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Growth and Importance of the MICE Industry

Friday, March 16th, 2012

The need of the hour for any company, whether it is in the IT, FMCG, leather or textile industries, is the expansion of customer base and retention of the present market. Among other ways, this can be achieved by participating in huge congregations, seminars, exhibitions and other marketing events.

Besides bringing industry counterparts together, these events help in synergizing ideas and bringing in additional clients, increased sales and revenues. They also serve as a cost effective means of advertising. A specialized industry has mushroomed to cater to this unique need of companies and is known as the MICE Industry, where MICE stand for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions.

The MICE industry is essentially a service industry that also encompasses trade, transportation, finance, and travel. The MICE industry is characterized by three highs high growth potential, high added values, and highly beneficial innovations. It offers three larges - large output, large opportunities for employment and large industry associations. The industry also ensures three advantages - the efficient utilization of human resources, technological know-how, and assets.

Countries are vying with each other to promote themselves as a hot MICE destination in order to garner a major piece of this new industry pie. Singapore and Hong Kong are top MICE destinations in Asia already. With fast economic growth witnessed in Asia there has also been a remarkable growth in the outbound MICE industry. Travel companies have also started specializing in delivering MICE services and activities. The outbound MICE industry tries to maximize revenues from the corporate MICE traveler as it forms an integral part of the leisure travel sector. Travel companies have core competencies in the foreign exchange, travel insurance, visa and passport service verticals, as well as in other travel related services, which gives them an edge in serving the MICE industry.

Social Media also plays an important part in promoting MICE business as it increases awareness, improves and maintains a high level of customer service, while communicating directly with target audiences. India has developed a reputation as a unique conference destination, with its historical, cultural, architectural, wildlife, culinary, spiritual and therapeutic attractions. Better infrastructure, new airports, hotel MICE facilities, improved air, road and rail transport now make India an excellent conference destination.

Many Indian state governments are keen on establishing convention centers near large metro cities. The MICE promotional and marketing efforts in India include one-to-one meetings, focused events, direct mail communications and offline and online campaigns with customers. MICE exhibitions also give greater brand visibility along with the opening up of networking opportunities to interact with potential customers.

Thailand has been forging ahead as a favorite tourist spot for some time now. The Thai government is also proactively trying to leverage its huge capacity by allocating $US 6.5 million to develop specialized venues and implement other facilities to conduct international events for marketing products and organizing corporate seminars.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) entered into a MoU to give greater impetus to the industry few years back. Thailand is trying to become ASEAN’s international MICE destination. Plans are afoot to make Bangkok a green city in the meantime.

The strategies launched by the joint endeavor involve introducing Sentimental Marketing and Experiential Marketing campaigns to promote Thailand as a favorable venue in which to organize trade shows and road shows. The inbound market is also strengthened through special campaigns and promotional packages for event participants. The communication strategy leverages the media exclusively, besides including communications of referrals and testimonials via the Internet.

The cities in Thailand picked for developing the MICE market are Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, and Chiang Mai, all favorite tourist destinations. Crisis management strategies to further optimize the MICE destination has led to the setting up of TCEB call center and contact centers. Steps have been implemented to enhance safety and security standards in the MICE industry as specified by the Industrial Standard 22300 - MICE Security Management System.

Malaysia

The Convention and Exhibition Bureau, or MyCEB, is instrumental in powering the nation’s MICE industry. Malaysia has built various convention facilities like the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (Sarawak), the Putrajaya International Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the MATRADE Exhibition and Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and the Johor Bahru Iskandar region.

MICE organizers are being encouraged by the announcement of financial incentives to make Malaysia an attractive business tourism destination. Zulkefli Hj Sharif, Head of MyCEB, said that the scheme is valued at over US$16.5 million for 2011-2012. Planners in the field of health and medical care, science and technology, halal food, education, oil and gas will also get incentives as these sectors are directly or indirectly responsible for developing Malaysia into a MICE hotspot.

In November 2011 a branding campaign was organized by MyCEB, at Kuala Lumpur Central Market, showcasing Malaysia as Asia’s Business Events Hub. The event portrayed Malaysia as a gateway to conduct business events, as it is strategically located on trade routes between India and China and other locations in Asia and Europe. The event was leveraged to the maxim to attract as many as 100,000 delegates to future international conventions by 2015, which will be a huge increase compared to 59,000 in 2009. The conducting of international business events is expected to impact the economic gain tremendously, according to MyCEB sources.

