On road to recovery

MICE events are well on their way to recovery as corporates resume physical meets and conventions

ONE OF the major revenue spinners for the tourism sector, MICE also took a beating when the pandemic hit us. While the wedding industry kept itself afloat by reducing its size and numbers, MICE events went down and under. With everyone opting for work from home (WFH) model, this was only expected. It took time to bounce back, but now MICE is seeing a definitive upward trajectory, opine industry leaders. Also, some locations, like Raffles Udaipur, are gaining the most-favoured status for MICE events. 

“We have started to emerge as a go-to destination for MICE. Actually, the WFH model adopted during the pandemic have made many companies realise its usefulness, particularly in saving the overhead expenses that come with office. These companies have continued with the WFH mode; the money they thus save is then utilised in taking the team out to different locations for meetings,” says Rajesh Namby, General Manager, Raffles Udaipur, adding that MICE will no longer remain limited to meetings in rooms, and meals. “A lot more is slated to happen,” he says. Agrees a visibly happy Rajiv Kapoor, General Manager, Fairmont Jaipur. “I am a strong believer of one-on-one meetings. We are seeing very high number of people coming physically,” he says. 

The Radisson Hotel Group too is witnessing a strong boost from social MICE across all its hotels. Corporate travel leads the demand with MICE and MSME bookings picking up pace, especially in Tier I and Tier II cities like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai. It also witnessed an increase in MICE bookings across leisure destinations like Mussoorie, Dharamsala, Lonavala and Visakhapatnam where organisers are looking to club work and play. “Since MICE has a long lead time, we know future occupancy levels will be strong as well,” says Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice President of Operations South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group.

The Westin Mumbai Garden City is witnessing a lot of sales meetings lately. “Sales meets and MICE events have come back very strongly. Now, we are experiencing pre-pandemic numbers,” says General Manager Sharad Datta. “As far as training meetings are concerned, these haven’t bounced back as per our expectations but then we do see a little uptrend,” he adds. 

Stressing that virtual MICE events are here to stay, Rajat Sethi, General Manager, ITC Grand Bharat, Gurugram, says, “Virtual meetings are more convenient and cost effective for the companies. It saves time and travel cost for employees.” But, informs Sethi, that corporates are now also looking at holding physical meetings. “Corporate MICE has surely picked up. People are looking at not only holding meetings for corporates and senior leadership, but also for induction of new people and training for personnel,” he avers. 

“MICE travel has become more individualised, and personalisation will remain the most important way to deliver delight, even long after the pandemic is behind us. Moving ahead, technology will be a concrete and fundamental solution to achieve the goal of attaining contactless events, while retaining a personal touch. Sustainable practices paired with viable commercial strategies will be the strongest pillars that accelerate growth and consideration for the domestic MICE sector,” says Saxena. 

Another trend being seen in the post-pandemic world is that MICE events are now also happening in Tier II and Tier III cities, and not just metros, which gives participants an opportunity to relax as well as hold serious in-person business meetings. “This trend is likely to continue further as business and leisure happening together is a good experience,” shares Rajesh Rajpurohit, General Manager, Radisson Blu Resort Dharamsala. He can vouch for his resort recently hosted the three-day National Conference of State Tourism Ministers. 

Infrastructure needed

With corporates looking at far-flung areas for holding MICE events, there is an urgent need to build requisite infrastructure. The government needs to develop smaller cities as well in addition to metros so that MICE events can be facilitated. In other words, the infrastructure in the country needs to be supportive of the growing corporate demands for events. As Namby says, “MICE industry seems to have bounced back to pre-pandemic numbers and corporates are organising big conventions. Unfortunately, related infrastructural development leaves a lot to be desired in these cities. In fact, a lot needs to be done even in Udaipur – the city doesn’t have many places that can hold several meetings under one roof.” 

“The MICE sector is growing, but in pockets. With the focus now shifting from Europe to Asia Pacific region, India is on the verge of becoming a regional leader in MICE tourism. As a result, most of the states here are coming up with big conventions and exhibition centres that are at par with international standards and are capable of hosting world-class events,” says Barun Gupta, Director of Sales and Marketing, Hyatt Regency Delhi. 

Kochi recently launched the Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre while Mumbai has its Jio Convention Centre. Delhi has three such spaces – India Expo Mart (already in existence); the Pragati Maidan grounds (being renovated) and India International Convention and Expo Centre (being built on Dwarka Expressway) at a proximity of 10 minutes from the international airport. 

“Cities like Varanasi, Agra and Pune are being prioritised by the government to better equip them to host MICE events. These centres are driving city-wide movements and are the biggest contributor of high revenues for respective cities and states. Big conventions drive a lot of business within a city,” adds Gupta. 

“The past few years have been a game-changer for domestic MICE as corporates and the events sector started exploring multiple pockets around the country, aided by government initiatives that promoted local travel and experiences. The Indian hospitality industry has taken several strides toward developing a robust MICE facility and today its contribution reflects heavily in the bottom line. With globally benchmarked standards and immersive local experiences, domestic properties will continue to attract the MICE traveller, especially given the diversity and vastness of tourism offerings that India houses,” puts in Saxena.

The need of the hour, feel experts, is a realistic approach, clear strategy and moving forward within defined periods and solid plans which will help the country become an attractive MICE destination in the days to come.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER - THE WEDDINGS & MICE SPECIAL'


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