With more cities transforming into potential MICE destinations, the competition in the region is becoming increasingly fierce. At this month's BE @ Penang conference, organised by the Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB), panellists discussed how destinations could appeal to MICE planners.
Rahul Bharadwaj, co‐founder of conference technology company Anderes Fourdy, said budget and connectivity within a destination are top considerations for clients. Destinations should therefore highlight their strengths in these areas and compare them with competitors when making a bid.
But the lack of connectivity could also be an advantage for "second-tier" destinations like Kuching, said Mona Manap, CEO and founder of Place Borneo, a PCO company in Malaysia. "It's off‐the‐beaten‐path and not a common destination. Thus the delegate feels the place has more value for money as it's less touristy, and the locals seem more sincere and want to please and impress you," she explained.
According to Nichapa Yoswee, vice president - business, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, clients also consider the returns on the time and effort invested in the destination. They are also particular about the ease of doing business in the city, and if there is a local partner to execute the programme.
"It's also a return on happiness for the delegates - especially so for incentive travel. Experiential and creativity are key elements and if delegates are happy, they have something to report back," added Nichapa.
Getting there is not just an issue of connectivity, said Nichapa, as visas are a big factor. While visa application is outside the purview of CEBs, they can still work with the relevant authorities to help operators bring in delegates.
Studies done in the UK market showed there were five main factors on choosing a destination. Ranked in order from fifth to first, these factors are: the time taken to get to the destination; accessibility to all groups including the disabled; service quality; value for money; and political stability and safety.
Millennials are increasingly becoming a big player in business travel in addition to being decision makers, and their needs and expectations will be a significant factor, said Manap. Therefore, more resources need to be put into marketing on social media as that is where millennials "reside" and spend a lot of their time on. Being a "jaded lot", social media content must be compelling and feature videos and podcasts to keep them engaged.
"They follow the trends and want to be the first for anything. They want to show off and they pay for a good show. Since they like to post on social media it can be used as a marketing tool," Manap explained.