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Meeting Spaces: Making sense of hotel venues and more!

The success of for meeting planners lies quite dominantly on the ability to zero in on a tailor-made perfect venue.

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In the world of meetings, meetings and more meetings, where does the omnipotent ‘Venue’ fit in? Some indulge in it by the infinity pool and some prefer the good ol’ Grand Ball Room, some even take to the jungle! Thankfully, living in an era where hotel consultants and meeting planners are still in a standardization conundrum, here lies a space that still revels in its customization! With apps still a long way to create an impact, brick and mortar rule the roost or rather the meeting-world still lies on the ‘touch and feel Nirvana mode!’ 

Where there is an opportunity, there stems a devil! The success of for meeting planners lies quite dominantly on the ability to zero in on a tailor-made perfect venue! The timing is never been more perfect to look for venues beyond hotels, who have inserted the Revenue management element to make themselves uncompetitive and making meeting planners scout for alternatives. Bizarre over-the-top revenue management practices have already had the Indian Aviation Industry under the mat, hotels will not be far behind! What was by tradition a practice wherein the planner negotiates with the hotels on the basis of Pax is today marred by the greed of discerning hoteliers, who have suddenly discovered their love to ape some American brands and enforce a minimum revenue guarantee! Of course, this is not exactly standard, but it is part of the great negotiating game which can highly selective and exhaustive, resulting in an enhanced ego-boost to the discerning hotelier’, while the client hopes to grin and bear the travesty to Uncle time! Additional Service Charges varying between 10-15%, which are as opaque as it levied on hapless clients by a select bunch of hotels, continue to do tremendous dis-service to those ply the honest trade! 

Unique venues live by the tale of enhancing the guest experience and bring in the Wow factor! The future of the meeting industry lies in the out-of-the-box venue management skills supplemented with the rising corporate culture where the call to choose the venue will be dictated by the need to build an experience/story around it! What would have been considered a random name of the street, may soon turn out to be the next great Meeting destination? It still does not stop an Event manager to suggest holding a Sales Meeting in the middle of Chandni Chowk in Delhi or Chickpet in Bengaluru. Can any FMCG Marketeer actually agree to hold one amid the rumble and noise of a market-place! What stops a pharmaceutical major in organizing its regular sales meet in the Conference Hall of a Hospital? One day one might see an incentive program being held around a Bollywood Set or around a Cricket Match at the Wankhede Stadium as well! Alternatives such as Universities, Race Courses, Clubs and Bars, Museums and public spaces have all raised their hands to curate events and get into this competitive space, wherein with outsourced services, the choice for suitable venues gets enhanced giving the client to claim onus on his creativity to deliver a unique experience. 

India as a market is a natural ‘Hands in Glove’ with the event industry. What goes into a family in selecting a suitable venue to create an event out of an occasion?  Do hotels strategize to woo this burgeoning segment? Having been in the industry, before the evolution of the term Event Management to now ‘Event Activation’, have hardly come across hotels creating a specialized marketing center to add commercial value to their event spaces apart from a few branded five-star hotel chains. At most hotels the banquet management team, is not necessarily your Event marketing team. The revenue stream can just bigger with inputs of Food & Beverage, rental of audio-Visual equipment, accrued business from rooms, etc. 

The country simply loves to celebrate! With made-to-order occasions created out of thin air or a six-month-long meticulously designed wedding, hotels in India never had it this good. The Indian hospitality industry’s unique revenue trait, where Food & Beverage contributes more to the revenue kitty than the segment is credited. The Meetings industry’s mite seldom goes challenged with the discerning Indian finds more occasions to celebrate! Events to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, kitty parties, family and friend’s get-togethers, naming ceremonies and of course, the big fat Indian wedding all bring cheer to the table! We are not talking about corporate events yet, that bring in the big moneybags. 

Speaking about the new era hotels that seem to be flooding the market with imported standards especially from Europe and US, who seem more interested in getting to the magic number of 100 properties in India, than creating a right variation to their product to suit the Indian market. Service and Amenity standards currently being enforced in the name of global parity is absurd. There have been investments made in crores to create a profitable entity, and have left Indian hoteliers in the lurch, not necessarily due to the economic situations we endure. One set of hotels in Bangalore with a combined inventory of 500 rooms, a couple of International brands to make the owners feel proud, has meeting room infrastructure of a banquet hall measuring 2500 square feet! How do you explain to a prospective client, who wishes to book a hotel for his mega residential conference or wants to host his big fat Indian wedding, that he can take his room business, but has no venue to host the banquet! Indians, by trait, need any excuse to get a gathering on to host a lunch or dinner, whether it is for a baby naming ceremony or an anniversary party. 

The scorn for Food and Beverage sales is not justified, when in India, sometimes F&B sales constitute up to 50% of revenue. It should do well for hotels and other event venues to broad base their client profile. As a hotelier, what does it take to position your event spaces amid your glowing hotel brand? If your Event Spaces Food & Beverage contribute more than 30% of your turnover, get it a branding strategy! The hotel brands bring with it, standards and total recall, but the right unique brand identity for your event space will make it stand out amid the hardened competition.

