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HomeColumnsArticle by ITTFAOn the rebound – the mice market is making a comeback

On the rebound – the mice market is making a comeback

More than two years after business travel generally went into a global slump, the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions sector (MICE) is looking much more optimistic.

Travel exhibition organisers are increasingly targeting the MICE market, which is helping airlines fill their premium seats and top hotels fill their beds at a time when individual business travel is still struggling,

EIBTM – European Incentive and Business Travel Market – is moving from Geneva to a new venue in Barcelona in 2004, to a city and a country which have achieved major growth in meetings since the Olympic Games in 1992.

EIBTM commissioned analyst Rob Davidson, of the University of Westminster in London, to study trends and developments affecting the MICE market over the next five years. His first report covers political and social trends, and it is no surprise to find that security concerns have rocketed in the conference industry.

Social trends include a marked increase in female delegates and incentive travel participants, and strong growth in multi-cultural meetings, requiring organisers to take care in the selection of presenters, protocol and dietary requirements.

EIBTM will be held in Barcelona from November 30-December 2, 2004. Spain is now second only to the US as a global meetings destination, having doubled its intake of MICE visitors in the last few years.

The International Congress and Convention Association rates Barcelona as the top city worldwide by the number of international meetings, jumping from fifth place in 2001. It received 301,500 visitors associated with the business travel and meetings sector in 2002, and held 1,363 events.

Spanish international tourism fair FITUR, to be held in Madrid from January 28-February 1, 2004, will again have a dedicated section to address this market held just before the main event, on January 26-27.

FITUR Congresos hosted 5,000 pre-arranged meetings in 2003, and research based on earlier shows indicates that 70 per cent of participants actually transacted business.

“FITUR Congresos has consolidated its position as Spain’s most important meetings and incentive travel rendezvous,” says FITUR organiser David Soler. “The goal of the industry is for Spain to become the number one destination.”

The Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (MITT) is the latest show to host a dedicated MICE workshop, this being introduced on March 26 during the main show from March 24-27. Among the exhibitors will be the 12-strong Business Travel Agencies Association of Russia, which has a combined turnover of over $200 million.

MITT organiser and ETTFA president Stanislava Blagoeva, of ITE Travel Exhibitions, says: “Most Russian travel agencies are developing a business and incentive arm, and exhibitions have been very well established since the Soviet era.

“Major venues in Moscow are already booked up into 2005, whereas incentive travel is still in the embryo stage because of access and visa restrictions.”

Reed Travel Exhibitions organises EIBTM, as well as dedicated MICE shows in Asia and Latin America, and has run a successful MICE day at World Travel Market in London for many years.

ETTFA chairman Tom Nutley, of Reed, says: “Research indicated that exhibitor staff responsible for the MICE market may only be available on one or two days, so it made sense to identify a particular day to bring people together.

“MICE is a volatile and challenging market, which has recovered in the last two years and can expect steady growth for the next 18 months, accelerating in 2005.”