How severely, in your opinion, was the MICE sector affected during the pandemic?
All industries including tourism experienced a brutal impact due to the pandemic and the MICE sector was one of the hardest hit. Almost all the MICE events during 2020 were either cancelled /postponed due to Unprecedented lockdowns, travel restrictions, cancellation of all business meetings and limitation on social meetings causing a major damage to the MICE stakeholders.
When everything went virtual, many believed that even in the post Covid era, people would continue to have virtual meetings as its easier and convenient. Do you agree?
Virtual Meetings were the need of the hour and there is no doubt platform like Zoom, MS Team and Google meet gained immersed traction during the pandemic but over the period of time engagement and attendance of participants in virtual events started declining. Companies have resumed face to face meetings with social distancing and other health and safety norms as soon as restriction were eased, thanks to our historic vaccination drive and various health and sanitation programs adopted by hotels and venues.
Technology for virtual meeting has been with us since many years and it will remain one of the options for meetings. On the other hand Hybrid Meetings are a solution to the futuristic need, given the option extended to the participants to be a part of an event either in person or virtually. At Accor we introduced Hybrid Meeting Solution ALL Connect andour more than 90% of hotels globally are ALL Connect complaint.
Has the MICE segment, in India and also internationally, bounced back to its 2019 figures?
MICE business in India is bouncing back very strongly. In 2022 in spite of losing first quarter due to omicron threat MICE segment has outperform in 2022 and it will continue in 2023. There is hugepent-up demand due to massive backlog of product launches and business conferences that had been pending or were happening on virtual mode since last three years.
International destinations, such as, Dubai, Singapore have performed quite well, while other destinations too are on the recovery mode. Every destination faced its own challenges in terms opening borders, health and safety protocols and vaccination status. Visa has been a challenge for many countries for large groups.
Do you feel there is any change in the way Events and Exhibitions are being held in the post Covid era?
The worst pandemic days are behind us but certainly it has brought few new measures to conduct event. Excellent hygiene and safety standards are now given paramount importance. The event window has shrunk drastically and clients want a flexibility in terms of cancellation and postponement policy. They are also mindful in selecting destinations based on medical facility in the destination, vaccination status and health protocols etc
MICE is a big contributor to the tourism sector, do you agree? What are your thoughts on this?
The MICE industry is the fastest growing tourism sector. According to Business Intelligence Insights “Global MICE Market is expected to grow from USD 821.6 billion in 2021 to USD 2465.6 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 20.10% during the forecast period 2022-2030. MICE generates foreign exchange, increases trade and investments, provides employment, boosts local economies, and promotes destinations. It’s one of the most profitable sectors, and the industry is known to spend large amounts on their on-site budgets. MICE travellers generates 30% higher revenue than average visitors.