MICE Collaborative is a Call to Work Together

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MICE Collaborative is a Call to Work Together

By Elaine Pofeldt | Dec 6, 2018

This story is part of a special section from The Meeting Professional, brought to you by SITE

Meeting, incentive and event professionals who want to learn more about the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market have a brand new ally in their corner.

The Global MICE Collaborative—made up of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE)—was recently announced at IMEX America in Las Vegas.

The groups revealed plans to offer training and resources to help professionals in exhibitions, incentives and meeting and event planning to support the development of the MICE profession in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The collaboration brings together more than 73,000 MICE professionals and 126 chapters across the three associations. IAEE, organized in 1928 as the National Association of Exposition Managers, is a leading voice of exhibition professionals, with more than 10,000 members in 52 countries. MPI, the largest meeting and event industry association, started in 1972 and has grown into a global community of 60,000 meeting and event professionals. Meanwhile, SITE, founded in 1973, is made up of more than 2,200 incentive travel professionals in 84 countries.

“It is a call to work together—to do more detailed projects and work in emerging markets,” says SITE President Annamaria Ruffini.

The plan for SITE, she explains, is to bring incentive travel in emerging markets to maturity. The groups began discussing the project in April.

“We understood that the will to work together was very big,” Ruffini says.

As SITE CEO Didier Scaillet has noted, incentive travel is the fastest-growing segment of the MICE industry. Fifty-four percent of buyers reported an increase in their overall incentive travel budgets, according to the Incentive Travel Industry Index powered by SITE, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP)—released in October. The median per-person spend remained stable at US$4,000 with corporate buyers reporting a per-person spend of $4,450.

Many companies that invest in incentive travel are happy with the results, with nearly 70 percent of buyers saying their programs are effective at achieving business objectives.

However, not all markets are benefiting from these trends equally. Well-tapped markets have an edge. The top regions, according to the research, were North America, the Caribbean and Western Europe. Destination appeal was the top criteria for choosing a destination, followed by safety and value for the money.

One key goal of the collaboration is accelerating workforce development and destination awareness, particularly in emerging markets. The groups plan to do this through comprehensive education and certification, live events that provide ongoing professional development, community, research, destination consulting and networking with other experienced professionals.

“It is an agreement between three global organizations,” says Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP, executive vice president and chief operating officer for IAEE. “All of us have a solid presence outside of North America. And with the years of experience that our leadership team has, as well as their background in the local arena, we believe we have information, content and programming that is relevant to other countries, especially emerging countries that are needing training and this type of information and resources.”

By collaborating, the groups expect to find new efficiencies in reaching their target audience.

“In these days and times, it’s good whenever we can create collaborative types of agreements, rather than each organization going off on their own and doing things,” Breden says. “Individually as organizations, some of us [are stronger than others in specific] regions, where I think we can really supplement each other’s efforts and bring something important to those destinations looking for resources.”

The groups also expect to achieve greater engagement in the MICE market at a time when many cities and regions are investing in infrastructure to become more attractive as MICE destinations.

“Emerging markets often lack the knowledge and human capital to deliver meetings, incentives, events and exhibitions that meet international standards,” Ruffini pointed out.

The collaboration aims to help destinations achieve increased awareness and heightened professionalism that is ultimately aimed at attracting more MICE business.

“The MICE market is a very all-encompassing industry outside of the U.S.,” says Bernard W. Schraer, senior vice president, global business development for MPI. “In the U.S., we’ve got the meeting industry, the incentive industry, the trade show and exhibition industry. It is all one in the MICE market. By partnering with SITE and IAEE, MPI is really in a great position to offer destination consulting and live events. We’re really well positioned to be able to deliver exactly what these folks are looking for.”

That said, there are challenges that inevitably come when groups combine forces, such as the potential for overlap in what the organizations bring to the table. But overall, navigating those challenges will be worthwhile, Ruffini has found, because of the strengths that will come from the collaboration.

“If you look at the brighter vision, all of the associations have audiences around the world,” she says.

In addition, SITE, which conducts an annual study of the incentive travel market, will now have access to a much larger database. This will enable a larger sample size and a more complete picture of industry trends, Ruffini notes.

SITE embarked on a collaboration with FICP and IRF earlier this year to produce the Incentive Travel Industry Index powered by SITE Index, IRF Outlook and FICP.

“We had more than 1,000 respondents from every part of the world,” Ruffini says. “Now that research can be used by three organizations and, of course, convention bureaus and tourism offices.”

As for the Global MICE Collaborative, its roots go back to an earlier decision when SITE and MPI teamed up on what became the SITE + MPI Global Forum, Ruffini says. The organizers of SITE’s annual global conference and MPI’s European conference realized they might be competing for many of the same attendees. The jointly organized SITE + MPI Global Forum took place at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria in January 2018.

“We realized that more or less we have the same members,” Ruffini says.

The collaboration went well, and there were more than 540 registered attendees, the highest attendance ever recorded for a SITE event outside of North America.

During the Global Forum in Rome, the boards of both organizations created the “Treaty of Rome of the Incentive and Meeting Industry.” The original Treaty of Rome, signed 60 years ago, led to the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC). In this new version for the meeting industry, MPI and SITE committed to “future cooperation and collaboration with each other for the benefit of industry professionals globally.”

And the Global MICE Collaborative furthers that goal, she says.

“We have lots of things in common,” Ruffini says.

Showcasing Thought Leadership in Bangkok

When delegates show up for the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Global Conference in Bangkok, Jan. 11-14, 2019, they’ll be getting a crash course in the culture of Thailand.

Traveling in groups of three, they’ll have a chance to visit hubs such as the Soy Sauce Factory, a space for art and design exhibits in the Charoenkrung 24 creative district of Bangkok; P. Tendercool, a rustic gallery studio that features home décor and unique furniture; and the Thai Creative and Design Center, a hub for “intellectual entertainment” such as talks and workshops.

These visits are part of a series of “deep-dive” discussions into immersive cultural learning, says Philip Eidsvold, senior director, client services, for One10 in Minneapolis and SITE president in 2019.

“We’ll really be showcasing the thought leadership of the region,” Eidsvold says.

The SITE Global Conference, focused on cutting-edge best practices in the incentive travel space, will be held at the Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), the national tourism association in Thailand.

“They are a major sponsor and underwriter of the event,” Eidsvold says. “They know the value of incentive travel. It’s a huge PR play for them.”

The three-day, four-night conference is a key event for SITE.

“The global conference has been our primary and marquee event of the year since the inception of SITE,” Eidsvold says. “It is the crown jewel of our event portfolio.”

The event brings together both members and supporters of SITE, attracting between 200 and 700 people, he says.

The theme of the 2019 conference is “Incentivizing Diversity and Innovation.” The event will include a traditional welcome dinner and opening session at the Shangri-La Hotel. Industry leaders will lead breakout panel discussions. About 300 attendees are expected.

“It’s intended to bring a lot of focus and attention to that destination,” Eidsvold says.

The conference will include an entry-level certification workshop that will help attendees earn their CIS credential—a feature that was particularly important to SITE’s conference partners.

“They’re really interested in bringing forth these certification opportunities,” Eidsvold says.



Elaine Pofeldt
Elaine Pofeldt

Elaine Pofeldt is a freelance journalist in the New York City area who contributes to publications from CNBC to Forbes and is the author of the upcoming book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business.