. The city will gather around five hundred hand surgery specialists for three days, an unbiased public that can appreciate the experiences gained on a professional trip.
“Tarragona is a human-friendly city, well communicated, with a unique character and nice weather. We live in a top-notch area, with great potential, but we lack the pride other regions can apply when selling the destination… I am fully convinced that the world moves on thanks to tiny little pushes, and that everyone, each person in relation to their own possibilities can do positive things that have a wider impact”. When talking to Mireia Esplugas, we soon realise that being an ambassador seems a bit understated.
Being a very active woman, Esplugas makes use of her five senses at all times. The same passion she feels on her love towards Tarragona, the city she moved 13 years ago, makes sense of everything that makes her feel fulfilled, which is a lot. Outside her hand surgery consultation, specialization on which she is a true national referent and on which she spends many hours, she undertakes scientific research, she does running, sings on a gospel group, and still has some energy for her family and picking mushrooms, among others. Doctor Esplugas performs a lot of stunts in her life, and this is not figurative, since she is part of the group Falcons de Castellcir, a discipline that combines sports and gymnastics to create human structures, a sort of horizontal castells (human towers).
The figures the Falcons perform demand balance and precision, just like the hands of a surgeon; just like hers, and the five surgery specialists that live in Tarragona and that have decided to be part of the organisation of the congress, when there’s still four years to come. “Things need to be done properly. That’s why we’re on it. My implication is professional, but also personal. There’s a lot of people I know coming, also from an international level. This will be a meeting point for several generations in the same field, and I’d like those attending the congress to find it worth it, not just from a professional point of view, but also in terms of personal and positive experiences. By working towards excellence in the congress, we tell people about the quality of the region that homes it”, she says.
Doctor Esplugas has attended, for twenty years now, a dozen of speciality congresses in both sides of the Atlantic. “I’ve got an open file where I note down things, and I know exactly what I like and what I don’t. The scientific programme must always be of high quality. It’s the question of the organisation, logistics and scheduled activities that make a difference. In Tarragona, we’ve got the resources to enrich out visitors: we have the environment, the history and castells. Our colleagues should leave willing to tell their people about this”, she explains.
Tarragona Convention Bureau, department in charge of promoting the city as an events destination, provides the organisation with technical support. Congress tourism, very profitable for the venue cities, went through a spectacular boom last decade, but has now experienced a strong drop during the recession. In Spain, there are over 90 conference centres with these purposes in mind, mostly built about 10 and 15 years ago, and the number goes way past the demand of events these days. Despite the fall, signing new congresses is a strategic target on which the local government is willing to involve the professional collectives. “We can’t expect the institutions to do all the promotion, we need to be proactive. The projection of the city is in our hands”, she states.