Taiwan

A new comer as a MICE destination, Taiwan making its presence felt just now when the market is really heating up in the AsiaPacific region. The Taipei World Trade Center Nangang International Exhibition Hall (TWTC Nangang), opened in 2008, is a step taken in the right direction.

The strategic location of Taiwan as a hub in the East Asian and Pacific regions, with its easy airline accessibility to major cities in the Asia-Pacific region, makes it an excellent MICE destination. The launch of the Taiwan High Speed Rail in 2007 has made inter-city travel between the northern capital of Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung more comfortable.

The MICE scene in Taiwan has been put on the fast track by TAITRA, TEMA, Chan Chao Exhibition Hall, and New Era International Inc., which specialize in organizing professional international exhibitions. ACE Forum, Wes Expo Co., and Kaigo are active international exhibition agents there. The United Daily News and Trans Electric Co. take care of domestic-sales exhibitions. Chan Chao also conducts digital exhibitions via the Internet. TAITRA is equipped to hold 20-plus international exhibitions annually. To develop the industry further, TAITRA collaborated with KINTEX, an exhibition center and a joint public and private venture in Korea, a few years ago. KINTEX increased its exhibition space in Seoul and internationalized the Korean MICE industry. MICE is based on a service model which also helps develop other associated industries. Apart from the development of exhibition and conference venues, peripheral industries also gain, such as public relations consulting companies, translation firms, decoration, utilities, transportation, travel agency industries, and the hospitality sector. Local employment opportunities are on the increase owing to this sunshine industry.

Taiwan’s location, the availability of high-grade human resources, its well developed information and communications industries and electronic component production, semiconductor, conventional machinery, textile industries and local tourism resources serve as favorable conditions for foreign investment to enhance the international MICE industry in Taiwan.

Middle East

The MICE industry has been growing in leaps and bounds and has not been affected by recent political disturbances in this area of the world. This fact was highlighted by the delegates who participated in the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM) held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in March 2011. Political stability and increased awareness were counted as reasons behind the region’s success as a MICE destination. GIBTM serves as a platform to network, exchange ideas and share knowledge. The organization strives to enhance the MICE industry further here.

In the Middle East, global business tourism is a major industry. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, or ADTA, strives to bring new MICE business to Abu Dhabi to follow the government’s 2030 economic vision. ADTA has chalked a 10-year plan to put Abu Dhabi among the world’s top 50 MICE des tinations.

The other countries in the Middle East region are not to be left behind. In spite of the unrest in Egypt, the Egypt Tourism Authority has implemented ways to improve tourism in the country. To make up for the losses that the country witnessed during recent years, the government has invested about $US5mn dollars to spruce up advertising, as well as offering incentives for charter flights from any destination to Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and Luxur.

Familiarization trips and awareness programs are also being organized for the media to boost Egypt’s positive image as a suitable tourist and MICE venue. Although the MICE industry is still in the infant stage here, more training and education initiatives have been launched to leverage this sector.

One of the smaller countries in this region, Bahrain is also making strides head on into this industry’s future by investing in meetings, incentives and an exhibition sector. In 2010 the MICE industry contributed US$184mn to the economy with an expected increase to US$223mn by 2012. As a major growth factor, the MICE industry is expected to further drive the country’s GDP.

Hong Kong

Another contender in the MICE best destination game is using this industry to give a fillip to its tourism sector to garner huge revenues. In recent years a remarkable increase in visitor arrivals has been witnessed, according to the tourism board here. This is due in part to an increase in number of MICE events organized here, making Hong Kong a favorite destination along with Singapore. This growth follows the trend in the rest of the Asian region where all nations are fast building specialized centers for such huge events. The numbers are phenomenal, as it is not a question of attracting individual travelers or families, but huge groups of people, which makes greater economic sense.

The reasons why some destinations are preferred over others are the presence of excellent business support infrastructure, good airports, perfect accommodation, and other entertainment and recreation options. Hong Kong’s proximity to mainland China and the availability of all other features makes it one of the hotter destinations. The Hong Kong government has allotted $US20mn to promote its MICE industry. Also the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center launched a $US180bn expansion project to expand the exhibition space in the country.

The MICE industry helps ancillary business sectors to grow and also contributes to Hong Kong’s status as an international business and trading hub. The related hotels, event management companies, travel agencies and transportation companies see huge profits every year, which has in turn driven entrepreneurs and investors to set up further MICE-related business enterprises. The Hong Kong Tourism Board expects more such events in the coming years.

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