MICE tourism may never fully recover, says travel expert

Published: 26 July 2020 - 6:45 a.m.
By: Hotelier Middle East Staff

Meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) tourism was one of the first types of tourism to be impacted by the global spread of COVID-19 and it could be one of the last to fully return as international business arrivals are projected to fall by 35.3 percent in 2020.

MICE events are now taking place online, without the need for companies operating in the tourism sector. This is a worrying trend for all industries involved in travel and tourism, the longer restrictions and guidelines last around MICE tourism, while other national economies start to pick up, the more companies, attendees and event organisers may start to become accustomed to hosting and attending MICE events online, whilst appreciating the unseen benefits they bring.

Companies in all sectors will be looking for ways to reduce costs in the coming years as they reel from the economic impact created by COVID-19. Business travel is a costly expense for all companies, and with the rise of video conferencing software such as Zoom and Google Meet, many will realise that this type of ongoing expense is unnecessary.

As well as the potential of MICE trips now being seen as an unnecessary financial burden, business travellers themselves may not be keen to undertake the frequent and often stressful trips they were performing pre-pandemic. The ongoing danger of contracting the virus at a MICE event paired with the fact that business travellers can now achieve the same objectives and goals of a conference in the comfort of their own home, means that demand for many MICE events is likely to fall.

Although it’s likely that meeting and conference tourism demand may never fully recover, exhibitions and trade fairs, on the other hand, are much more effective when they take place face-to-face due to attendee motivations around networking and assessing and experiencing products and services in person. However, due to the mass gatherings of people that these kind of events encourage, it is unclear when it will be safe and secure to start holding these events once again.

Ralph Hollister is an analyst in the travel and tourism division at GlobalData. He specialises in the creation of thematic reports, mainly in relation to major technology themes in the tourism industry.

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