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Business Events: Time for New Thinking

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MICE specialists convened at Web In Travel’s “Business Event Forum – Time for New Thinking,” session at ITB Asia in Singapore last week. Many ideas surfaced in the session chaired by industry veteran, Elizabeth Rich, Chief Executive, Business Events Council of Australia.

Asked to name major changes that have had significant impact in recent years, Melissa Ow, Assistant Chief Executive, Business Travel & MICE Group, Singapore Tourism Board, said it had to be Web technology, i.e. Web 2.0, and the proliferation of blogs and wikis.

Sandra Chipchase, CEO of the Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCVB), said it was the importance of measurement tools. “It takes both the destination and the value proposition to win and keep events,” she said.

Robin Lokerman, Managing Director, MCI Asia Pacific, mentioned that 60% of adult learning takes place post-school, and much of this is through educational and other events. He said there are three areas of the meetings industry to consider: human resources, marketing and communications, and hospitality.

On the corporate user’s side, Michael Molloy, Director, Corporate Real Estate and Services, Credit Suisse, said there is more scrutiny of events, with checks on expenses by the US Securities Exchange Commission, for instance, stricter internal company regulations in medical, IT and financial services, and within the industry, such as pharmaceuticals.

Among other observations - hotels want association meetings when other business goes down. For instance, many corporate meetings were cancelled but the association segment has not been hit so hard.

MCVB found that although UK, Europe and USA business was down, Asian incentives were still going to Australia and Melbourne. Likewise, STB saw Asian companies that use incentives also continuing with their programmes, because they had to reward sales people who delivered on targets set before the downturn.

Malloy said the size of the pie had shrunk because American and European business had “dried up”, but Asian companies were expanding and might even supplant US and Europe in meetings and incentives volume in time.

Lokerman said MCI detected strong confidence returning to the market. Although 2008-09 has been flat, MCI’s 2010 business is 20% more than has been the trend for this time of the year.

Melbourne had 15-20% growth per annum in the last five years for events. For Singapore, the business travel-MICE share of tourism receipts has grown from 30% in 2005 to 35% in 2008.

On new venues and ways of doing business, one delegate asked about using universities and non-traditional venues for conferences. While panelists were receptive to the unusual, a PCO commented that the rigid procedures of educational institutions and other such properties deterred planners and end-users.

From the green or social responsibility angle, Malloy said Credit Suisse had reduced significantly the amount of folders and papers for corporate meetings by putting all documents on USB sticks.

Instead of gifts, MCVB asks speakers to nominate a charity and the convention bureau will then donate the amount to that cause.

Lokerman shared how MCI selects “green” destinations and venues:

* What is the destination’s green position?
* What is the venue’s green policy?
* What is the hotel’s green policy?
* Supply of local vs imported food and water served in jugs instead of plastic bottles
* Is bus transportation really required? Can delegates walk or be given travel cards instead?
* For exhibitions, can items, especially carbon-based compounds, be recycled?
* Limit the amount of printed materials handed out
* What is the overall office policy toward CSR and sustainability?

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