Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga
THE tourism and events industry in Zimbabwe is being presented with a prodigious opportunity to grow exponentially with the launching of an initiative to attract MICE tourism.
MICE is the acronym for meetings, incentives, conventions and events. “E” sometimes refers to exhibitions while “C” refers to conferences. It refers to a growing new form of tourism that has enormous economic and social effects.
The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company (ZITF) has been holding business conferences that accompany their exhibitions such as Mine Entra that takes place next week from 17th to 19th July.
At this year’s exhibition, a Women in Mining Conference will be held on the 17th while the main Mining Business conference will be held the following day. This is a boon for Bulawayo because participants from all parts of the country and abroad will attend. This is good news for the hospitality and destination tourism industries.
Globally, MICE has become a major marketing tool and a key driver of destination development and an important generator of income, employment and foreign investment.
The global meetings industry has begun to recognise Zimbabwe as a sought-after destination and Bulawayo is well placed to attract it.
The MICE sector is one of the fastest growing segments in the tourism industry generating millions in revenue for cities and tourist destinations around the world.
Statistics show that the total global MICE market is in excess of $270 billion and that output from this form of tourism accounts for 1 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
MICE tourism is usually organised around a well-planned agenda-centred on a theme or topic for a professional trade organisation, a special interest group or educational institution. Such tourism is often a specialised event with its own exhibition and practices. It attracts participants from around the world to a specific venue.
The annual business generated around the ZITF, for example, can be classified under MICE.
This attracts business people from both within and outside Zimbabwe to Bulawayo for the exhibition thus allowing service providers in the City of Kings to market and sell their products and services to a global community of business people.
Meetings are defined by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers as the coming together of a number of people in one place for a particular purpose.
They could be on an ad-hoc basis or to a set pattern. These could be annual general meetings, committee or strategic planning meetings.
Incentive tourism is a type of employee reward by a company or institution for targets met or exceeded, or a job well done.
It is conducted purely for entertainment, rather than for professional or educational purposes.
A conference is a participatory meeting designed for discussion, fact-finding, problem-solving and consultation.
It is smaller in scale when compared to a congress and is usually of limited duration with specific objectives.
An event or exhibition involves the display of products and services, for example a launch, career fair or motor show among many examples.
How then can the local tourism and events management industry take advantage of this new phenomenon? Research shows that the per-capita consumption of a
MICE tourism is four to five times higher than that of an ordinary tourist.
ZITF Company has been well positioned to take advantage of the influx of global, regional and local business and commerce that attends its exhibitions to showcase the benefits and the potential of MICE to local players in the tourism industry.
Later in September, through the stand alone Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo from 12th to 14th September at the ZITF Exhibition Centre, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) plan to attract stakeholders and service providers who will exhibit their tourism products, services and facilities to the business audience who will be attracted there.
Running concurrently with the Expo will be workshops that will feature key international, regional and local speakers who will share their expertise and experience on the potential of MICE tourism as well as demonstrate how stakeholders can take advantage of the opportunities that the industry offers.
Already, a business matchmaking programme is underway that allows visiting service providers and tour operators to target clients and potential partners well ahead of the Expo.
How can local players become attractive for the lucrative MICE market among so many competing sites in the world?
Studies have shown that apart from critical factors such as convention facilities and accommodation, a destination must offer additional features to compete efficiently.
Key convention site selection factors also include accessibility, local support, extra conference opportunities, information, and site environment.
Other criteria like risks, profitability, association promotion and novelty also come into play.
Simply put MICE is business tourism and if well marketed, it could benefit local players in the events and tourism industry who have the facilities to host such meetings as well as “downstream” service providers.
Players who are sure to benefit include those in international and domestic transport, accommodation, post-conference tours, exhibition facilities, hotels and catering, audio-visual and telecommunications services.
Lessons for the Bulawayo business community is competitive pricing of their tourism products. In the wake of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019, there have been calls for cool heads.
The prices that we are seeing will definitely scare away visitors. Rather than kill the goose that lays the golden egg, let us go for a subtler and saner approach of earning the elusive dollar from our visitor’s wallets.