MICE: The way forward

The MICE space is growing at a robust pace and is expected to triple within the next 2-3 years. The proposed new venues at Delhi in Dwarka  and the ones to be expanded at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Pune, etc  is expected to provide a boost to the segment. Hotels and Convention Centres, set up mainly to promote MICE, are acting as enhancers for promotion of MICE. Ashok Malkani takes a look at several aspects of this Industry as well as the future of MICE in India.

Events can be a daunting task not only for the event organisers but also for hotels which have to ensure that their venues provide the best services to the clients. This is all the more imperative as India’s MICE tourism is, according to a new report by industry body the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), growing at a rate of 8 per cent annually, The report states that economic growth coupled with rapid emergence of India on the global horizon is poised to drive the growth of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism at a much faster rate. India is a late entrant in the segment with a little share on the global scale. Of the total 12,563 international meetings in a year, it hosts only 175 - or just 1.4 per cent to rank 24th worldwide.

The global MICE tourism is estimated to be growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.5 per cent and reach 1.2 trillion dollars (about Rs 70 lakh crore) by 2023. Asia Pacific region is expected to lead this with 8.6 per cent growth.

MICE activities have a potential for growth and is becoming a focus area in the hospitality industry, putting a pressure on the hotels to deliver. The hotels have to meet the challenge of fulfilling all the needs of the organisers.  
 
Nicholas Dumbell, General Manger - Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel & Lakeside Chalet – Mumbai, Marriott Executive Apartments, disclosed “Owing to the ever-growing demand in this segment, rooms/venue availability during a good part of the year poses a challenge. Having said that, it only highlights the umpteen opportunities this segment holds for us and our city.

The biggest challenge that meeting planners face while organising MICE events at the hotel is ensuring that the logistics and infrastructure enhancement is at pace with the need of MICE in India. In the absence of a strong networked and ease of access location, India does face stiff competition f r o m certain other developed nations including China where the connectivity supports International Conventions into the country.”

Monal Prabhu, Associate Director - Magnifique Meeting, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, adds, “When it comes to organising MICE events in hotels, the principal factor is gauging the needs and expectations of the guests. Each event has its own set of aspects that need to be looked into and it is important that the hotel team understands and executes the same accordingly. The major concern currently with MICE is the short lead time that we have for organising with limited inventory and limited space to create an extraordinary experience. At Sofitel Mumbai BKC, we have a dedicated Magnifique Meetings’ team that will guide one in creating extraordinary events, custom designed to reflect one’s plans and strategies.”

Manish Dayya, General Manager Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre (NHCC) & Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) states, “Planning a MICE event requires an enormous level of planning and detailing due to the huge number of attendees involved. The organiser needs to plan the plenary of the entire session, delegate travel f r o m different parts of the world, guest accommodation, diverse dining experiences, along with destination experiences for the delegates.

Opened in 2006, our 15-acre complex at Hyderabad is a very unique preposition. HICC is the only Convention Centre in India combined with an interconnected 5-star hotel - Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre. The property’s architecture and size was specifically designed to ensure ease and comfort of doing business.

In addition to closed door meeting venues, the complex also features well-manicured lawns and gardens for themed, casual networking dinners and social gatherings. 

Understanding the needs and expectations of the client is the core of conducting an event as each client comes with different expectations with regards to the purpose of conducting MICE Events. At HICC, customisation has been the key to our success so far and we continue to work on closely understanding the nature of each conference, its origin, and attendees’ preferences in order to curate a successful event.

Liaisons and collaborations f r o m multinational corporate offices, tourism board associations, state and central governments have contributed to the steady growth of Indian MICE market at a staggering rate of 20% per year.

This has brought in a high inflow of MICE events to India and thereby it is a challenge to meet this rising demand. MICE competition is increasing and it is the right time for our economy to benefit f r o m the upwards curve. The focus has to be on developing the required logistics, infrastructure, communications and technology advancements in order to cater to the exponential MICE growth in the country.”

Convention Centres or hotels?

