Whether it’s halfway around the world, across the region or just down the road, millions of people attend MICE events, short for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions. The sector is like a melting pot where domestic, regional and international travellers meet. Of the 110 million MICE attendees who came to ASEAN in 2014, almost half came from neighbouring countries.
Looking at a bigger regional picture, ASEAN is working hard to build the MICE sector and its efforts are paying off. A MICE Asia-Pacific Expo study found that the industry grew by 133% between 2008 and 2014, and industry watchers at EventNook anticipate even better years to come.
Most significantly, the ASEAN Economic Community spearheads greater economic integration across the bloc. That includes easier travel within ASEAN, making large-scale events more accessible and adding to the growth potential of the MICE sector.
The overall figure is set to increase. In Asia, the meetings which business travellers attend are often slightly smaller than in other parts of the world so there is more room for expansion, and the spend-per-meeting is also expected to rise.
It’s a lucrative market for hotels. Karthik Rajan, Vice President of Public Sector and Government Practice at Frost & Sullivan consultancy firm, calculates that in Thailand, business travellers spend 3.5 times as much per day as leisure travellers, and almost twice as much per trip. In Malaysia that figure is 3 times higher than leisure travellers, while in Singapore it is around 1.7 times.
Influx of foreign and local visitors
MICE events host millions of international, regional and local travellers, so hotels cater to domestic as well as international guests at these events. Even as they court the foreign dollar, they don’t neglect local diners who can make up a majority of attendees.
For example, travel management company Radius Travel estimates that 70-75% of meetings in the Asia-Pacific area are held domestically. So while most official MICE figures emphasise international arrivals, many are from within the country. They may not have travelled a great distance, but their expectations will be as high – if not higher – than those of attendees who have crossed borders to be there.
Local people are also likely to return more often, simply because it is more convenient for them than for overseas guests. And because they often play host to international attendees, they will expect high standards when dining.
Even international arrivals may not be from too far, and most travel takes place within the region. Almost 80% of travellers are from neighbouring countries, so keeping cuisine local at the buffet table can be a successful strategy for hotels.
Different travelling styles
Finally, at a more personal level, the millions of MICE attendees are all individuals who expect to be treated as such.
It helps to have a clear idea of which country most come from, as nationalities differ in their travelling styles. One survey reports that Chinese and Indonesian business travellers place a premium on feeling important, for example, while Singaporeans look for comfort but keep a tight rein on what they spend.
However, business travellers do have things in common as well. They are showing a taste for luxury after the recent budget-conscious years and they look for simple things in a hotel room to help them work efficiently.
Destinations, resorts and hotels that can mix business with leisure and offer more recreation and the ability to work in a relaxed setting, will prosper.