Editor's Blog

Time for governments to take events seriously
Sun 12 Nov, 2017 at 12:00 am

Although most Asian destinations have seen substantial growth in inbound MICE business, convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) have received limited support from the government and other funding agencies. The nagging issue for CVBs is that their area of operation often gets clubbed with mainstream tourism, i.e. leisure travel business. In the Asia-Pacific region, every tourism stakeholder is eager to jump onto the MICE bandwagon but they don’t all understand how or why, other than being driven by the need to grow visitor numbers. As such, MICE has been largely driven by tourism efforts, rather than specific focus on its development and a macro-level game plan to promote it. Waraporn Sornprom of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) observed: “The MICE industry is not heard of on government platforms in Asia.”

In some countries, CVBs do not exist, while in others they play a limited role. In India, the India Convention Promotion Bureau does not bid for events but advises and supports MICE companies to do so. Hyderabad Convention Visitors Bureau is the country’s only destination-specific CVB.

However, exceptions amply prove the rule. Under the Thailand 4.0 scheme, TCEB benefits from reporting directly to the Prime Minister’s Office. Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of TCEB, explained that this has in turn created the opportunity for a broad marketing strategy, as well as allowed TCEB to benefit from direct inputs and information government policies.

Singapore receives the same integrated support from its government. Although MICE development shares the country’s tourism budget, it relates directly to the Prime Minister’s Office under the Singapore Tourism Board. Such direct lines of communication leading to strategy formulation and approval has allowed Singapore, as well as other cities such as London, to target specific sectors for economic growth by creating clustered events like Singapore Medical Week and London Tech Week.

One way to facilitate support and funding is for CVBs to collaborate with key industry stakeholders and communicate to the government that the MICE industry is more than tourism and spurs growth across the economy, emanating from industry-specific associations promoting local chapters, paving the way from inward investment in the destination market. Local associations, private companies in the industry and the academic community play a major role in this process.

Examples such as specific influence, collaboration and sharing of intelligence leading to greater governmental support for scientific academia and research was evident in the case of the University of Melbourne. Their effort largely led to the construction of a new international convention centre in the city. To some extent, the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau currently helps develop and strengthen associations’ presence in the country, with the foundation of local chapters or forming of new associations and to bid on an international platform. Associations can be influencers to the government to develop a destination’s MICE capabilities.

TCEB has led from the front in the ASEAN forum. Their MICE standard has been accepted as the roadmap and quality standard to follow by the partner ASEAN nations to good effect. Waraporn revealed that the bureau “has been engaging with ASEAN and for the 2018 ASEAN Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai we’ve created the ASEAN MICE Forum. We looked into engaging city-level professionals and ASEAN experts to meet within an official framework”.

Jason Yeh, president of ICCA Asia Pacific and association president and destination marketing head of Taiwan Convention and Exhibition Association, urged CVBs to have targeted initiatives by “creating their own events to match destination positioning and city branding”.

Dubai Business Events has had substantial success in receiving governmental support in wooing international conventions and large association meetings to the city. The establishment of the Dubai Association Centre has helped associations to look proactively at setting up their offices in Dubai, leading to favourably considering the city for them and their global partners to move many major events there.

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