MICE is one of the fastest growing areas in the tourism industry. Can you imagine thousands of people travelling to one destination to learn, grow and evolve? According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the global travel and tourism industry is worth US$7 trillion while the MICE industry is worth 10 percent of that value. This includes domestic and international travel, for leisure and business, the investment in the sector, spending by tourists and tourist businesses, and so on.
It’s estimated Africa accounts for no more than around 2 percent of that US$700 billion figure, at around US$13 billion. That’s just a quarter of what South Africa spent in the run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup! The reality is, the data captured, analysed and reported on are just “the tip of the iceberg” as it does not truly cover the more domestic events.
South Africa is ranked number 1 in Africa, and 34th globally. But don’t think “countries”, think “cities” – Cape Town, Nairobi, Marrakesh, Tunis – cities that actively seek to attract these association events, as well as others, for the benefits that they bring to the destination. Such promotional budgets can pass by the man on the street, who sees the adverts for the destination on the sides of the buses, but is not aware of the millions that are often spent by a city on promoting itself as a conference venue.
The large conference market is supply-led to a large extent – whilst organizers may debate where they want to hold their event, the question is also “who can accommodate us”? Who has the conference facilities, the hotel rooms, the attractions and other essential components of the whole? And for the largest events, the destinations will be invited to bid for the right to host the event, sometimes five years before the date.
Why would a city want to attract hordes of people, clogging up the streets and causing annoyance for the locals? Why would the city authorities spend millions building a new convention centre, like the Rwanda’s Kigali Convention Center cost a whopping $300 million
The answer is simple! Cities benefit alot – both direct and indirect, and both in economic and less tangible terms.
Informed sources say that the average conference delegate spends six times (six times!) what the average vacationer spends in the destination! Add to that the spend by the organizers on transport, the venue itself, with suppliers in the destination, and that adds up. All that creates jobs, and that’s the direct benefit to the city, and its residents.
What are the more intangible benefits? There are several:
- Publicity of the destination. Large events like the World Economic Forum (hosted in Cape Town this year) attract high-profile speakers and delegates and in turn attracts local and international media attention.
- Conference delegates will be encouraged to return to the city or resort on vacation, receiving marketing material on the attractions they can enjoy.
- Business contacts are made, and a well-run event in a welcoming city can encourage new investments there.
- The skills of local businesses that supply products and services to these events are enhanced through experience – hotels, airlines, buses, travel agents, production houses, caterers, corporate giveaways, entertainment, freight forwarders, booth suppliers and designers – the lists goes on.
- The knowledge transfer between delegates, particularly between international attendees and their domestic counterparts. The largest single organizer of international association events
Cities in Africa need to wholeheartedly embrace the MICE industry, and focus on it and its benefits.