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Meeting on MICE

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The India Convention and Promotion Bureau (ICPB) that has been the marketing body for promoting India as a convention destination had recently organised its 7th Conventions India Conclave in Greater Noida. “Next year ICPB is completing its 25 years. We have completed a Vision Document and have also planned education seminars for promoting and marketing India as a MICE destination,” said Chander Mansharamani, vice-chairman, ICPB. Usha Sharma, additional director general, ministry of tourism and chairperson, ICPB stressed on the fact that India has not fully realised the potential of MICE while globally the financial impact of the national and international meetings is close to US$ 300 billion. “Apart from this, it opens seamless employment opportunities, knowledge exchange, further globalisation and accelerates non-governmental diplomacy. During such events, people tend to spend 25 to 30 times more than the average traveller. Food and beverage, medical, pharma, media, infrastructure, automobile are some of the key sectors for MICE,” stated Sharma.

Chander Mansharamani

The MICE industry in India has been growing at a rate of 20 per cent annually. Ministry of tourism extends Rs 5 crore to every state government for opening one convention centre and also encourages the PPP model for the development of the sector. To give a fillip to MICE tourism in India, Sharma emphasised on the need to enhance the role of PPP model in the tourism industry and strategically branding India as a MICE destination. “We have 50 international airlines who fly into India, four new world-class airports, 12 domestic airlines with nearly 1,000 flights, comprehensive highways, strategically positioned on the East-West air corridor, exotic culture, medical facilities at a very reasonable price and an uncluttered tourism product. We just need to reach out internationally and create a successful brand identity,” she concluded.

Martin Sirk, CEO, International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) spoke about understanding the true value of international association meetings. “Only six countries have conducted rigorous scientific analysis of the value of meetings. USA contributed to 43 per cent MICE tourism and created 1.7 million jobs alone in the year 2009. We need to stop thinking about those 1,000 people at the conference, rather the need to take each one of them for another event,” he stated. He stressed on the need for India to gear up with its infrastructure and the scope of knowledge creation through such events to be able to come up to the international level and promote India as a MICE destination.

What India needs is convention cities and townships. Giving his views on the vision of new international convention centres and trends in exhibition space, Shyam Nagpal, honorary secretary, ICPB, pointed out that convention centres do not make profit. “It is a challenge to fill up the halls. Money is not made in buildings but in townships.”

Winning a bid

A session on ‘The Science and Art of Winning a Bid-Whatever it takes!’ saw an interesting debate by panelists Monimita Sarkar, managing director, KW Conferences; Prof A Malhotra, HoD, Nuclear Medicine, AIIMS; Sanjay Rai, executive VP sales Oberoi Group; Jaideep Khanna, general manager, sales and marketing and distribution, Hyderabad International Convention Centre and Nagpal. Sarkar highlighted the fact that there are 6,600 associations all around the world, and India gets around 150 meetings a year, out of which 43 per cent cent goes to hotels. “We have all the infrastructure, but what is important is detailed research, an ambassador from the domestic to the global level, monitoring global trends and identifying knowledge base. Government support is a must,” she asserted. There is a growing and urgent need for the key stakeholders and the government to work under PPP model. Nagpal pointed out, “We are no longer competing the price; but on the art of bidding.” He mentioned Singapore as the key example to the PPP model, and the reason why it is considered to be the top ranked destination for MICE. Hotels and associations should work hand in hand to bring the maximum business into the country.

Long-term partnership

Sponsorship programmes should be relationship based and long-term. “Events are booked 12 months in advance and so are sponsors. A great sponsor is there for the long-term. Sponsorship looks beyond the current event. A long-term relationship has long-term benefits,” said Sirk. Rakesh Kumar, executive director, Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts mentioned that there has to be a systematic plan for sponsorship so that both organisations should be promoted, and not just the event. “For every organisation, the goal has to be clear on how they can benefit from sponsorship,” added Kumar. According to Philip Logan, VP, Formule1 Hotels (Accor Group), the relationship is about getting like-minded partners together, “When you compare it year-on-year, you will get a much better result.”

Impact of technology

Technology and social media are effective tools in the MICE segment. Rajiv Kohli, joint MD, Creative Travel, however felt that in India there is a lot of resistance to technology in the meetings industry despite its many benefits for the sector. An expert on social media, Miguel Neves, events and projects planner, IMEX Group pointed out that worldwide a lot of people are opting for non-traditional marketing. Social media is very effective for online marketing. Events planners majorly use social media platform in MICE space. Christopher Rost, director sales, C-Vent highlighted how technology plays a vital role in the MICE industry, for example mobile applications can help planners extend their brand even before the meeting starts. Cloud computing, SaaS (Software as a Service) based technologies are all making a difference.

ICPB – vision ahead

The 7th Conventions India Conclave has been a major milestone for ICPB. One of the key factors, according to Mansharamani, is the collaboration agreement with TTG Asia, who have for the first time brought their event IT&CM to India. “We are also trying to ensure that ICPB is looked at as a business event like CeBIT in Hanover or IMEX in Frankfurt. We do not want to do a regular association annual programme, but a buyer-seller meet. We have got many hosted buyers this year, including those from overseas,” he said.

ICPB is coming out with a Vision Document – to make India the most preferred convention destination, and to train professionals for the industry. “We are starting a Young Professionals Forum, which is a full day course for post graduate students of hotel management institutes exclusively for MICE. There will be five-six sessions, we have invited professionals from different segments – event management, hotels and venues, etc, they will interact with these students. If in the next five-six years India’s convention industry has to grow to that level then we need not just infrastructure but also the software.” The Vision Document will tell the states and cities what is the economic impact of holding a convention in that city. It will convey the message to the state government with all the statistics. “We will make them understand what the convention industry is all about and then tell them about the economic impact. It is a process. No convention centre all over the world can go into profit if the city does not support them. Then they can sustain themself. That is what the Vision Document will talk about,” informed Mansharamani. Before releasing the Vision Document ICPB will be organising roadshows to which state governments will be invited.

(With inputs from Sudipta Dev and Heena Mahajan)