At the start of this year, I wrote in this very column about the lack of attention to business events at both the ASEAN Tourism Forum and its B2B exhibition TRAVEX. A weak presence on the agenda of tourism leaders at ASEAN Tourism Forum is a sign that the business events industry is still not given the recognition it deserves for being a contributor to more than just the destination‚Äôs tourism coffers.
The value of our industry continues to be hotly debated among stakeholders today.
My colleague Caroline Boey spoke to some industry leaders about the value of the business events industry for this issue‚Äôs In focus feature (How much is it worth?), and came away without much quantitative information. But these leaders made it clear that our industry touches many critical points, from international trade to national policies.
For the value of business events to be appreciated, I think industry players must first understand the definition of business events and the purpose these gatherings serve.
MICE is a convenient acronym for business events, but it causes some users of the word to forget that it is an abbreviation of meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. Some assume MICE takes in all forms of events.
I‚Äôve sat in CVB press conferences and heard journalists ask about destination weddings and school groups. I‚Äôve attended hotel inspections on business event fam trips and had operators wax lyrical about their property‚Äôs appeal for weddings.
There‚Äôs nothing wrong with chasing after weddings, special interest groups and school trips ‚Äď they bring money to tourism suppliers and their employees. But they are not business events. They do not bring with them the valuable benefits that extend beyond the tourism sphere.
I had a chance last month to speak with the executive director of Thailand‚Äôs Eastern Economic Corridor Office, Cholachit Vorawangso Virakul. I asked her how this major industry zone development would benefit Thailand‚Äôs business events industry. She corrected me, saying that it is the Eastern Economic Corridor that would benefit from business events held in Thailand.
She believes that business events are Thailand‚Äôs ‚Äúquick win‚ÄĚ solution to attracting investors to achieve the country‚Äôs next-generation economic dream.
‚ÄúIt is when people meet and talk and see for themselves the potential of the country, that new business ventures can happen,‚ÄĚ she said.
That is the kind of reach our industry has and needs to be credited for.