It's Not Really a MICEtry
The Union Government has set a target for MICE INDIA to achieve 2 percent of the global MICE market share by 2025, from the current share of 0.5 percent. The hospitality sector, being one of the major stakeholder of the MICE industry showed an impressive growth over the last couple of years. We spoke with hospitality doyens and professionals about their hotel chains and how they are making MICE sense.
Photo Credit : Courtesy ITC Hotels Limited,
A Boardroom facility at the ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru.
SINCE ITS inception, the Meeting Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is showing an abrupt growth curve across all continents. Globally amounting at around USD 280–300 billion, the Asian MICE industry is among the leading growth story with 38 percent escalation in a decade. The Asian industry alone comprises of USD 60 Billion to the Global MICE. Reports of 2016 indicate that the Indian MICE industry is estimated at USD 1.3 Billion. Talking about the Global position of MICE industry in India, the country has climbed to the 31st position on the Global MICE map from 35th the previous year. The list is led by countries like the USA, Germany, Spain, France and the UK. The MICE industry contributes 0.22 percent to the GDP of the country while it contributes 3.26 percent to the tourism industry in India. Accounting to the fact that MICE events are mainly globally focused, eminent infrastructure becomes a pre-requisite to holding a MICE event. That is the reason, smaller cities or the cities lacking required infrastructure cannot hold such events. However, The Union Government has set a target MICE INDIA to achieve 2 percent of the global MICE market share by 2025, from an insignificant current share of 0.5 percent. The hospitality sector, thus being one of the major stakeholder of the MICE industry showed an impressive growth rates over the last couple of years on increasing MICE. The industry veterans have taken the topic in their hands with a great care to make their business more profitable. We have some experts from various hotel giants speaking about their hotels and how they are making MICE as ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’.
‘Infrastructure the major key driver’ Dipak Haksar, CEO, ITC Hotels
“Our belief in this segment is manifested in the kind of hotels we have recently opened and are planning to open in the future,” Haksar says. ITC Grand Chola and ITC Gardenia in the south have some of the largest meeting spaces while the newly opened ITC Kohenur in Hyderabad and soon to be launched ITC Royal Bengal in Kolkata will have large exceptionally designed MICE products and services, as told by him. Haksar feels that while having some phenomenal hotels with capabilities to handle MICE business of all scale, the "destination" itself plays a key role, which is why MICE demand is directly proportional to the strength of the infrastructure in the region. “Besides this, the weather, political climate, government and taxation policies, flight connectivity etc all play a key role in choosing a destination,” he added.
Speaking about the USPs of ITC when it comes to the MICE segment, Haksar elaborated, “Our presence in multiple geographies allow us to offer new experiences and retain cyclical events within our portfolio. On the service front, we have intricately designed F&B options that cater specifically to MICE. Meeting technology is another area we will continue to invest in. We have some of the most advanced conferencing facilities and equipment in our hotels.”
Infrastructure being one the major key driver for attracting MICE business, Haksar believes that destination marketing also plays a huge role in making a region desired for MICE. “The more a location is able to offer in terms of activities, attractions, history, culture and great experiences - the more likely it is for the destination to become a preferred choice,” he commented. According to him, With India poised globally as an attractive investment opportunity, the country will continue to see more International Corporate MICE business coming in few years.
‘High GST Rate is a bane’ Raj Rana, CEO, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group
At Radisson Hotel Group, social MICE such as weddings and social engagements are a bigger contributor than corporate MICE. “We have good capacity in our hotels with average space size of 15,000 square feet and our YTD revenue numbers are showing a healthy upward trend. The MICE segment as a whole needs to move into higher end international conventions which is where the returns are,” says Rana. According to him, the high GST rate between 18-28 percent is a bane for the overall attractiveness of the hospitality sector. Cost and speed of domestic travel are a bottleneck. “It’s sometimes cheaper to fly to Dubai than to fly to Bengaluru,” he commented.
Speaking about the hotel group, Rana assures that in the Radisson Hotel Group every lead is handled efficiently through a well-defined process from walk-ins, email queries, making contract, detailing requirements by designated teams and all steps are executed with caution and care for proper coordination. “We have a unique hotel rewards programme exclusively for meeting and event professionals. The planners earn 5 Gold Points for every USD spent,” he adds.
