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
The InterContinental Hanoi West Lake offers fantastic views
and MICE facilities to match
ith the country’s global
integration and economic
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
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 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-
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
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
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
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
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
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.