Gath­er­ing ex­pe­ri­en­tial MICE skills

Micetalk - - Contents - Kan­chan Nath

Elab­o­rat­ing on dif­fer­ent skills re­quired for ex­pe­ri­en­tial MICE, dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers of the MICE in­dus­try gave their per­spec­tive dur­ing the 2nd edi­tion of the Travel Busi­ness Show. Here are some ex­cerpts...

The panel dis­cus­sion was mod­er­ated by Priti Khanna, Di­rec­tor, DDP Pub­li­ca­tions and the em­i­nent pan­elists in­cluded Tekla Maira, Di­rec­tor Lux­ury Sales –India, Ac­corHo­tels; Homa Mistry, CEO, Trail Blazer Tours; Ki­ran Thomas, AVP, Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Global Travel, Suther­land Global Ser­vices and Is­mail A Hamid Amer, Re­gional Di­rec­tor, Egyp­tian Tourism Coun­sel­lor.

Ini­ti­at­ing the dis­cus­sion, Khanna elu­ci­dated on the growth trends in the MICE seg­ment. She said, “Glob­ally, the MICE seg­ment has over­taken the busi­ness trip seg­ment and has a 54 per cent mar­ket share. The FICCI-MRSS re­port re­leased ear­lier this year states that for MICE it is es­sen­tial to cu­rate ex­pe­ri­ences than just tourist spots. The suc­cess of any event hinges on the at­tendee ex­pe­ri­ence. At­ten­dees come in a va­ri­ety and with vary­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and mo­ti­va­tions that af­fect how they ex­pe­ri­ence an event. This makes MICE even more chal­leng­ing as there are large num­bers in­volved.”

TAI­LOR­ING MICE EVENT APTLY

The dis­cus­sion throws light on how des­ti­na­tions are culling out ex­pe­ri­ences that are ex­clu­sively cu­rated for the par­tic­i­pants. Elab­o­rat­ing on the same, Mistry said, “De­cid­ing a des­ti­na­tion purely de­pends on the cor­po­rate's bud­get. If the bud­get is 40,000 per per­son, you pretty well know its go­ing to be Sri Lanka, Dubai or Thai­land. If the bud­get is a lakh plus, then you are talk­ing Europe. It's the bud­get and it's the date which takes us for­ward to see which coun­try and where we are go­ing to go. Our role comes in when we get a brief from the client on what they want to achieve.”

The client and ex­pe­ri­ence shall reap its ben­e­fit only when the com­pany knows the ex­act re­quire­ments of their cus­tomers, adds Mistry. “If it is just a tour he is giv­ing to deal­ers to go for and en­joy well, you look at it dif­fer­ently. If there is a theme to it, for ex­am­ple, if there is a prod­uct launch, then every­thing changes depend­ing on the theme. Theme takes you across to what the ex­te­rior should be. What ex­actly the cor­po­rate wants? What is the fi­nal achieve­ment? Is the cor­po­rate look­ing at in­creas­ing the sales or is it look­ing at a brand which is be­ing launched?”

The FICCIMRSS re­port re­leased this year states that for MICE it is es­sen­tial to cu­rate ex­pe­ri­ences

Elab­o­rat­ing on the grow­ing im­por­tance of in­cen­tives, Maira stated, “MICE is re­ally a big piece and the ‘I' in the MICE is what is dom­i­nat­ing the seg­ment. When you are look­ing at a MICE move­ment there are a num­ber of stake­hold­ers. There is the in­ter­me­di­ary (DMC or agent), the cor­po­rate end user, each one has some­thing

where their suc­cess hinges on. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand how we can help them to suc­ceed. That is why I al­ways urge our travel part­ners, take us with you to your end user cor­po­rate, so that we can un­der­stand what do they ac­tu­ally want.”

It re­mains im­por­tant and pertinent to com­pre­hend what the deal­ers/ sales peo­ple are try­ing to achieve. “We need to un­der­stand what is the cor­po­rate look­ing for to­day, if your tak­ing a dealer in­cen­tive, what is it that's go­ing to wow them. Is it the meet­ing fa­cil­ity, is it the room, is it the food? Once we un­der­stand that we can bring suc­cess.” "We had a group stay­ing with us in a ho­tel in Abu Dabi, they all had sea fac­ing rooms, so on the last day when the event was end­ing, we wanted to do some­thing spe­cial. Each of the cor­po­rates had a sea fac­ing room, af­ter the event on the last morn­ing, when they looked out­side, we had the logo of the com­pany on the beach, that said ‘thank you so much for stay­ing with us'. These are very small things and they make a big dif­fer­ence,” adds Maira.

