Freeman Cebu Business

MICE: Bouncing back but…

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos - The Freeman

Culminating today, Cebu is hosting the 77th PICPA Annual National Convention.  Though successful, it revealed some inadequacies as far as infrastructures are concerned.  Notably, the organizing committee had to stop accepting delegates several weeks prior to the event as the number of attendees swelled beyond capacity of the IEC Convention Center. Regrettably, several thousand delegates had to virtually participate because of this inadequacy.  Unfortunately too, Cebu’s tourism industry wasn’t able to optimize the opportunity to start recovering from years of dormancy.

Indeed, in terms of number or purpose, we can classify tourism as group tourism or personal tourism.  Personal tourism is so common to us.  We see families, honeymooners and friends coming in for leisure, entertainment, festivals, etc.  Group tourism is what the meetings industry players generally call MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) and as MEEC (Meetings, Expositions, Events and Conventions) in the United States of America.

In MICE or MEEC, groups come in huge numbers for purposes of attending conferences, conventions, expositions or exhibits whether religious, economic, professional, environmental, medical or scientific in nature.  A typical example was the 51st International Eucharistic Congress which Cebu hosted several years ago.

So that, it was noteworthy that the former president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCCI), Ms. Melanie Ng, during her term emphasized that “aside from showcasing the attraction of Cebu as destination in heritage, beaches and shopping, CCCI will also support hotels to improve Cebu's foothold in MICE (meetings, incentive, conference and exhibitions), as Cebu has yet to scratch the surface of this huge market.”  Actually, she (CCCI President Ng) hit the nail right on the head then.  Sadly, however, COVID-19 wrought havoc the ensuing years and all scheduled exhibits and conferences were dropped.

Truth to tell, several countries are taking MICE very seriously.  The reason is very obvious.  Its economic value is lucrative and huge for the host city.  Among others, economic benefits range from foreign exchange generation to job creation.  It also offers business opportunities that usually lead to the development and upgrade of national and regional infrastructure.

In the 2019 (the latest) statistics released by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), countries USA, Germany, France, Spain and United Kingdom were the top choices of MICE or MEEC organizers.  These are exactly the same countries that topped in 2015 and 2016 but in different orders. Conspicuously, except for the USA, the rest are all in Europe. No one among ASEAN member countries got a spot in the top 20.

On the other hand, Paris, Lisbon, Berlin, Barcelona and Madrid (all European cities) were the most preferred cities.  Notably, however, among Southeast Asian cities, Singapore ranked 7th and Bangkok placed 13th. .Sadly, other cities in the ASEAN are conspicuously out of the top 20.

According to ICCA, “the popularity of countries as MICE destinations depends on a wide range of factors, not only connected to the countries themselves and their situation, but also to the type of meeting and how well it relates to the environment of choice”.  Thus, logically, we have been chosen as host of the 51st IEC because we are predominantly a catholic country. Other factors “include the current social, political and economic situation of a country, its safety and its accessibility from abroad.”

With a new international airport terminal, we shall become very accessible from abroad.  That can be a big factor.  However, what is appalling is, when we are hosting big events like the IEC and PICPA conventions, for instance, other economic activities had to be either slowed down or stopped (like truck bans).  It is not because of our being host per se, but because such hosting will further worsen Metro Cebu’s traffic congestion.

Apparently, therefore, if we should try to make Cebu one of the most preferred destinations for MICE, a huge and comfortable venue must be built.  More importantly, efforts should not be limited on structure improvements and facelifts alone.  It is about time that our authorities shall put their acts together in solving our traffic woes.

In doing so, we won’t be missing the opportunity of taking a huge slice of the pie.  As ICCA reported, it captured in 2019 13,254 rotating association meetings.  This is the “highest ever recorded annual figure in its yearly statistics with an increase of 317 from 2018’s record-breaking figures.”

Apparently, this statistics revealed that MICE will surely rise again.  That it cannot be replaced by virtual technology.  And that it is good for the tourism industry.  The CPAs in the Philippines have proven it.


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