What Are the Signs of Hope for MICE and Business Events Travel?May 13, 2021
While many meetings and events are still on hold, there are also many signs that the industry is heating up as business travel starts to become a possibility.
Cautiously optimistic is the term most are using in the tourism industry, but meetings and events are less cautious, looking to the future as planners start thinking now about booking venues worldwide. The rebuilding will be slow, but the vaccine has been the game-changer we all dreamed of, and now that it’s here, planning can start again.
More than a year into the pandemic, planners are no longer interested in simply identifying safety and health precautions. It should be a given that convention centers and hotels in your destination are clean and sanitized by this point!
There are other indications, however, that business events travel will roar back the moment restrictions lift to make it possible. DCI has worked tirelessly with our partners around the globe and planners and destinations alike agree: business events travel will come back, stronger than ever.
1. Virtual meeting participation is up!
Our industry contacts report overwhelmingly that meeting planners are seeing increases in virtual participation. While virtual events don’t signal that convention centers should be preparing for a full house tomorrow, it does give us a strong sense of the one thing we all need: hope.
The hunger for meeting is there, and planners are curious about the long-term potential of hybrid events to reach previously untouched demographics and untapped revenue. Virtual events have offered so much in terms of new ideas and innovation but let’s face, it, they cannot replace in-person meetings from a networking perspective and no one wants them to! Yet the willingness of people to sit in front of Zoom for hours on end underscores how vital human connections are.
We want them. We need them. We’ll have them again!
2. No incentives on Zoom
While some business travel has adapted to virtual spaces for the time being, incentive travel is one facet that can’t be remedied by Zoom. Planners have struggled to keep incentive programs going, offering cash in some cases in lieu of trips, but it’s all a temporary fix.
As pent-up demand hits a boiling point, the incentives segment is a hopeful spot in all of the uncertainty.
It’s easier for a restaurant to pivot from dining in to ordering out, but incentive travel doesn’t really work without the whole “travel” part. Planners know this, and the need to continue these programs is yet another spark of hope. People want their incentive travel and planners want to give it to them. No amount of pivoting will change that.
3. Lower-tech industries need to meet
Sure, for Twitter or Google it was easy to tell their tech-savvy workers to stay home since everything they do is in front of a screen anyway. Many industries, however, are hungry to meet in person because their services don’t translate so easily to the screen.
Think of sectors like cosmetics, transportation and well… the travel industry. They need to engage people, and of course their products and experiences, to understand, discuss and negotiate. They can’t strike a deal through a DM or email. It needs to be more involved than that.
DCI has seen these industries desperate to meet in person and hold their trade shows and meetings as they did before, albeit with safety precautions in place. The hunger won’t be satiated immediately, but hearing their stomachs grumbling for meetings again gives us the hope we need to have confidence in the return of business events travel.
4. Planners and suppliers still meet
A strong sign that business travel will make a strong comeback is that meeting planners and suppliers are staying in near constant contact. NorthStar Meetings Group, for example, continues to host virtual events despite that no one is booking in-person meetings just yet. Instead, they are keeping the wheels greased as everyone looks to the near future.
Planners want to know what supplies are up to, and suppliers need to know what planners want. They are all demonstrating how hopeful they are by keeping these relationships alive and well. Keeping updated and informed now will make planning events easier when we get the green light to start booking freely again.
5. Convention centers are investing
We saw Milan invest early into the pandemic and destinations worldwide followed suit. Convention centers have understood that meeting will never be quite the same. To accommodate these new realities, they have invested in digital studios, paving the way for a richer meeting experience.
As convention centers repurpose themselves as vaccination centers or migrant centers, playing roles they never thought they would, their ability to adapt has kept them in the headlines. This same spirit will help them moving forward with business events travel in the very near future.
Business travel will be back and with larger audiences thanks to these digital investments. What’s most hopeful about this is the active acknowledgement that convention centers won’t resort to doing things “as usual.” The innovation and development underscore a commitment to embracing the new face of business events travel and providing meeting planners with everything they need.
Business events travel – or MICE if you prefer – has a built-in safety net that leisure travel doesn’t have. No one truly must go to a beach, but business in the long-term can’t entirely succeed over virtual conferences.
The human relationships that build the foundation of most industries are created at events, over a casual coffee, during a workshop or a meal. These needs mean business travel will be back, in force. And when it is, all of the planners and suppliers who have been keeping hope alive will be able to reap the rewards!
Are you joining the hopeful planners and supplies looking to attract meetings in the near future? DCI has over 60 years of experience in destination marketing and business travel. Get in touch with Stella Tsitsipatis at [email protected] to learn more about DCI’s business events services.