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Cashing on MICE

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Following Hyderabad as the MICE capital of India, Delhi/ NCR is fast emerging as an important MICE destination. With advanced technology and facilities, warm hospitality, personalised services and rich cultural heritage, the city has tremendous potential to capture this niche segment. The capital’s growing strength in the information technology arena has prompted few prominent international bodies to host trade shows and conventions. Similar prominence in bio-technology, pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors is also expected to host their convention here bringing in revenue in the coming years. MICE tourism has immense potential and a tremendous growth opportunity in an evolving and dynamic market the size of India.

“The importance of the MICE industry lies in the fact that it converts annual business meetings and conferences into a glamorous and enjoyable event for the delegates and attendants. Be it a meeting to bring people together either from within one company or from a broader spectrum or an international conference or product launch party or exhibition, MICE tourism finds itself being inevitable in all the occasions,” says Aman Kumar Sayal, CEO, Laurent & Benon.

“The capital city has been the favourite MICE destination for quite some time now. The numerous charms of the city vary from ancient monuments to excellent shopping options, making business meetings and conferences here an absolute pleasure. As a city hotel located in the midst of a busy commercial hub like Bhikaji Cama in New Delhi, we have been hosting meetings and conventions on an international scale for more than a decade now. Spread over 464 sq m (5,000 sq ft), the pillarless convention hall at our hotel is a favourite venue for corporate and government officials,” says Anuradha Kumar, director-Sales and Marketing, Hyatt Regency, Delhi.

MICE business is the focus of every hotel’s agenda to increase revenue and recognition. For large MICE events revenue can be earned not just from the banquets but also for the rooms and F&B and hence have a lot of business potential. “A major chunk of the business comes from the corporate houses in the vicinity and other business units or investors who are on the move. From a business perspective, banquets are important for holding large MICE events and also social events for revenue generation. They need to be technologically equipped along with flawless services to stand tall in a very competitive market since the independent banquet halls have been eating into the business of especially tailored business hotels,” adds Parmeet Nayar, general manager, Radisson Blu MBD, Noida.

Key strategies

With the emerging and existing players in the market, there is a growing need to set strategies. Laurent & Benon, as an experienced hospitality player with a well-designed pan India presence, offers customised housing and accommodations solutions for corporate and individual business travellers. “Our hospitality solutions are fully equipped with world class amenities capable to cope with demanding clientele and big international occasions. We have laid out strategies to promote and strengthen MICE bookings in four areas: adventure, experiential, historical and luxury through our hotels across India. Our sophisticated business venues, convention centres and banquet halls are ideal for MICE with the state-of-the-art conferencing and audio visual equipment, high speed internet for video conferencing etc. Special attention has been paid to provide tailor-made packages encompassing complete conference and recreational activities. Instead of individualised corporate rates, packages including conference, recreation, gala dinners, and special rates on rooms will be on offer,” adds Sayal.

On the other hand, Hyatt Regency, Delhi focusses on product enhancement through renovation of the existing products, and addition of banquet and meeting spaces in the vicinity. “Together we will concentrate on designing Indian-centric, customer-focused packages. One of our recent introductions of the sort, the corporate summer package, has been helpful in tapping business even during lean seasons,” says Kumar.

Hilton Worldwide highlights the role of technology and varied MICE facilities they offer:

  • The availability of cutting-edge audio and visual equipment and the latest technology
  • Every meeting or conference is assigned a dedicated point of contact to ensure personalised service and technical support before, during and after the event
  • Hilton Worldwide’s proprietor system LightStay, that analyses, reports and assists to improve sustainability performance at each hotel, offers the facility of a Meeting Calculator that measures the impact of any meeting or conference held at any one of its 3,800 hotels across the world. Customers can use the data toward their own sustainability goals and reporting.