In an era when hotel projects are more often part of a multi-use facility with retail, residences and commercial spaces are thrown in, event spaces will have to strive its own unique niche. A day when you will have branded and franchised event spaces are not far. Creating and managing an ‘Event Space brand’ will bring in Event standards, improved guest feedback, and enhanced occupancies. Creating unique brand identities and focus for Event spaces will also take on branded hotels especially in the four- and five-star segment. It is not far ahead that, with the increased demands with regard to technology, enhanced client requirements, the era of specialized companies managing event spaces are not far behind! 

Somehow hotels around the world have always been reluctant a radical shift in branding strategy. But in an era, where the competition gets fierce, specialization takes over, it is never too late to reinforce branding standards on individual profit centers such as event spaces, health clubs & spas and one might be tempted to add Laundry services to the list! 

The advent of up-to-date revenue management strategies has virtually taken over decision making with regard to the functioning of sales. Marketing event space is still left untouched by the new era Revenue Managers due to the customization it requires. In an era, wherein technology will soon engulf decision making, the role of venue managers will be that of facilitation than to create opportunities to build working relationships! It is almost like not foreseeing the trap. Well, they said the same thing of ‘growing-up’ as well! 

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“Future Meeting Space” research to focus on role of events in corp comm

The GCB German Convention Bureau has launched the third phase of its “Future Meetings Space” research project, looking into the value of meetings and events in a changing business environment.

The GCB German Convention Bureau has launched the phase III of its “Future Meeting Space” research. Scheduled to be completed in December 2020, this latest project is designed to build on the prior two research phases by looking at the following five questions:

  1. What is the future role and purpose of meetings and events in organizations’ communications mix?
  2. What are the different purposes and objectives of business events?
  3. Based on the above, what are the requirements and expectations of target groups and stakeholders?
  4. What is a successful event and what means are there to measure success?
  5. What are the required competencies and skills needs by organizations and employees?

The project is supported by the GCB and the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) as well as Maritz Global Events Inc., Xing Events GmbH, KFP Five Star Conference Service GmbH, SevenCentres of Germany and Radisson Hotels. Research is carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, which is part of Fraunhofer Society, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization.

The goal of this third piece of “Future Meeting Space” research is to establish the ongoing value of meetings and events at a time when technology is enabling new ways to interact. The final research report will identify requirements for industry stakeholders and provide appropriate strategies as well as develop competency profiles for event planners and suppliers. With a view to measuring success, the research will also identify relevant KPIs so that in particular event planners within corporations and organizations can document the value of meetings and events.

As part of the research process, a catalog of innovations that were produced in the first research phase in 2016 will be updated to reflect digital developments, trends and innovations (e.g., big/smart data, social profiling, 5G, AI, cybersecurity) and their relevance for meetings and events. “If phase I looked at the ‘how to’ aspect of future meetings, and phase II determined the ‘who’ aspect, including evaluating different participant needs, phase III will now complete the picture and explore the ‘why’ of meetings and events,” says GCB managing director Matthias Schultze.

Apart from the innovation catalog, six so-called future meeting scenarios were developed in phase I of the Future Meeting Space research. Phase II, which ended last December, focused on event success factors, concluding that to satisfy attendees, event planners should focus on knowledge transfer as well as surprising or disruptive elements that bring about a change. The survey also identified different attendee types that need to be considered when creating events. Results from from phase I and II are available here: www.future-meeting-space.de

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OYO UAE reports double-digit growth in MICE visitors in 2019

OYO Hotels & Homes, South Asia’s largest, has seen a double-digit percentage rise in trade visitors within the MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector within the first two months of 2019. The company is currently one of China’s top five, and the world’s fastest-growing chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes and living spaces. OYO established its footprint in the UAE in the first half of 2018 and has already served close to 120,000 guests from 80 plus countries in 20+ hotels located across five Emirates and 40 homes in Dubai. OYO currently manages 1300+ exclusive rooms across Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman.

As per reports, the trade exhibition industry in Dubai saw over 500,000 visitors last year in addition to the regular leisure tourists.

“We have observed a significant increase in trade visitors since the start of 2019 due to the busy events and exhibitions sector in UAE. Dubai’s MICE industry is currently growing at a rapid pace and leads in several aspects when compared to other global MICE hubs such as the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. On the other hand, we are confident of also seeing a spike due to the highly active sports industry,”said Manu Midha, Regional Head, Middle East, OYO Hotels & Homes.

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India’s mega-meeting infrastructure gets going…at last!

micepoint MICE tourism India

Are we in India ready for holding Monster conventions? The clear answer is a very loud no. India, if one considers the competing destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Indonesia, and China have lost more opportunities to bid for Mega Conferences than others purely on the reasons of being infrastructurally challenged. Living in a country the venerable Maha Kumbh where over at least a crore people congregate once every twelve years is considered an event only the gods can play the ultimate event organizer; mere mortals are left to create an infrastructure regime that seems to fall apart at every second turn! An estimated USD 280 Billion of marketspace out there and we don’t seem to have a will to create a half decent Mega Convention Centre out here! All this is about to change with the Government’s putting money where their mouths are to upgrade existing pre-historic venues and commit to a new mega greenfield Convention and Exhibition Centre in Delhi.