There seems to be a belief that Convention Centres are more suitable for MICE activity. The result is that several Convention Centres have sprung up recently. The foundation stone for India International Convention and Exhibition Centre (IICEC), the country’s first world class official venue that can hold big events like a G-20 summit, was laid last year and the first phase is expected to be completed this year-end, while the phase 2 is expected to be completed by 2024. The nearly 90-hectare IICEC has been planned as a venue that will not just allow India to hold multilateral state events in style but also become an option for global convention and exhibition events in the private sector.  

But is this concept of Convention Centres being preferred over hotels for organising MICE events true? And if so, is there a shortage of Convention Centres? How different are the meeting spaces provided by the hotels as compared to Convention Centres?   

Monal maintains, “Requirements for MICE events mainly depend on the nature of the event. Convention Centres are preferred for MICE events which are of enormous size and which demand a plethora of amenities to cater to the thousands of guests. Meeting spaces at hotels on the other hand are more flexible and can accommodate events which demand attention to minute details for a relatively smaller and selected audience.

As far as shortage of Convention Centres is concerned, I would say that the demand for international business events and corporate MICE has increased quite significantly over the year. With demand outstripping supply, the event industry sees a further boom in terms of demand for event spaces. It is a challenge to accommodate this growing demand with venue incapacities during peak seasons. An efficient collaboration between different brands can assist in this scenario, where each hotel is willing to prioritise needs of the guests and guides them accordingly with the best option available.”

Nicholas further elaborates on this by stating “The associations/congresses are reliable for Convention business because:
• Associations are legally required to meet at least once (or more) a year. 
• They prefer convention centres with large main hall and multiple breakouts/ parallel session venues, on-site hotel facilities, convention hotels and academic venues.
• Their conventions most often have an accompanying exhibition.
• Their meetings often require receptions, lunches and gala dinners in the same venue.
• They like to keep their delegates together under one roof.

Hence these key decision makers i.e., professional event organisers f r o m the International/ national association, corporate and agencies prefer to host these huge national and international meetings in the Convention Centres.

While India has huge potential for MICE business, only few centers in terms of organised spaces are available in the country. Some key reasons behind the failure to attract MICE amongst Indians is the lack of world class exhibition and conference infrastructure in the nation to cater to volume of events that the key cities can hold. Another major challenge is the higher taxation policies set by the government due to which we lose MICE business to the neighboring countries Convention Centres.

India Tourism has to adopt a vigorous MICE focused marketing approach to promote India as a MICE destination. In fact, the Conference Industry has eagerly been waiting a one-stop licensing and Visa permit process for the conference organisers that encompass all the local governmental bodies’ requirements. With the Ministry of Home Affairs shortly launching an online module for submission of applications by the organisers of international conferences, it will help boost MICE Tourism by driving awareness to the International MICE community that India is on the world map as a great MICE destination with increased presence of global Hotel chains and more hotel room inventory. Furthermore, it will improve the city infrastructure with upcoming metros and better air connectivity, along with the ease of improvised visa norms.”

Manish says, “With the growing change in the requirements and needs of corporate guests with respect to events and conferences, Convention Centres are certainly a preferred choice for professional events and ones with a large number of guests. Conducting extravagant events requires experienced service teams, specific skill sets and resources that can cater to a large audience.

A convention centre is designed to cater various types of events keeping the overall functionality in mind. Facilities like 65,000 sq. ft. pillar-free venue that can accommodate more than 6,500 delegates at once, offering an uninterrupted view, 40 feet high ceiling for larger than life setups, rigging points with heavy load bearing capacity, six translation booths, organiser suites, 37 flexible breakaway rooms, and a lot more like we have at HICC – makes it easier for any organiser to host an event in a professional and hassle-free manner. This is how a convention centre is different f r o m a hotel meeting space!

Our hotel has been recently refurbished and HICC will also witness cosmetic changes that will help us remain relevant to our guests’ expectations. With these new advents, our endeavour remains to make every guest’s stay and visit to HICC a comfortable one.”

