Despite the region's burgeoning growth in MICE numbers, CVBs grapple with limited support from government bodies, citing the main problem of being conflated with tourism.
Despite the region’s burgeoning growth in MICE numbers, CVBs grapple with limited support from government bodies, citing the main problem of being conflated with tourism.
“In Asia-Pacific, everybody’s been eager to jump onto the MICE bandwagon, but (because) they don’t all understand why, most of them are driven by the need to grow visitor numbers. As such, (MICE has) been driven very much by tourism efforts,” said Mike Williams, senior consultant, Gaining Edge.
Thailand Convention and Exhition Bureau’s (TCEB) Waraporn Sornprom agreed, and observed: “The MICE industry is not heard on government platforms (in Asia).”
For some countries, CVBs are non-existent while in others they play a limited role – like in India where the India Convention Promotion Bureau does not bid for events and Hyderabad Convention Visitors Bureau is the country’s only city-level CVB.
Conversely, under the Thailand 4.0 scheme, TCEB’s “strength” is in reporting directly to the Prime Minister’s Office, said Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of TCEB.
This has in turn created the opportunity for a holistic marketing strategy, as well as allowed TCEB to benefit from firsthand information and updates on government policies, explained Chiruit.
Such integrated government support is the same advantage played by Singapore, said James Latham, The Iceberg and the Joint Meetings Industry Council. Although MICE developments share the city-state’s tourism budget, it responds directly to the Prime Minister’s Office under the Singapore Tourism Board.
This has allowed Singapore, as well as other cities such as London, to target specific sectors for economic growth by creating “clustered” events like Singapore Medical Week and London Tech Week.
One solution to unlocking support and funding is that CVBs should collaborate with “key industry communities” to communicate to the government that the MICE industry is “more than tourism”, but also spurs growth across the economy, said Williams.
This includes local associations, private companies in the industry and the academic community.
Williams cited the example of how Gaining Edge worked with universities such as Melbourne University to lobby more government support for scientific academia and research – an effort which led to the construction of a new international convention centre.
He also mentioned that the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau currently helps develop and strengthen associations’ local presence to build membership and foundation before bidding on an international platform.
Williams added that, in fact, associations can even “play a leading role in talking to the government” to develop a city’s MICE capabilities.
To this effect, TCEB has pulled its weight in the ASEAN committee. Waraporn shared that the bureau “has been engaging with ASEAN, and for next year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum, we’ve created the ASEAN MICE Forum”.
She added: “We looked into engaging city-level professionals and ASEAN experts to meet within an official framework”.
Jason Yeh, president of ICCA Asia Pacific and association president and destination marketing of Taiwan Convention and Exhibition Association, urged CVBs to have targeted initiatives by “(creating their) own events to match destination positioning and city branding”.