The Government of India, in all its sudden burst of enlightenment, have finally harped upon creating the country’s largest Exhibition and Conference showcase. With a primetime investment of USD 4 Billion, the ‘India International Convention & Exhibition Centre (IICC)’, occupying an area about half the size of Bangalore’s Lal Bagh. The venue is expected to play host to marquis events such as the G-20 Summit. GoI’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion is implementing the project and will be operated by South Korea’s Korea International Exhibition Centre (KINTEX) and eSANG Networks. Thankfully, with the Government deciding on partners such as L&T and Korea’s KINTEX to execute and operate the venue, this will be the gamechanger and catapult India into the world of Mega 20,000 plus delegate conferences. The venue is expected to have a massive exhibition space of 200,000 Square Metre and a 60,000 Square Metre in meetings and conventions space. The venue will also include 3,500 hotel rooms for delegates. Also, the multi-purpose arena in the venue will have a seating capacity of around 20,000 people. The complex will have a 30,000-vehicle car parking.

The Indian Convention & Exhibition Industry’s grand old lady ‘Pragati Maidan’ is poised to get a make-over and being redeveloped into a world-class Integrated Exhibition Cum Convention Centre (IECC) at a cost of Rs. 2254 Crores and the first phase expected to open by May 2019. The project will be updated to 1.19 lakh square meters of exhibition space against the present 65,000 and will get a Convention Centre for 7,000 people. The venue will also include a hotel complex to be built on a 3.7-acre plot within. Presently run by the ‘India Trade Promotion Organization’ which wear any hats such as an Exhibition Organizer, a trade body and venue manager all rolled into one. Hopefully, this will change its domain as the multiple ‘conflict of interest’ purporter! Changing times sure needs a more professional and expert set-up, than the current management practice who are living ‘sublime nirvana’ since the early 1970s.

India as a host and a probably the world’s most diverse destination backed with a growing economic might will ensure business opportunities seldom seen in the region. The past hubris against mega projects especially in aid of the tourism industry has died down. Convention Centres such as this will fuel a complete eco-system that generations will thank.

Was indeed surprised to note the Government’s initiative to use the building of Convention centers across 21 African Nations as to further the growing diplomatic connect. Who would have thought about a few years back, that India would actually recognize the Convention Centre industry as a sunrise industry!

Asia accounts for a mere 14.3% of the Meetings market in the world and, and India’s share accounts for just 4.9%. In comparison, China accounts for 68% of the Asian share in MICE business and trails only the US in the market globally. In terms of Meeting infrastructure, China has 92 purpose-built exhibition sites spread over three million square meters. India has just 12 exhibition venues that occupy barely 2.6 lakhs Square Metre of space. India is 40% of China in terms of the size of the economy, but in the exhibition’s infrastructure sphere, we are only 9 percent of what China does. Germany on the other extreme has over three million square meters of exhibition space, which considering India’s exhibition industry, is on a different planet altogether!

With longer gestation periods, no Convention Centres make money on the quick run. It is the City Municipal Corporation, to ensure, we create world-class convention facilities. With increased footfalls, increased tax revenues and adding a new employment engine, the city eventually benefits more! The Indian industry, irrespective their sectors, and verticals need quality meeting infrastructure. The current ‘Make in India’ mania is useless if we do not have avenues to display and exhibit to a global audience. Any place, which houses an airport should have a minimum 30,000 square feet of multi-use Convention Centre as part of the City’s infrastructure.

The advent of International Exhibition companies into India has got the industry tremendous respect and enhanced its professionalism. With the marked increase in the number of stakeholders using the exhibition medium, the industry is only poised to grow! As much it will benefit the allied services such as the hospitality, car rental and travel industry, the industry across various sectors are deemed to be the primary beneficiary.

When the global exhibition and trade-show industry is a USD 65 Billion industry with over 31,000 major events taking place and the Indian space is estimated to be worth at Rs. 65,000 Crores with over 700 shows, how can the Indian travel-industry be far behind! The ‘Indian Convention Promotion Bureau’ states ‘Of a total of 8,294 events tracked, India has a market share of 1.1% (Asia & Middle East has 19.5% share) with an estimated size of the MICE industry in India around Rs 4,000 – 5,500 crores. Still a minuscule part of a global market space of over USD 65 Billion!

Even cities like Mumbai and Delhi have no world-class event facilities. Making do with present Event infrastructure and current permissions and license regime required to organize trade-fairs is time-consuming and a sure dampener. The industry should demand a single window agency as procedures are getting more tedious than ever before. Venues should assist in permissions and here the efforts of Chennai Trade Centre are adulatory!

Being part of the Travel Event industry, it is quite mandatory for us to be at various events across the world. The quality of the event infrastructure had always been a point of envy. Most International travel events across the world also enjoy tremendous patronage from the National Tourist Organization and Government bodies, which they see as a booster to their economy and the sure wind beneath their wings!

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