Companies that had put their plans on hold have begun reinitiating multiple corporate groups for both – domestic and international destinations.
The past quarter has seen a grand comeback of MICE moments— especially in the Indian market. From corporate conclaves to medical conferences, from exhibitions to trade shows, there is a lot happening in this space. The ease of restrictions and the reopening of India’s scheduled flights is driving a positive corporate sentiment. Companies that had put their plans on hold have begun reinitiating multiple corporate groups for both – domestic and international destinations.
Although the numbers haven’t reached the pre-pandemic levels yet, it is only a matter of time these MICE moments surpass the 2019 figures.
With safety and sustainability being the key priorities, MICE organizers have made a shift in their choice of venues and destinations. They are also looking at smart hybrid event platforms, such the ones implemented by the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market (ATM) and the soon-to-be-held World Travel Market WTM in London this year. Organizers are also looking at tech-enabled venues at the heart of the city, which would require less travel time.
Rise in MICE budgets
Meera Charnalia, Sr. Vice President and Head – MICE, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, says that corporate customers have resumed travel with a renewed zeal to go beyond the ordinary and seek unique experiences. Corporates are keen on utilizing their budgets this year.
“We have a robust pipeline of group sizes ranging from 50-600 with budgets as high as over Rs.4 lakh per person for premium groups – showing a clear appetite for spends,” she says.
Having held back on spends for two years, there is a growing appetite for exclusive experiences and increased spending.
“Our corporate clientele are keen on organizing their conferences/events at uber-luxury hotels and exclusive experiences like dining at a Michelin star restaurant. Corporates are displaying keen interest in outdoor and experiential activities for team-bonding sessions, master chef classes and exploring hidden local gems, water sports and exclusive sundowner events. Customers want to explore newer destinations such as the French Riviera, Mexico, South America and are wanting to spend more for experiences such as viewing a Formula One race from a hospitality box,” she says.
Destination weddings are also seeing an encouraging uptick as several weddings were postponed in the past two years due to the pandemic.
“We have witnessed a surge in demand for international destinations from our volume driver MICE segment. The demand is close to pre-pandemic levels and it is expected to increase further. Incentives are leading the demand and comprise approximately 75% to 80% of our MICE portfolio,” she says.
Preferred MICE destinations
According to Thomas Cook, Goa and Jaipur remain the top domestic meeting/conference favourites in India, followed by Kashmir, Leh Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala and Andamans for incentive programs; top metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad continue to see strong demand.
The restart of commercial scheduled flights to and from India witnessed a significant uptick for international destinations like Switzerland, France, and Italy. Currently, Southeast Asian favourites like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have seen a significant uptick among corporates. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Turkey are also emerging as MICE favourites due to ease of visa (e-visa, and visa on arrival), flight access and entry/health protocols.
“Sporting events such as FIFA World Cup in Qatar and T20 World Cup in Australia are of significant importance to MICE corporates and have been driving travel intent,” says S D Nandakumar, President & Country Head – B2B, SOTC Travel.
Corporates are expected to have higher budgets for MICE in the days to come. They are looking at destinations that offer the least amount of restrictions, easy access, and better connectivity. Domestic travel will remain the fastest growing segment among corporates.
“We are witnessing a substantial increase in group sizes v/s pre-pandemic. To enhance loyalty and productivity, more corporates are encouraging incentive trips for their key growth contributors, such as their employees and distributors. With increased group sizes, we anticipate increased preference for destinations with larger inventories. Our pipeline indicates a strong and growing appetite for international destinations with 75% of the overall share,” says Nandakumar.
The SOTC spokesperson says that their corporate movement is a mix of corporate engagements, reward and recognition programs, product launches, conferences, and gala events.
“We have multiple groups ranging from a size of 40 to over 4000 lined up from varied sectors inclusive of pharma, insurance, cement, textile, FMCG, paint, automobile, banking, finance, agriculture and more,” he says.
Govt must incentivise MICE
For the MICE vertical, scores of proposals, invites, exhibition materials, and offline-online interactions are seen in the market, says Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India.
“Stalwarts of the industry are not only trying to revive their old and existing products, but they are also introducing more innovative ones, which are indeed the need of the hour. For instance, the tech side, which at one time was only used for marketing, is now being implemented at the operations level as well. Managing MICE events flawlessly requires a lot of new additions, innovations, and creativity to the businesses, which in turn will surely bring more opportunities for the fraternity globally,” she says.
MICE has always been the biggest contributor.
“With such a huge population and people looking at exploring more options in all businesses, which requires excellently curated events to engage them, the future of the sector is bright. With the government and private sector participating in the development of MICE supporting infrastructure, and organizing events of a larger magnitude, the sector is bound to grow and expand endlessly. The MICE sector has evolved and will continue to evolve with a lot of creativity. A lot more than required MICE business goes out of India because of infrastructure and incentivization. The Ministry of Tourism needs to start incentivising to keep this business within India and give tax rebates to corporates for holding such events domestically,” says Mayal.
Brands like Thomas Cook have successfully developed and implemented app-based advanced technology for MICE business, which benefits their corporate clientele with a seamless end-to-end interaction.
“We look forward to delivering travel experiences as per their expectations and in the process constantly introduce unique MICE experiences and offers,” says Charnalia.