COM­PO­NENTS OF DE­SIGN­ING THE IN­CEN­TIVE PRO­GRAMME

A well de­signed re­wards or in­cen­tive pro­gramme can have a quan­tifi­able im­pact on the core ob­jec­tives of the or­gan­i­sa­tion be it gen­er­at­ing more rev­enue, cre­at­ing brand loy­alty, em­ployee recog­ni­tion or ad­dress­ing HR is­sues. The dis­cus­sion per­tained to high­light­ing the pa­ram­e­ters to de­cide on a venue. Thomas opined, “From the cor­po­rate point of view, when you talk about an in­cen­tive, va­ri­ety is what we aim to of­fer em­ploy­ees and one of them is travel. You can have a cash in­cen­tive or a gift in­cen­tive. There are a lot of op­tions avail­able for a cor­po­rate to de­cide, like the spe­cial of­fer­ings to be given to the em­ploy­ees. The sec­ond thing would be to what my Re­turn on In­vest­ment shall be. So, if I am will­ing to spend a 1000 ru­pees on MICE, I will look at what I am go­ing to reap out of it. What is go­ing to make that em­ployee mo­ti­vated, for him to come back and sell more of my prod­ucts? It is vi­tal to make sure at what is that they are look­ing at. Like a com­mon coun­try used for MICE, that would not re­ally mo­ti­vate or give a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence for MICE. So, it will be depend­ing on what is the trend in the mar­ket cur­rently and which new des­ti­na­tions are be­ing ex­plored. Then comes the ex­pe­ri­ence with a per­sonal touch.”

EX­PE­RI­ENC­ING MICE

The ex­pe­ri­ence for a MICE par­tic­i­pant/at­tendee be­gins from the time an event is an­nounced and con­tin­ues till clo­sure, be it the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, fol­low-up, des­ti­na­tion ac­ces­si­bil­ity, visas, safety,

A well de­signed re­wards or in­cen­tive pro­gramme can have a quan­tifi­able im­pact

hy­giene fac­tors, at­ti­tude of peo­ple in the host coun­try, on ground de­liv­ery, post event clo­sure. The dis­cus­sion pointed to the el­e­ments that en­hance the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence.

Maira added, “I think its very im­por­tant to be clear in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion right from the be­gin­ning. What mars every­thing at the end is the pay­ment process. But if you have not been clear about the pay­ment process, it does lead to un­pleas­ant­ness. Whether it's the agency, ho­tel or cor­po­rate, we need to keep a trans­parency with each other.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mistry, “We should not over prom­ise and un­der de­liver. As a DMC the most im­por­tant thing is com­mit­ment, once you know what your client wants, one should de­liver it opit­mally. If the client gets re­turn on in­vest­ment, we are a part of the jour­ney and they come back to us. Most of us have few clients and we want to hold onto them.”

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the client re­quire­ments and go through the check­list thor­oughly. Adds Ki­ran, “We have to be trans­par­ent on the qual­ity and the ser­vice that we are go­ing to of­fer. I can think of 40 to 45 days win­dow would be the right thing to plan a MICE trip from the cor­po­rates side.” A des­ti­na­tion that has a DMC, which, is well con­trolled and su­per­vised, is a cru­cial com­po­nent so that the scope for er­ror is re­duced. Adds Amer, “In Egypt, all the DMCs are en­rolled in the Egyp­tian tourism fed­er­a­tion and are pay­ing big in­sur­ance to se­cure the trans­ac­tions. The sec­ond step is to have a con­crete ac­cu­rate con­tract­ing sys­tem with your part­ner in the des­ti­na­tion. Whether it is a full pack­age and empty pack­age, all needs to be stip­u­lated and men­tioned in the con­tract.

