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ITTFA Comment on… MICE are squeaking!

The MICE market – meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions – is starting to show strong recovery, with the events organised by many ITTFA members having an increased focus on this sector.

Business travel generally went into steep decline after 9/11, with incentive travel being hit particularly hard because of a disinclination to travel by the largest market, from the US.

ITTFA has a specialist in this sector among its members, EIBTM – the Global Meetings and Incentive Exhibition, which moved from Geneva to the new regular venue of Barcelona last December.

Paul Kennedy, EIBTM exhibition director, says: “One of the key reasons that EIBTM moved to Barcelona was to accommodate the growth in this industry. Over the years destinations have increased, and most notably countries in Eastern Europe are focusing on this lucrative sector of the travel industry.

“A 47% increase in visitor numbers also reflected a healthy growth in international buyers from countries as far apart as Australia and Czech Republic, to Hong Kong and US.”

The EIBTM 2004 Industry Trends & Market Share Report, by Rob Davidson, senior lecturer in business travel and tourism at the University of Westminster in London, makes interesting reading – including the start of incentive travel from the emerging markets of India and China. He warns that change will accelerate in 2005 – and organisers should “expect the unexpected”.

Looking at 2004, he notes: “Buyers were spoilt for choice in terms of destinations for their events. The number of cities and resorts competing in the international conference and incentive market has increased faster than anyone could have predicted.

“On the other hand, worldwide demand was circumscribed by the economic imperative of being able to demonstrate a clear return on investment for such events. Never before have planners of business events been under such immense pressure.”

Two general travel exhibitions with a special focus on the MICE market are MITT in Moscow and World Travel Market in London.

Frederique Maurell, senior events and sales manager of MITT organiser ITE Travel Exhibitions, says the decision to launch a separate MICE workshop in Moscow last September was in response to the growing strength of this sector in Russia.

“More than three million Russians are travelling internationally on business trips each year and this figure is rapidly increasing,” she says. “Though new congress centres are being built, the available infrastructure is not matching the growing demand as more than 60% of Russian corporate meetings are held abroad. The budgets allocated to business expenses are increasing in small, medium and large companies.

“We decided on a focused workshop welcoming selected exhibitors such as destination management companies, MICE tour operators, tourist offices, congress centres and events organisers. It was welcomed with great enthusiasm and this year’s event will be September 19.”

The second day of WTM in London is officially designated Meetings, Conference and Incentive Travel Day Focus. In recent years the day has grown in stature with not only stage events and a seminar programme, but a dedicated UK Meetings Industry Village. Also last year, six of the leading associations came together for the first time at an exhibition as official supporters.

Last year 1,710 WTM visitors listed their area of activity as an incentive house or agency; 2,999 as a business travel agency; and 2,427 as conference organiser. Visitors were also asked their particular areas of interest with 7,784 highlighting conference and meetings venues (up 10%) and 7,435 listed incentive destinations (up 25.6%).

WTM group exhibition director, and ITTFA president, Fiona Jeffery, says: “There is no doubt from our research that there is a growing demand for an event that is dedicated to all aspects of the travel and tourism industry.

“By forging relationships with leading associations and attracting some of the sector’s leading players and personalities, we are offering buyers a real reason to attend WTM as well as other dedicated events like EIBTM.”