Revenue generated f r o m MICE

MICE, no doubt, form an important part of the revenue earned by hotels. It is believed that about 30 per cent of a hotel’s annual revenue is earned through MICE. The cuts in MICE spending during the economic crisis affected the hospitality industry but with changing times the MICE industry is once again on the rise. According to American Express, overall MICE spending of Europe is increasing the most, comparing to Central and South America. The revenue generated by MICE is higher than that of the leisure traveler as, normally, MICE travelers are covered by their company, whereas leisure travelers usually pay for themselves.  

The revenue earned by hotels in India varies. However, it forms a significant part of the total income. So what are the steps that hotels should take to encourage more MICE events in their premises?   

Monal states, “The overall MICE segment of the Indian hospitality sector is seen to be growing at a steady 7-8%. Larger MICE hotels in Mumbai generally earns a revenue of 20- 35% f r o m MICE segments. At Sofitel Mumbai BKC, 14% percent of our total revenue comes f r o m MICE events.

Normally cities use figures (hotel rooms, number of convention centres, number of restaurants, and airlines) which are important but aren’t unique or as valuable as they used to be. The ease of information accessibility for clients makes this information sometimes unnecessary. It is important to reach out to national and international corporate associations to give them an insight of the diverse functionality available at the MICE venues in India. 

At Sofitel Mumbai BKC, we believe in the art of storytelling, wherein we promote our destination and share experiences to attract international and corporate events. Our strength is the loyal clientele who look for an impeccable meeting experience. Hotels must provide a package that caters to the varied needs of guests and accommodate their needs to the best of their capacity at a value for spend. We promote our destination and share experiences to attract international and corporate events. Lastly, our Ranking on the online portal TripAdvisor is a testimony by guests for the quality of product and service on offer.”

Nicholas declares, “The MICE sector accounts for close to 20% of the total business at Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel & Lakeside Chalet – Mumbai, Marriott Executive Apartments, in terms of rooms’ revenue alone. In additional to this, the MICE events also bring in substantial catering revenues for the Hotel.          

A self-sufficient Convention Centre is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to selecting a hotel as a good MICE venue. Today, organisers and business guests seek a lot more than just the capacity of the venue or technology provisions. With a 24x7 lifestyle, business delegates tend to combine work with pleasure and travel along with their family. 

One of the factors that have significantly contributed to our success has been the integration of local highlights, tours and culture experiences, when delegates visit Renaissance Mumbai. This has made a visit to the Convention Centre also turn into a culture-rich experience, making it fun, educative and entertaining for all. No matter what overall theme or request the guest comes up with for a particular event, our in-house event management team is glad to assist with the execution and deliver cherished memories for every single event we host. 

With a variety of settings, flexibility and world class experience for conventions, conferences, exhibitions, meetings and other events, Renaissance Mumbai is one of the most sought after facilities for hosting big life time events. Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities have also been performing in MICE.”

Manish believes that liaisons and collaborations f r o m multinational corporate offices, tourism board associations, state and central governments have brought in a high inflow of MICE events to India. MICE competition is increasing and it is the right time for our economy to benefit f r o m the upwards curve. 

He adds, “The year 2018 was an immensely successful year as NHCC & HICC hosted over 1400 events and we look forward to growing our revenue by 12% by the end of 2019. In the coming year 2020, we target to further expand our visibility and footprints in national and international MICE markets. 65% of our total business is generated f r o m MICE. With the significant increase of MICE events hosted here at HICC, which range f r o m culture to art, business and lifestyle.”

Encouraging MICE in India

The global meetings and events industry is expected to grow at a fast pace. So how and where can they be encouraged in India?

Monal declares that MICE, has become an integral part of the global hospitality industry. In the recent years India has emerged as one of the most preferred MICE destinations. It is important to do a strategic marketing campaign to national and international corporate associations to give them an insight of the diverse functionality available at the MICE venues in India to promote these segments

Both central and state governments are investing in MICE related infrastructure, focusing on increased global connectivity expanding to cities, improved civic amenities, implementation of faster and newer modes of transport and the continued addition of room inventory across categories. There are several 

To attract international MICE, just building infrastructure won’t be sufficient. We need better tourism friendly policies, destination awareness promotion, and more importantly, we need to dispel myths about lack of safety and hygiene in India. 