Talk­ing about big groups, he adds, “A DMC from Egypt can fast-track the im­mi­gra­tion process as well as cre­ate an im­mi­gra­tion counter at the air­port. In­di­ans are a very friendly com­mu­nity and an ex­pe­ri­ence can be shared very eas­ily. This is al­ready there not only in the air­port but also in all the sight­see­ing. For if you are do­ing tick­et­ing for 100 to visit the tem­ple or mu­seum for in­stance, you need to have the ex­pe­ri­ence to han­dle big groups. There are DMCs who can han­dle big groups, be­cause big groups re­quire spe­cial teams. So, you have to talk to the DMCs who work in that par­tic­u­lar seg­ment.”

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the client re­quire­ments and go through the check­list thor­oughly

All the DMCs are en­rolled in the web­site of Egypt, so we can short­list some of the DMCs. We are a very open com­mu­nity, and every­thing can be checked though our of­fice here as con­sul­tants. The other is word of mouth, I be­lieve the In­di­ans are a very friendly com­mu­nity and ex­pe­ri­ence can be shared very eas­ily. The third thing is the re­views of clients and guests on­line. I think its also an open com­mu­nity. There are many ways that in­for­ma­tion can be as­cer­tained.”

DOC­U­MENT IT RIGHT

There is a huge amount of doc­u­men­ta­tion work that is re­quired for MICE move­ments. The pan­elist elu­ci­dated on how the process of doc­u­men­ta­tion is dealt in a holis­tic man­ner.

Peo­ple nowa­days are well trav­elled and are not first timers. Mistry adds, “The pop­u­lar em­bassies take 15 work­ing days. Doc­u­men­ta­tion has be­come bet­ter, the outer limit is 15 work­ing days. So, if your sys­tems are in place and if you have been clear in say­ing what are your re­quire­ments, if your fol­low-up is there, then every­thing falls in place. To­day em­bassies are com­ing for­ward, a lot of fi­nan­cials are not re­quired if a com­pany signs a let­ter. Ear­lier, first timers used to have a prob­lem. Nowa­days, there are huge num­bers that are vis­it­ing the US, be­cause the sys­tems have be­come less cum­ber­some. Cor­po­rates ex­pect such ef­fi­ciency.”

Talk­ing about the choice of a des­ti­na­tion by travel agents, Mistry said, “If it's a large group, I will first see air con­nec­tiv­ity, be­cause there are two types of groups. One is where we get money and give ex­pe­ri­ence. The other is the, ‘damaad group' which means you have to treat the guy like a son-in-law. That one is a dif­fi­cult. One needs to see how Tier-2, Tier 3 are con­nected. We try our best to give the best pos­si­ble so­lu­tion among what is avail­able.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Pro­vid­ing healthy and cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant food and bev­er­ages is en­gag­ing but for an In­dian group, the avail­abil­ity of a good and hot In­dian food at the des­ti­na­tion is a ma­jor in­gre­di­ent in the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence, pan­elists share more. Talk­ing about the dy­nam­ics of work­ing out the food de­tails for the In­dian client, Mistry said, “I think avail­abil­ity of In­dian food is far more dif­fi­cult than the 10-year US Visa. It can make or break a MICE move­ment. When we try and ex­plain that to a FBO he does not un­der­stand. In India, if you talk about food, it per­tains to re­gions as well. If I have a large group of 300 peo­ple, there is bound to be in­quiries for a Jain, Gu­jarati and Marathi cui­sine.

It will be dif­fer­ent from other col­leagues com­ing from the south­ern part of India. Once you have catered to all four di­rec­tions then one has to deal with the veg­e­tar­ian and non-veg­e­tar­ian part. Nowa­days, vege­tar­i­ans have gone to the next ex­tent, of be­ing ve­gan as well. For non­veg­e­tar­i­ans, there is also an op­tion of egge­tar­i­ans, or who are par­tic­u­lar of just con­sum­ing ei­ther chicken or fish, 'never pork and beef' And the ones who men­tion that ‘we don't make non-veg at home, but we eat out­side ev­ery­day'. Once you think you have dealt with all that and that is when the days are thrown into you. The spec­i­fi­ca­tions of a Tues­day, Thurs­day or Satur­day be­cause peo­ple do not con­sume non-veg­e­tar­ian dur­ing those times. Fi­nally, if we do man­age to do all of this, the de­mand of va­ri­ety is there. Food is far more dif­fi­cult than the visa, but we man­age.”

Food avail­abil­ity for In­di­ans is far more dif­fi­cult than the visa, as they have nu­mer­ous pref­er­ences

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