By citing the example of Geospatial World Forum and African Development Bank’s annual summit being organized in Hyderabad and Ahmedabad respectively Rana feels that India has tremendous potential to tap this segment. “However, we are hopeful that government initiatives to boost MICE such as redevelopment of Pragati Maidan to host exhibitions and trade fairs, and construction of world-class convention centre in Dwarka to attract international summits will uplift the market to its potential,” he adds.
Bulk of the MICE business continues to come from social engagements such as weddings and wedding-related functions or domestic MICE involving corporate meetings and events within the country. Such opportunities are critical to elevate MICE earnings for the industry as these bring in discretionary spends on top of higher rates.
‘Gurgaon a preferred MICE destination’, Amitabh Rai, GM, The Oberoi, Gurgaon
The Oberoi, Gurgaon along with its sister property, Trident, Gurgaon, together offer a luxury complex ideal for MICE spread over 28,000 square feet of bespoke banqueting space. The complex offers 338 rooms, including 22 suites, five restaurants, three bars, 15 meeting room spaces, 24-hour spa, dining and recreational options. Gurgaon being a business hub is thus a preferred choice for MICE. “The proximity to the airport, the presence of top Fortune 500 companies, easy connectivity to Delhi and the presence of world class luxury hotels, all together make Gurgaon a prestigious and preferred MICE destination,” Rai says.
“I am continually inspired by our Executive Chairman, Mr. P.R.S. Oberoi who lives by the motto of ‘not wanting to be biggest, but to always be recognised as the best’,” Rai tells. He believes that the luxury segment in India will keep on evolving in a significant way and companies that cater to this will be able to survive and grow exponentially.
The Oberoi, Gurgaon is soon going to launch SLOW – that’s Sustainable Local Organic Wholesome – a product that will give an experience of the local cuisine and culture to its guests. For this, the hotels have tied up with two havelis 40 km from the hotel where guests can sup with the locals as Baul musicians play for them. In addition to our delightful Rai staycations and weekend getaways.
“What gives our hotels an edge is that as a conjoined twosome (since the hotels are seamlessly connected) guests can enjoy six restaurants, three bars, five pools in one plot of 17 acres,” Rai proclaims.
‘MICE Commits 30 percent of our hotel revenue’ Arnab Chatterjee, DoSM, Taj Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi
MICE is one the key segment for Taj Diplomatic Enclave and commits almost 30 percent of the hotel revenue. Taj Diplomatic Enclave provides large conventions with state of the art facility. From services to security, the hotel’s banquet team ensures maximum guest satisfaction.
“Other international destination such as Shanghai/ Barcelona/ Bankonk /Singapore are key MICE destination and India loses out being the prime choice. With the renovation of Pragati Maidan, we are hopeful that we will be able to draw large convention and exhibition in Delhi and eventually helping even hotels to grow,” feels Chaterjee.
‘VISA processing for large events needs improvement’ Vipul Kamboj, DoSM, The Leela Ambience Gurugram Hotel & Residences
The Leela Ambience Gurugram do a business of about 15-17 percent of room revenue from MICE segment. “As we are a business and a very strong MICE hotel, keeping the same in mind, we have a dedicated event services team which is a single point of contact for all your needs during your event/conferences,” says Kamboj. “MICE business is all about the experience on the banquet floor, and for international mice travellers Gurgaon offers great value for money destination, with pre and post travel options, proximity to the airport and good quality upscale hotel,” he adds.
The hotel has 27000 sqft of indoor space located on one level which is above the lobby level, with two dedicated sales teams for the acquisition called the hunters and for the retention they are called the collectors. “Hunters are in market on daily basis to ensure that we get regular business for the hotel and similarly collectors remain in hotel to take the leads towards closing of business. With the effective contribution of both the teams we ensure that the budgets are met on monthly basis,” Kamboj explained.
“We expect more Indians to travel and bring back their overseas experience. Over and above, the ease of VISA processing for large events and then immigration services at the airport need a drastic improvement to attract business in India. The connectivity within the city should also improve so that traffic is not a deterrent for pre and post leisure visits,” he feels.
‘Digital Marketing Playing a crucial role in MICE’, Sandeep Johri, GM, Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences
MICE segment’s contribution to Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences’ revenue is also steadily increasing with improved economic sentiment amidst growing competition among states to attract investments. With the addition of Biswa Bangla Convention centre, large volumes of new events are being organised in Kolkata, which is and will result in good share of business due to proximity. Moreover, growing number of government events and large-scale weddings have also led to an improvement of 5-6 per cent in ADR’s on a monthly basis.
Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences claims to be the largest inventory hotel in Eastern India with 340 keys including 12 suites, one presidential suite and 48 full serviced apartments along with multiple banqueting and meeting venues to accommodate event size from 10 to 1000 guests.
“Today, one of the greatest challenge that a MICE driven hotels are to retain price points in the increasingly competitive marketplace. With the recent addition of keys in the Upscale and Midscale segment, hotels will need to be extra agile and flexible in both services and facilities to cater new demands. Additionally, the inclusion of technology across channels plays a vital role in the MICE business and acts as an extended sales support throughout the globe,” says Johri.
According to him, segmentation plays a key feature in any hotel’s revenue strategy, so a thorough analysis of the same along with training the team to input bookings and understanding the purpose behind segmentation. “We believe, strategic marketing plays an important role along with keeping ourselves updated about any upcoming city-wide events to participate or host. Apart from traditional practices, digital marketing has started playing a very important role in MICE and helps us target our customers using the specific geo-marketing campaigns,” he adds.
Novotel Kolkata is known to provide guests access to a range of facilities and services for meetings and events like State-of-the-art A/V technology, maximum utilization of floor space and high-speed Wi-Fi internet access etc. The hotel also uses digital media extensively to showcase their venues and offerings. Their wedding and aerial videos are loved by all audiences as they showcase the exquisite experiences very aptly according to Johri.
‘MICE an integral part of company’s growth strategy’ Natasha Yashpal, AVP- Travel & Trade, Lemon Tree Hotels Limited.
For Lemon Tree Hotels, Mice is an integral part of the company’s growth strategy, especially since now the company is focusing on building large conference and meeting spaces in new hotels like in case of the twin properties – Lemon Tree Hotels and Red Fox Hotel Sector 60, Gurugram. The hotel have come up with approx. 20,000 sq.ft Lemon Tree Convention Center, to meet the business, wedding and social needs of the guests.
“Many of our soon-to-open hotels that are owned like Udaipur, Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune are being built will have large banquet spaces and are being built to cater to this segment,” says Yashpal.
According to her, MICE movement has been focusing a lot on outbound travel and ‘Destination India’ loses out to foreign locations as a result of this. “We are introducing comprehensive packages to drive domestic MICE by introducing experiences, activities and entertainment to attract the customer. While internally, the hotel teams are being trained to handle these experiences better; our competitive edge lies in the in-house Learning and Development team that we can reach out to, anytime, to organized specialized workshops, tailor-made events, and even help address a customer’s individual training needs,” Yashpal adds.
‘Need of reliable online platform’ Ankit Tandon, COO - OYO Townhouse
OYO is working towards the goal of offering MICE facilities to over 1500 hotels by the end of 2018. MICE is a flourishing business segment for OYO and have received great response since the launch of new vertical in June 2017. “For instance, OYO’s unique offerings including OYO Townhouse and OYO Home, add to the choices of customers giving them the freedom of space, size and facilities. OYO Townhouse appeal to young corporate guests through an innovative minimalistic elegance and an array of elegantly-furnished meeting rooms with a utilitarian yet aesthetic feel - clean, crisp and progressive. For corporate clients, we offer a single interface for their multi-city training and conference requirements,” said Tandon. For OYO the biggest target for MICE is SMEs and budget travellers.
“Given the implementation of GST, India’s overall ranking in the Ease of Doing Business has moved up 30 notches. This has led to a further uptick in business travel as well as an increase in MICE facilities. Interestingly, unlike earlier times when MICE facilities were restricted to luxury hotels, many small-and-medium-sized companies have pushed up demand for MICE at more affordable price-points,” Tandon further tells. According to him, one of the major issue affecting the MICE business is the absence of a reliable online platform. This makes it a tiresome process for customers in conducting activities such as banquet discovery, sampling and booking. “On identifying this challenge, our technology-enabled services have helped in resolving the same by enabling users to discover, sample, book and track banquets from the comfort of their homes,” he says.
As part of their technological investments, OYO has a remote technology development centre in Hyderabad, where the company is exploring the travel packages and MICE space, focusing on technology-driven innovation.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'The MICE issue'
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