Updated: Jan 9
An extended version of Micebook Talks gathered industry experts for a quick and honest assessment from the front line:
Martin Fullard, Editor, Conference News
Christianne Beck, Experiential Lead, Shell
Jennifer Jenkins, Director, Worldspan
Ian Cummings, Global VP, Commercial, CWT Meetings & Events
Michael Hirst, Consultant, CBRE Hotels
The government is listening to the MICE industry but responses are slow in coming as the communication is handled by the DCMS (department of culture, media & sport) and frustratingly, there has been very little engagement from the Cabinet office so far. The industry has tried to separate itself from mass gatherings events but despite the best lobbying efforts from MICE associations, the government still treats the industry within the mass gathering spectrum. Events fulfill a very strong role in reviving the economy and the government needs to recognise its importance in ensuring that Britain remains at the centre of the world’s stage post Brexit.
The industry should not only try to get the government on board; it should also make sure that media stakeholders are on board. Newspapers and broadcasters are driven by the public interest, therefore the MICE industry needs to be more proactive in gathering and highlighting public interest to the media in order to get coverage and ultimately the Cabinet’s attention.
There is huge enthusiasm from the industry to resume activities from October but the reality is that most MICE agencies have suffered a severe loss in revenue, therefore they need to keep their current costs to a minimum to survive until business resumes. Meanwhile, a fair amount of RFPs are coming in which is a good sign however, these are very time consuming especially considering that many companies are operating with very reduced staff. There is increased interest for hybrid events combining both virtual and live elements for late 2020/Q1 2021 but most quotes are for Q1 and Q2 of next year and primarily from the incentive world.
The impact of COVID-19 has affected many different big brands and one of the main knock-on affects is that marketing budgets will get tightened. Unfortunately, travel, events & training are areas that will see the biggest cuts as they are judged non-critical. Furthermore, perception is important and the big brands do not want to be seen “celebrating”. As a consequence, the 2019 levels of revenue for the MICE industry are unlikely to come back until 2022 at the earliest. In the meantime, there will be a lot more emphasis on ROI.
The current disruption has had some positive effects as it has seen the emergence of creative solutions however, the industry stakeholders and media should really reinforce the message that “live is best”. In fact, the virtual/hybrid’ novelty is already starting to wear off. For live events to kick-start, PR campaigns must be undertaken by agencies in partnership with hotels, venues, and airlines in order to restore confidence among the big brands.
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