The chain operates the largest number of hotels in Delhi NCR. Its network extends from the recently-opened upscale DoubleTree by Hilton hotel located on the Golf Course Road in Gurgaon; the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Saket and Eros Hotel – Managed by Hilton in Nehru Place (South Delhi); to the DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton brand hotels adjacently located off the DND Flyway in Mayur Vihar (East Delhi); and the Hilton hotel in Janakpuri (West Delhi). Two of these hotels i.e. Hilton New Delhi/Janakpuri and Eros Hotel – managed by Hilton in Nehru Place offer the largest conference and banqueting facilities in the city. The two DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in Mayur Vihar and Gurgaon feature facilities that are ideal for corporate meetings, business events, conferences, social gatherings and private receptions and can accommodate up to 300-750 persons.

Changing trends in MICE

As connectivity and infrastructure improves, the development of exotic locales for MICE will grow. The focus will shift to being able to attract larger groups specifically for this. The segment has huge potential and could soon be the largest contributor of business to most hotels. This will therefore increase the focus on developing MICE infrastructure across the country. The development of the sector also needs specialised manpower that should have the right training and motivation to set international benchmarks. Customers are well-travelled and technologically experienced and expect meetings, conference and banqueting facilities to feature up-to-date technology, and the complete array of amenities and services. The evolving customer needs 24X7 business technologies along with comfortable and recreational opportunities and looks forward to a global appeal in hospitality.

Some trends are obvious, some less so. One leading trend is that organisations are downsizing the larger, highly visible meetings and events that are produced on an annual basis. Another interesting trend is the attention being placed on those that book small meetings. This market is globally beneficial and represents a great opportunity. This provides the opportunity for hotels to be creative with what they can offer the smaller meeting planner.

“We are seeing the revival of upscale meetings and events. Four-star and five-star demand is increasing. At this moment in time rates are still very flexible. If you have flexible dates the property is prepared to be flexible with rates and package offers as well,” says Kumar.

Laurent & Benon is encouraging virtual conferences that provide a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative or supplement to traditional real life conferences.

The benefits are:

  • Eliminate travel costs
  • Reduce venue and event costs
  • Secure business environment
  • Reduce carbon footprint
  • Support pre- and post-conference activities
  • Social networking and team building
  • Virtual exposition and interactive display booths

Hyatt Regency is not concentrating at the virtual conferences at the moment. Kumar believes that in today’s virtual world social media conversations are having a direct impact on sales and brand reputations. Every day a marginal number of potential customers are questioning options and making product choices based on online conversations. This practice will increase over time and will become a common practice. “With the increased popularity of tools such as Twitter, Facebook and other online communities, customers and their service providers in various fields are able to interact with each other. They are doing so in unprecedented numbers. For many online is the first place that they seek information about services. On the other hand, customers are also sharing invaluable information online about their thought processes and feedback after using certain services. If utilised correctly, these insights can potentially help in business development. Constructive feedback is extremely useful for us service providers, enabling us to better our products and services as per customer needs,” she adds.

Green conferences

Climate changes and carbon emissions in particular are high on the MICE agenda. Companies are trying to steer the industry to adopt a ‘greener’ policy. The industry is definitely now turning towards a greener approach as associations are cooperating and promoting conferences centres, hotels and airlines which adopt environmental – friendly practices. Surveys indicate that companies who adopt a ‘green’ policy can actually save money using methods which can reduce costs and drive to a lowering of carbon emissions.

The industry is definitely now turning towards a greener approach as associations are cooperating and promoting conferences centres, hotels and airlines which adopt environmental– friendly practices. Speaking on their contribution, Sayal talks about their policy of ‘Refuse: Reuse: Reduce: Recycle’. “We are using electronic advertising, promotion and registration wherever possible. Waste reduction is the most effective to minimise waste at source. We will buy reusable, refillable or recyclable products and avoid using disposable items by looking for products made from recycled materials. All our work places provide an acceptable working environment and implement greener practices wherever possible like enforcing a ‘no smoking’ policy and ensuring adequate air circulation.”

Similarly, Hyatt, wherever possible tries to restrict the usage of paper and use compact fluorescent lighting systems in the boardrooms that enhance visibility and lessen the consumption of electricity.