One destination which attracts MICE business is Mumbai due to the connectivity and presence of various business verticals and correct target audience. Cities such as Delhi and Hyderabad are performing well in attracting MICE clientele as these cities have large Convention Centres at present. 

Nicholas adds, “As per ICCA Statistics 2018, India is ranked 28th worldwide and 7th in Asia Pacific ranking with 158 meetings in total. While Delhi and Mumbai are leading metros contributing to the success of meetings in India, Bengaluru is the upcoming metro which is growing consistently YOY.

All the stake holders along with Tourism department should work hand-in-hand in promoting and taking measures in effecting bidding of conventions for India. Most cities around the world that have a convention centres should also have a city tourism bureau focused on selling business tourism.

To be effective in business tourism, these bureaus focus on organisational planning for research and winning business for the city and hence, build the destination and convention centres both nationally and internationally.  The fact that no single government entity has been set up with a Business Tourism promotion charter, effectively means Convention Centres are working stand-alone at this point except for few cities in India.

When we look at the national MICE picture the key halo destinations will be the major cities of Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad which are predominantly due to ease of accessibility and the current infrastructure. We have seen huge growth in Kolkata and I believe Chennai will become a major player as new hotel inventory opens in 2019. Jaipur, Indore and Lucknow have also grown in popularity and I look forward to seeing how the growth in air connectivity will support these up-and-coming MICE destinations.”

Manish is also of the view that better coordinated and planned efforts between central and state government will facilitate the growth and improvement of international MICE movement in India.  “Vigorous participation in global MICE fairs and expos will be the key to build awareness and to showcase what India has to offer. Further, existing hotels and conventions facilities should join hands in promoting India as an ideal MICE destination. 

Associations and bodies dedicated to bio-sciences, computing, health-care, textiles and other fields have begun to explore India as a destination for global summits and annual symposiums - due to the networking opportunities the country presents, its tourism-friendly image and most importantly, the availability of purpose-built venues like the HICC. In recent years, we have hosted many conferences and expos at HICC, which are supporting and encouraging the start-up culture and most of these events are full of enthusiasm with a promise of a strong economic curve in the country.

At HICC, we have understood that MICE tourism is a highly dynamic industry as both international and national visitors travelling for MICE events have a specific set of requirements as they come for a diverse nature of events. Being an international MICE venue of this size and functionality, we not only compete with other hotels and cities but with global MICE venues. We are also working closely with authorities, governing bodies, and bureaus in order to promote Hyderabad and Telangana as a tourist friendly destination to attract more MICE business to the city.

As far as destinations preferred for MICE in India is concerned I may mention that Hyderabad has moved manifold in the process of building its global image and is now competing with other metropolitan cities in India.

Future of MICE

According to industry experts and analysts the Indian MICE sector is pegged at Rs. 25,000 crore. There are more than 10 new MICE venues coming up in various parts of the country. Can all of them succeed? What is the future of MICE? 

Nicholas avers, “The MICE segment in India is fast growing. Today, more than ever, the MICE segment is the most sought after industry. It is indeed the fastest growing segment within the hospitality industry. 

There is a huge market for the same with the establishment of the various International corporate houses coming to India. The boost in the Indian economy has seen more foreign investments and there have been many new players in the IT, auto, pharma, and travel and trade sectors. Also, the penetration of these corporate is on a national level and attracts traders, vendors, investors f r o m all parts of the country. Therefore a lot of the hotels, today, in India provide larger convention spaces and advanced MICE facilities catering to the increasing demand of the customers.”

Manish states, “India is increasingly transcending to a destination of choice for business travellers f r o m across the world. MICE Tourism is a niche factor contributing to the Indian tourism segment that is leading to a manifold rise in the number of outbound business, luxury and MICE tourists.”

Monal sums up, "MICE has emerged as the most significant sub-sectors of the travel industry for its greater per capita consumption contrasted with leisure tourism, and furthermore its role in growing a destination’s profile as well as incremental traffic through repeat travel for leisure activities, is going to increase in the coming years."

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