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In Conversation With ANTOR and Hosts Global.

On 06 April, Representation Plus held its first virtual MICE Market hosted on the EZY Virtual Events platform.

MICE Market allowed our many DMCs partners and ANTOR members to share their latest updates with buyers giving them the tools required to help them plan their next events.

To kick-off, our Founder & Managing Director, Alison Cryer, hosted a panel discussion in the platform's auditorium, featuring ANTOR Chairman, Tracey Poggio as well as Marty MacKay, President, Hosts Global Alliance Events & Operations. Together they addressed the past couple of years in their respective organisations, discussed how more relevant DMCs and DMOs have become in the “post COVID” world and shared their thoughts about the future of virtual and hybrid events.

Here is what they had to say:

  • 2019 was a great year for Hosts Global DMCs. Not only was it a busy one but it allowed the organisation to expand and invest in some emerging markets as a response to clients showing an interest in destinations that they had not considered before. There was also a big focus on creating new experiences for attendees.

  • For DMOs, 2019 was a year of continuous growth in all sectors including MICE. "Over-tourism" was the keyword back then and in that context, the MICE industry became more important and relevant to destinations as it drove high-yield customers in fewer numbers than the leisure market and more often than not mid-week.

  • With the gradual reopening of many borders and COVID rules relaxation, travelling from the UK has resumed and with this, some new trends have emerged: sustainability, responsible travel, wellness and mindfulness. Unfortunately, the biggest trend of all, for the time being, is the very short lead time between quotation and travel dates, making it very difficult to implement sustainability and wellness elements in the process.

  • Whilst Hosts Global DMCs were working on an average booking window of 96 days pre-pandemic, the average is now 50 days. Issues with less airline capacity, staffing and sudden changes in COVID protocols are mostly responsible for this shift. However, as we keep moving within the recovery period, the confidence to take longer lead-in time decisions will keep growing and result in the kind of booking patterns that we were more familiar with pre-pandemic.

  • With the “new normal” comes new opportunities and going forward, meaningful travel could see a better synergy between the corporate and the leisure sectors. With sustainability in mind, one would expect to see MICE delegates extend their business trips into private holidays and invite spouses and/or families to join them in the process.

  • For now, the American MICE market favours short-haul destinations with Las Vegas, Texas and Florida firmly in the lead. The more adventurous delegates have been travelling to the nearby Caribbean and Canada is tipped to become very popular. With the prospect of the current travel restrictions being lifted in the not-too-distant future MICE buyers have already started to throw Europe back into their RFP mix. As restrictions are lifted over the coming weeks, the industry is expecting a huge surge of bookings to European destinations to take place as early as Q3 of this year. In pole position, are the old favourites, deemed to be safe, such as France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal.

  • The pandemic has demonstrated that one of the many values brought to the table by DMOs and DMCs is their expert destination knowledge. Amidst the current feeling of uncertainty, the fact that they constantly have their finger on the pulse has made them all the more invaluable to MICE buyers who can no longer rely on the destination’s knowledge that they may have had pre-COVID.

  • Up until 2020, DMC’s were more transactional than strategic partners for services, commonly used for …. (i.e. transfers, attractions, off-site events)

  • As catastrophic as it has been, the pandemic has allowed DMCs to get closer to their clients by engaging with them regularly. As a result, buyers reacquainted themselves with their expertise, found a new appreciation for their knowledge and suggestions and now tend to use their DMCs as a one-stop shop once again.

  • DMOs are also given a huge opportunity to seize the moment and become much more relevant in the current climate. They are the closest entities that one can get to decisions and policymakers. By making sure that they convey the right messaging to the MICE community and ascertain that the climate in their destination is favourable, DMOs are instrumental to a quicker and better recovery.

  • The pandemic saw the rapid emergence of virtual events which, everybody agrees, are here to stay. Virtual however will never replace face-to-face meetings and whilst hybrid was tipped to become the next best thing, the reality is that the associated costs to the production of good hybrid/live events are very high and therefore not always affordable. That being said, virtual will remain and complement live events as the technology allows for repurposing live content and gives access to a much wider audience.

After the panel discussion available on this link, buyers had one-on-one meetings with their hosts on their virtual stands and met in the networking room to catch up with their colleagues.

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