Current Trends in the Meeting Industry
CURRENT TRENDS IN THE MEETING INDUSTRY
What are the current trends in MICE inquiries, where is Prague congress tourism heading, or will the current situation in Ukraine affect further development of congress tourism – not only these questions were answered by the members of Prague Convention Bureau who are active in the field of meeting industry.
„We wondered how leading experts in the congress field see the current situation– whether they experienced any current trends or how they saw the year 2013 which, according to the statistics of Czech Statistical Office ,was not very successful “, explained Lenka Žlebková, Managing director of Prague Convention Bureau
PCB therefore asked its members to answer the following questions, based on their experience:
- What trends in MICE inquiries did you observe in the course of the last year?
- In 2013, Prague congress tourism saw a significant decrease in the number of events as well as number of delegates. How did you perceive the year 2013?
- In your opinion, how will Prague congress tourism develop this year?
- Do you think the current situation in Ukraine (attitude of Europe, Russia, USA) will have a negative impact on the development of this industry?
Aleš Pejsar, Director of Sales and Marketing, C-IN
- Last year we experienced an increase in demand for our services both from international associations as well as private companies. There is no reason to doubt that the upcoming years are going to be very strong for the MICE sector. Among other events, the company C-IN was chosen to act as the local partner for the 53rd European Renal Association – European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA) Congress in Vienna in 2016. With an attendance higher than 10 thousand delegates, the event ranks among the largest conventions in Europe. As for the corporate clients, we had the great opportunity to be accosted by several interesting clients. To give an example, we organized the 10th Clearstream CEE Summit for the company Clearstram from the financial sector in Budapest.
- The report 2013 Country & City Rankings of the International Congress and Conference Association ICCA has revealed that Prague congress tourism increased last year. According to the statistics, there were 121 congress events held in Prague in 2013, which means an increase by 9 events compared to 2012. Prague thus became the 11th world's congress destination and 10th European congress city in 2013 and continued to rise in the rankings. Accordingly, the company C-IN experienced an overall increase in the number of events.
- In C-IN we are positive that this year’s congress tourism will top both 2012 and 2013. Our interim results indicate a marked annual increase in the overall number of events. In 2014, we have been organizing dozens of interesting events. Among others, we will organize two large international congresses, the International Congress of Midwives ICM Triennal Congress Prague 2014 for no less than 3 thousand delegates and the 26thAnnual Conference of the European Association for International Education (EAIE) for at least 5 thousand attendees.
- Events in Ukraine are not likely to have a negative impact on the congress industry. Congress and conference venues are decided a long time ahead, usually several years, before the events actually take place. It may happen that some of the pre-arranged congresses will head to different congress destinations due to security precautions. Thus, they represent a source of opportunity for Prague.
Amin Massafi, Director Sales & Marketing, InterContinental Prague
- Throughout the last year we have observed a stable trend in the demand for conference tourism. While conference tourism has maintained its previous momentum overall, we have identified a slight increase in the number of events and a higher number of guests. The recent 12 months show the events have tended to be shorter.
- Despite the fact that the overall results of congress tourism significantly decreased in Prague throughout 2013, we rather perceived the year 2013 as a year with only slight changes compared to 2012 and earlier. This might be because of our focus on smaller events, such as conferences and incentives rather than on congresses.
- In our opinion Prague will keep its status as a destination attractive for hosting conferences and congresses. Nonetheless it is important to stress that companies and various institutions which organize events will further focus on cost management and overall effectiveness. This may lead to further extension of shorter events.
- So far we have not seen any significant effect of the situation in Ukraine on congress tourism. Nevertheless, further escalation of the tensions in the Ukraine might, of course, negatively impact the travel & tourism industry.
Francois Mary, Regional Director Prague & Pilsen, VIENNA INTERNATIONAL HOTELMANAGEMENT AG
- During the last year we had noticed that MICE inquires were more last minute and they were also more price sensitive. Companies are pushed to radical cost savings which shows in shortening total length of stay to a minimum. We do appreciate a good cooperation with MICE agencies since the total number of inquiries coming through third parties is getting bigger.
- This negative trend was reflected in our properties as well. Congresses taking place in our hotels during 2013 had lower number of delegates compared to previous years.
