The MICE sector of the economy is of immense value and importance to the travel and tourism industries. Travel and tourism are the moving service parts that knit most events together.
Whether it is travel from diversified departures, to ground arrangements plus accommodation and perhaps a number of DMC-related requirements, the travel and tourism sector is pivotal for at least 70% of MICE undertakings.
There is a perception that if an individual has successfully planned one event, the person can plan any event. This is far from the truth unless one is blindly undertaking a logistical standard décor brief or similar.
No two events are created equally – the dynamics of the circumstances, background, together with the raison d’être, prevent identical planning criteria being used each and every time. So the significance of the all-important strategic aspects of MICE undertakings cannot be over-estimated, if the undertaking is to be successful – while justifying the financial outlay.
Percentages worth noting…..
MICE undertakings, irrespective of type or capacity, emanate from three sectors. Dependent on the sector – the planning and motivation to have an event vary a great deal. Below are the sectors and a brief explanation of each:
Corporate (approximately 55% of MICE market)
The list of event types is almost endless and ranges from a capacity of 10 to around 500.Rarely are corporate events over 1 000 unless a major product launch, personnel motivation or similar is under way. The type of corporation is the same as the JSE sector listings. Although a number may not be listed on the JSE – from financial institutions through to consumer products – these sector listings provide an indication of the range and type of corporate entities.
Association (approximately 30% of MICE market)
Events are mainly member-oriented although the association sector is more complex in their reason for existence (raison d’être). A member association is either (a) occupation-led (such as: accountants, public relation practitioners, HR professionals and the like or (b) supplier/services-led such as: security, events, décor et al. The type of event undertakings, especially in the occupation-led associations, range from educational with limited numbers to many thousands for their regular flag-ship conventions.
Public (approximately 15% of MICE market)
The government market is known to have many various groups. Besides national, provincial and local there are a further eight, which range from community service centres, SOEs, public institutions, diplomatic corps, development organisations, tourism authority etc. The majority of their gatherings are within their own premises although, as we are all aware, a number of events are hurriedly convened by national and provincial governments.
Recovery is ‘on-the-cards’ with caveats
The return to pre-COVID days is proving unlikely – in the foreseeable future – as we enter the latter half of 2022. With a South African surplus – beyond current requirements – of the main supplier being venues of all shapes, sizes and standards with/without accommodation, MICE suppliers and indeed other necessary services, will need to be innovative to be sustainable in the long term.
Corporate sector: ‘Bean Counters Take Charge’
The most significant changes are within the 55% of market share. The advent of virtual and hybrid opportunities being perfected to meet the needs of the average corporation coupled adversely with the rise in transport costs, time-related traffic constraints plus COVID restriction hindrances, suppliers, services and independent planners need to think through and be seriously clever in how to draw the corporations back to almost total in-person events.
At this time – mid 2022 – there is upward movement, yet limited to around 50% of bookings compared with the pre-COVID salad days.
Corporations are getting financially savvy when it comes to MICE spend and are demanding more bang for their buck. The days of no work for a day’s commission are being carefully assessed.
The almost meteoric rise of high-powered motivational rah-rah events from late 2021 into 2022 is proof positive that corporations need to get their personnel on the right trajectory of togetherness going forward, coupled with demonstrating eagerness to ‘go out there and get ‘em to buy that product right here and right now!’
Association sector: ‘The Good and the Not-so-Good’
Within the occupation-led associations the hiatus will change and build momentum as virtual and hybrid are unlikely to replace the in-person dynamics of communicating face-to-face with like-minded professional colleagues. The opportunity of a linked exhibition (confex) of new product and services will add to the resurgence. Exhibition organisers should consider being more proactive in this regard without over-shadowing the plenary and break-outs.
However, the same cannot be envisaged for the supplier/service-led associations. Member renewals have dropped significantly, other members have altered course or sought greener pastures. A number of loyal souls are questioning the member fees against merely meeting to communicate on a neutral playing field and perhaps discovering new ideas and/or business. A whole new series of real incentives should be sought for members to enthusiastically contribute to the Association’s coffers.
Public sector: ‘Trial and Error plus Hope’
As serious economic challenges continue to loom, from power supply to employment to investment et al, national government in particular will mount high-powered conferences replete with informed and renowned national and international presenters (sages on the stages) as well as top-drawer delegations – budget constraints being of limited concern. Growth in the first half of 2022 is evident of this and will continue as and when a specific crisis demands immediate communication, hopefully resulting in both a positive outcome together with an equally good PR result due exclusively to face-to-face dialogue.
Opportunities: Suppliers and services need to ask serious questions of what would appeal to that particular sector’s management.
Longer lead time booking incentives, gratis professional brand welcome signage and more conducive or smart payment terms come to mind.
There are green shoots and lots of light at the end of the tunnel yet unless suppliers and services, including travel and tourism, get a better handle on the type of potential MICE client out there, the more a number will just manage to get by or disappear.
The opportunities are enormous, yet ignorance may prove to be disastrous.