Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on business and conference travel, the MICE industry continues to grow. In fact, Allied Market Research predicts that the Global MICE Industry will reach $1,337.4 billion by 2028. With the lifting of travel restrictions around the world and an increasingly globalized, mobile workforce, there’s no better time to optimize for meetings, incentives, conferences, and events.
Emmanuel Vallee, former Area Director at IHG and current Director at NEOM, knows a little something about succeeding in the MICE space. When we spoke with him last year, he called this group-based aspect of the business the “essence of success”.
“You cannot fill 250 rooms every day with individuals,” Vallee said, “so you need to have a strong base to put yourself in the right situation and have yield in the meantime.”
For some brands, MICE may be completely new territory. For others, it’s the foundation of their business. No matter the circumstance, there’s always room to optimize further. In his conversation with Thynk’s Nils Scheers, Vallee shared three ways hoteliers and their teams can adapt to be successful in the MICE industry.
Vallee consistently reminds his team to do one thing: listen. “[We] let the client talk and tell us what they need '' he says, “and then we… answer their needs directly.”
Listening, of course, can happen naturally during face-to-face interactions. However, it’s also prudent to “listen” to guests more formally through surveys, reviews, and focus groups. Gathering guest opinions in a variety of ways ensures that you’re hearing diverse perspectives. It also makes it easier to maintain a consistent flow of feedback.
When Vallee was working at IHG, this practice led to several positive changes in their hotels. They used guest feedback to customize coffee breaks to each client and the communities they were serving, for example, and ensured their food was of the highest quality by partnering with local chefs. “Our flexibility is [our] strength because to be successful in MICE you have to adapt to the clients, which are all different, and therefore you permanently need to customize. You customize by listening to the client.”
Vallee is the first to admit that he and his teams don’t always enjoy working with third-party websites when it comes to securing requests for MICE proposals.
“It’s a big disappointment to work with them,” he said. “You are always pleased to drive extra requests and extra demand for your hotel, but our teams are overloaded by those websites and the conversion is minimal.”
In light of this, it can be tempting for MICE teams to ignore these websites as legitimate lead sources. Vallee doesn’t recommend that course of action. Instead, Vallee suggests building stronger partnerships with them.
“We need to work in partnership with those websites in order to improve the quality of the conversion. You do this by better targeting and not spreading out the number of requests. If only four or five hotels received the request, you have more chance to convert than if you are in the middle of hundreds.”
With the growing popularity of third-party booking sites, both for MICE and individual travel, the partnership approach makes a lot of sense.
In order to ensure that guests have a smooth and seamless experience from booking to departure, Vallee encourages hoteliers to focus on communication between departments and teams. “The more people are involved, the more you forget information, and then you have an unhappy client or a client not coming back because of a delay or something simple being forgotten.”
To address this need, Vallee’s team at IHG implemented Thynk’s hospitality cloud. By centralizing guest data on an easy-to-use platform, they ensured that sales, billing, and guest services communicated effectively regarding guest needs.
“...that changes the client’s experience,” he said. “There is no break, no loss of information in the chain. It is essential and a key factor for success.”
With consistent guest feedback, strengthened partnerships and centralized communication, hoteliers are well on their way to success in the MICE industry. But above all, Vallee believes that a creative spirit is what will carry them through any future challenges.
“The role as a hotelier is to evolve, to be creative, and to [present] creative offers to our clients,” Vallee said. “I think that is missing in our hotels. We always repeat what we have done successfully, but what else can we do to please our clients? We should permanently keep in mind; what can we do to keep our clients happy and coming back?”