- The Czech capital is becoming to be more and more attractive for MICE market. We are promoting and supporting Prague as the best choice for any kind of event. Thanks to our new MICE department structure we are seeing increase in the number of MICE leads with conversion comparing to year 2013. Newly we have one department which is selling under one brand ‘Vienna International Hotels & Resorts’ more than 1000 rooms and 4000 square meters of conference spaces in total, this helps us to be more effective and competitive on the market.
- If we are talking about MICE segment exclusively then there we are not fully focused on these nationalities only. Of course we had few leads which were reduced or cancelled due to the current situation, but it doesn’t influence us significantly.
Sylvia Neves, Managing Director, MCI Prague
- Overall, the number of requests remains stable, we even report a small increase. But when it comes to qualification, we noticed that their scope was significantly reduced. The conversion rate slightly decreased, which we explained by a high destination competition pressure. Clients often request for the same event many destinations (sometimes up to 8) to make sure to find the “best deal”.
- It is true that the number of delegates tends to reduce but thanks to the development of hybrid events (integrating technology solutions) clients are able to share content in a much more efficient way and enable information access to anybody who cannot travel.
- In 2014 the potential of Prague to develop will not really increase. First, because major international Events are organized in other cities (Barcelona, Paris, Vienna…) and also because Prague remains considered as a small to mid-size event destination. The opportunity for Prague is really to promote hybrid events to overcome the congress space limitations.
- Regarding Ukraine, the actual internal troubles should not really affect the current situation. The expected presidential election is crucial and we need to monitor further developments. So far, none of the events confirmed in Prague for this year were questioned in terms of safety or cancelled. Prague remains an attractive destination for congresses and events thanks to its level of safety, good value for money and perfect accessibility.
Martin Božek, Group & Event Manager, Kempinski Hotel Hybernská Prague
- During the last two years we have noticed a demand for smaller events, but with great attention to quality and cost of provided services. Competition in Prague is tough and hotels are trying to attract customers mainly on prices. Since this is often at the expense of quality the companies react more carefully when preparing events.
- Kempinski Hotel Hybernska Prague is a boutique hotel with 13 rooms and 62 suites. Our product and hotel location is ideally suited for individual clients and families. Due to this fact we have not felt the impact of the decrease in congress tourism and it did not have a major effect on hotel´s occupancy.
- Currently we do not feel the increased interest associated with congress tourism from the client’s side and therefore we expect that the situation will be the same as in 2013.
- The current situation in Ukraine does not have a direct impact on the development of the industry, but it will certainly reduce demand from partners in Ukraine.
Michael Specking, Cluster General Manager, HILTON PRAGUE | HILTON PRAGUE OLD TOWN
- In general, the booking window is getting shorter compared to previous years and events tend to have less delegates. MICE clients are much more price sensitive and they are looking for good value for money and flexibility with more focus on loyalty and rewarding. We are also witnessing an increasing digital media influence throughout the whole process – choosing, booking, experiencing and sharing. At the same time, we compete with more destinations.
- I can only agree with this. Indeed, in 2013 we received less enquiries with smaller number of delegates. It goes hand in hand with the price sensitiveness of our clients.
- We expect the trend of recent years to continue.
- Even though there is a smaller number of tourists coming from Russia these days, congress tourism seems not to be impacted at the moment.
Kateřina Hájková (Benešová), Partner/Sales Director, Senator Travel s.r.o.
- More last minute requestes for DMC services.
- We manged to optimalise cost efficiency and we had a good balance between incoming and outgoing. Even 2014 (specially first half of the year) looks very optimistic.
- I think we can not expect confirmation of big events for this year, but we can expect mor small meetings plus planning and site inspections for 2015 and 2016 events.
- I am sure it will, as especially for American and Asian clients is Europe considered as one entity, where countries are connected and there are short distances. We hope the situation will get more quiet and that this polical problem will not extend, as this could interfere to inbound of MICE. People are choosing as their MICE destination safe and “Safe in the future” destiantion.
According to the opinions of the members of the Prague Convention Bureau mentioned above the future of Prague congress tourism appears to be optimistic. Prague is still an attractive destination for event organizers. However, the time between sending the inquiry and the date of the event constantly shortens, as well as the length of conferences. There are more inquiries for conferences with lower number of delegates.
Regarding the current situation in Ukraine, according to most respondents, these incidents seem not to affect European source markets, but can affect distant markets like the U.S. or Asia, where the safety issue is perceived in broader context.