Rounding up trends, opportunities and challenges in the MICE industry

After a challenging 2019, Ana Fasulakis, Chairman of award-winning MICE agency Sure Travkor Travel, discusses the MICE landscape for 2020. 

After a challenging 2019, Ana Fasulakis, Chairman of award-winning MICE agency Sure Travkor Travel, discusses the MICE landscape for 2020. 

“There is no doubt that corporates cut back on conferencing and incentives during 2019 due to the dismal economic conditions. Companies are more price-conscious than ever with many nervous to outlay funds on conferences and events just at the time when they should be spending the money to motivate their teams and build them up for the future,” says Ana. 

Despite the bleakness of the current situation, Ana advises that there are still opportunities to do well. She says that the industry needs to regroup, restrategise and reinvent themselves. “There is still room for those whose strategies remain flexible enough to react to fast-changing market conditions and for specialists who excel in the niche markets that they serve to thrive.” 

“Clients are looking for extra value right now, and venues and event organisers that incorporate this into their offerings will continue to draw clients. This can be done in the form of all-inclusive packages, drinks offers, shopping vouchers and meal upgrades to signature restaurants.” With this in mind, Ana explains that the MICE cruising sector continued to boom during 2019 due to the value that cruises offer, the upfront all-inclusive pricing structure and the ease of processing these bookings. 

Within this sector, she advises that river cruising – in both Europe and the Orient – has become particularly in-vogue with the MICE sector right now. 

From an international perspective, Ana says that the unstable rand and difficulty in obtaining visas remains the biggest barrier to converting international MICE bookings. To overcome this, she recommends that groups allow a long lead time for bookings to ensure that delegates have sufficient time to gather the required paperwork for their visa applications. 

Domestically and regionally, Ana reports that there is an oversupply of conferencing options. She feels that venues are remaining too inflexible on price during a time when MICE demand is very flat. “South African venues need to sharpen their pencils and not position themselves to rely solely on the international traveller. There is a lot of business to be made locally but the price must be right to lure South African companies away from their in-house events and into a MICE venue.” 

Ana also reports that the length of South African international incentives has reduced from an average of seven or eight nights down to five or six nights. She says that this is in line with international MICE standards. Ana adds that a trend of smaller group sizes has also emerged with the reduction in numbers, allowing groups to engage on a more intimate level and for budgets to be stretched to higher-end options. 

Conferencing tip 

According to Ana, a successful MICE organiser needs to have genuine compassion for people, a knack for attention to detail and 24-hour commitment to ensuring that a trip runs smoothly. 

“Get complete, detailed input from every participant and ensure that this is passed on to every supplier. Take the care to celebrate birthdays and other occasions, to book twin rooms when requested and to locate clients with health complains in rooms nearer to main areas,” she adds. 

Ana also urges event organisers not to overlook the importance of the post-mortem, saying that no matter how long you have been in the business, there is always something more that you can learn.