“MICE Clients are drawn to Limpopo for three main reasons – animals, accessibility and affordability,” says Sean Hall, General Manager of Monate Game Lodge. Here, guests can enjoy incredible wildlife experiences at a fraction of the cost of a Kruger experience in locations as nearby as a two-hour drive from Pretoria or Johannesburg.
According to Sean, it is still possible for MICE sales to thrive despite difficult business conditions. In order to do he says that properties need to constantly reinvent themselves, offering more than the standard conferencing offing and instead brining in experiential offerings that will excite, inspire and entice guests.
Sean adds that the industry’s focus is moving away from “the hotel room” as its primary focus. “Guests are increasingly using their rooms simply as a place to sleep in. As a result, venues are spending less of their budgets on accommodation and more on creating shared facilities that allow guests to get out of their rooms, maximise socializing opportunities and enjoy new experiences,” he explains.
“At Monate we try to create aha moments for guests at every turn. We do not confine meals to one indoor area but instead make use of several different eating areas. This creates a different experience for guests with every meal. We can easily arrange banquets, but we also set up starlit boma dinners, arrange surprise sundowners at the Hippo Dam and organise lamplit dinners in a cave carved into the hillside near the lodge.”
Sean says that he has picked up on an increase in smaller executive management breakaway bookings than in the past. He says that Monate Game Lodge is a popular choice for this as guests often find the peacefulness of the bush creatively inspiring for their strategy sessions.
He adds that the lodge has also seen an increase in guests making use of their onsite helipad and landing strip. “Despite difficult conditions, companies are willing to spend money to ensure that their strategic decision makers’ time is efficiently used rather than to have it wasted spending hours travelling to a far-off location by car.”
It is vitally important that conference organisers establish open channels of communication with a venue’s conference coordinator. Sean encourages guests to communicate clearly with a venue about their vision for the conference from the moment that the initial quotation is requested right up until the end of the event. “Do not be afraid to ask. Venues love to make the extraordinary happen, but they can’t recreate the client’s vision of what they want if no one speaks up,” says Sean.