Catching the MICE - Timeout 8 2013 (30 -33)
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Catching the MICE - Timeout 8 2013 (30 -33)

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Catching the MICE - Timeout 8 2013 (30 -33) Catching the MICE - Timeout 8 2013 (30 -33) Document Transcript

  • MICE TOURISM CATCHING THE MICE Vietnam needs to garner concerted support from all sectors to develop the MICE market, writes Kai Marcus Schroter. The Hyatt Regency Danang provides one of Vietnam’s premium MICE venues 30 timeout
  • The InterContinental Hanoi West Lake offers fantastic views and MICE facilities to match W ith the country’s global integration and economic development, Vietnam has made some progress in attracting MICE business. However, as a hospitality and tourism management consultant living and working in Vietnam for 15 years, I have to say that I am not completely satisfied with the speed and quality of progress made so far. Despite the country’s several advantages, including its central geographic location in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is still far away from becoming an international MICE destination, on par, with Thailand or Malaysia. The reasons are many-fold. MICE has become a fashionable word in the tourism industry in Vietnam, but many still do not really understand what it is, how it works, what it needs, how it is promoted and what the benefits for the country are. Most people think of MICE as a matter for the tourism industry alone, which of course it is not. The attractiveness of a country as a MICE destination, its ability to attract, host and organise international and regional Meetings, Incentives, Con- ferences and Events, is a mirror image of a country’s brand reputation, international integration and cooperation, socio-economic development, market economy status, foreign direct investment, official development assistance, infrastructure development, level of research and development, attractiveness of living, management capacity and the quality of its work force. International corporations and organisations from the private and public sector look very carefully at all these points when selecting and bringing MICE business to a country. And here, Vietnam is in strong competition, regionally and even globally. To attract more and better MICE business to Vietnam, it requires an understanding and concerted efforts of many stakeholders. Surely, Vietnam’s central tourism authorities, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism need to take the lead in developing Vietnam as a MICE destination. This is their mandate. But of course, as all the before mentioned factors are complex, they require the attention, understanding, coordination and support from the government as a whole. In terms of the private sector, many larger tour operators and hotels in Vietnam have a keen interest that the country is developed and promoted as a MICE destination. MICE business promises a relatively high yield. Several foreign and locally invested tour operators and hotels in Vietnam have specialized and suited their products and services to this market segment well. In this regard, it can be said that the country is up to international standards. Especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, we can find sufficient travel and hotel capacities to cater for large-scale events. But it should also be kept in mind that not only these two sectors benefit. MICE travellers usually have a higher rate of spending. MICE organisers often combine business purpose with a leisure program, and so MICE travellers usually spend extra on local tours, shopping, restaurants and so on. The local community as a whole can therefore benefit. Regarding other players in the private tourism sector, I feel that Vietnam Airlines as the main air-carrier could contribute more in developing and promoting Vietnam as a MICE destina- timeout 31
  • MICE TOURISM tion. With its wide reach into overseas markets, it should pay more attention to MICE travellers, share more of its capacity, knowledge, experience and resources and cooperate better with local tourism authorities. Developing and promoting MICE business in a country is a long and rather complex process. It is not only a matter of tourist arrivals. It involves and has an effect on many different stakeholders from the public and private sector. That’s why I talk about MICE business, not MICE tourism. Central tourism authorities need to develop capacity to take the lead in developing and promoting Vietnam as a MICE destination. In any case, they also require good understanding, cooperation, coordination and financial support from the government and other ministries as well. In addition, Vietnam’s tourism authorities should actively seek and develop strategic partnerships with the private sector, airlines, hotel chains, media and others, which can help to package, market and promote 26 26 timeou timeout timeout ut Vietnam as a MICE destination. In this regard, much has been done on paper, but the actual implementation lags behind. Plans to establish destination marketing and convention visitor bureaus, as in other countries, are moves in the right direction. As a German citizen, I would like to give a very concrete example of such successful collaboration. In Berlin over recent decades, the municipal authorities, the convention and visitor bureau, the tourism promotion agency, and the private sector have worked very hard and cooperated well together in developing the capital of Germany, as a ‘service sector and knowledge-based metropolis’. As a result, it is now a leading MICE destination in Europe and around the world. Berlin has established itself as a for many science, high-tech, medicine, art, fashion and sports related events. The city of course benefits from Germany’s nation brand image and this branding is the first key to attracting MICE. There are certainly macro- and micro-economic factors in developing MICE business.Vietnam can influence socio-economic development, accessibility, infrastructure development, management capacity and product and service quality. Firstly, socio-economic development, in this context, means the level of a country’s development in science and research, which often gives birth to congresses or similar events. Socio-economic development also means to what extent a destination has developed a specific economic sector and, for that matter, a broad knowledge base and reputation for it. Here, Vietnam obviously has a long way to go. I recommend that the country focuses on developing and implementing a professional country branding strategy and on continuing to build MICE clusters in HCMC, Hanoi and Danang. Secondly, ‘accessibility’ plays a major role in the choice of a destination. Apart from the central or strategic location of a country, accessibility means the quantity and quality of international air, land and sea routes, visa policies and ease of travel to and from a destination. Vietnam possesses a relative geographic advantage. Regarding travel routes, visa policies and ease of travel, Vietnam has some work to do, but it is on the right path. Thirdly, infrastructure development goes hand in hand with accessibility. For the successful development and promotion of MICE business, international travel routes to and from a country need to be matched by an acceptable standard of national infrastructure - not only domestic air routes and national road systems, but also major convention centers, hotel, resort
  • Increasingly, Vietnam is drawing international MICE business, but more work is needed to expand it and conference facilities and other essential logistics. In this regard, Hanoi and HCMC have made much progress for the physical part, but the local capacity of hosting, organising and managing international events remains low. Fourthly, ‘management capacity’ is a crucial factor in executing major events successfully. Vietnam’s education sector has only recently discovered event management, with some institutions having added it to their tourism and hospitality curricula. In Vietnam, it will take several years to build a pool of event managers, whilst the overall quality of the education system remains in question. Lastly, the successful development and promotion of a country as a MICE destination depends not the least on the quality of its products and services. MICE organisers and travellers are discerning customers with limited time. They usually seek smooth travel, good accommodation, tasty and healthy food, convenient transport, competent service, well organised and effective events, friendly people, and maybe a bit of free leisure time and excitement. The natural beauty of the country must be harnessed in tandem with a solid plan for MICE sector development They want a life-time experience and value for their money. This last point is probably the most complex and difficult to achieve. It requires the efforts of all if Vietnam wants to expand its MICE business further. * Kai Marcus Schröter is a German national living and working in Vietnam since 1998. He is the founder and CEO of HTM Management Consultancy, a boutique hospitality tourism management advisory firm, providing professional services for the industry in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. www.ht-management.com timeou timeout timeout 31 31