What is pegging back conventions in India?
Indian exhibition and convention industry is undergoing an incredible change. With the growing potential of MICE for the national economy, convention centres’ are set to experience significant growth in coming years. The country has to further ensure that there is an upsurge with many convention centres being lined up with different capacities to handle meetings and exhibitions. Industry experts discourse to the analysis
India has seen exponential growth, both in the international as well as domestic markets, in MICE. As per ICCA Statistics report, India is mentioned as the host for 143 international exhibitions and trade fairs. Indians are becoming members of international trade bodies and associations which help them establish their network globally and also open newer avenues for MICE in India. Data on tourism reveal that conventions or meetings tourism accounts for roughly 20 per cent of all international arrivals and is projected to grow at around 10 per cent per year over the next decade.
The exhibition industry is growing at an annual rate of 12 to 15 per cent in India. This has opened up opportunities for existing exhibition venues and convention centres to scale up their infrastructure as well as opened opportunities for investors to create new facilities in the country. “The terms like ‘World’s largest democracy’, ‘one of the fastest growing economies’ have helped escalate the valuation of MICE in India. Since 2008, this industry is on a high in the country. Since meetings, conferences and exhibitions are the most vibrant form of connecting businesses and with growth in virtually every sector of our economy, there is a greater than ever buzz around the M&C space,” opines Rakesh Kumar, Chairman India Exposition Mart Limited (IEML).
“Adding strength to the growing industry is the development of tourism sector in India like medical tourism. This has led to an increased inflow of patients into the country not only for therapeutic medication but also for traditional and contemporary medical practices such as AYUSH. With the infrastructure development that has happened in the last few decades, the overall inflow of tourists has increased considerably. Bangalore International Exhibition Center (BIEC) has added a great amount of value by constructing a world-class exhibition infrastructure to organise exhibitions and conventions in the city.
To leverage the market further, BIEC also provides a single window service to convention organisers where logistics and all other allied services that are needed to organise an event is provided as per organisers’ requirements,” elaborates S Balasubramanian, Executive Director – Trade Fairs and Chief Operating Officer, Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC).
“Over the decade of its operations, Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) has witnessed tremendous growth in revenues and number of visiting MICE delegates, helping position Hyderabad on world MICE map. Last few years have been very successful, where it hosted several prominent conferences bringing more than three lakh delegates to the city, every year positioning Hyderabad amongst the top four MICE cities in India. Both central and state governments are actively working toward capitalising this segment by investing in MICE related infrastructure, focusing on increased global connectivity expanding to tier II and III cities, improved civic amenities, implementation of faster and newer modes of transport and the continued addition of room inventory across categories,” adds Bandish Mehta, General Manager- Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre & Hyderabad International Convention Centre.
In last few years, India has shown substantial growth in all areas making the economy much stronger. Infrastructural advancements are key areas which are flourishing, still, when it comes to MICE specific requirements, the country has a long way to go. “India’s current share in global MICE market is merely 0.5 per cent to 0.65 per cent and to grow this and make it a substantial part of our economy, we need focused efforts to create a more conducive environment for MICE organisers,” highlights Mehta.
He also suggeststhat joint efforts between convention centres, bureaus, government, tourism board and hospitality chains coupled with long-term investments to developed professional facilities will bring the desired change. Better representation of India in international trade shows, roadshows and to other world associations, as a potential MICE host will help strengthen India’s position in global MICE map.
Adding to the note,Satish Sharma, Assistant Vice President-Operations, Brilliant Convention Center exclaims that it is not easy to attract much business in the convention centre as people in our are yet to be aware of the deliverance that a convention centre can provide. “I would not call it a hindrance, rather there is a certain stone left unturned which are to be looked into for more lucrative business. Firstly, the transportation is not up-to-mark, depending on the demand of the MICE segment and footfall. There is a huge gap between the metro cities and tier II cities in India that creates the gap of knowledge and commercialisation of tourism, which needs to shrink at a speedy rate.”
Simultaneously, Nicholas Dumbell, General Manager – Renaissance Mumbai & Lakeside Chalet – Mumbai, Marriott Executive Apartments highlights, “While India has huge potential for MICE business, only a few centres in terms of organised spaces are available in the country. Some key reasons behind the failure to attract MICE amongst Indians are the lack of world-class infrastructure in the nation to cater to the volume of events that the key cities can hold while another challenge is the higher taxation policies set by the government due to which we lose MICE business to the neighbouring countries convention centres.” He continues saying, “India tourism has to adopt a vigorous MICE focused marketing approach to promote India as a MICE destination. In fact, the conference industry has eagerly been waiting for a one-stop licensing and visa permit process for the conference organisers that encompass all the local governmental bodies’ requirements. Also, all the stake holders along with tourism department should work hand-in-hand in promoting and taking measures in effecting bidding of conventions for India.”
Jose Sebastian, General Manager, Lulu International Convention Center and Garden Hotels, Thrissuradds, “Hotels and convention centres in India are taxed three times more under Goods and Services Tax (GST) than some of the other overseas markets. The conference is a bulk business and these taxes make more impact. Even Indians are choosing destinations outside India which are less expensive. Definitely, the GST rates need to go down and IGST needs to be made available to the hotels. Most corporates are registered in metros but they travel to lesser-known destinations. They don’t get IGST benefits. This is impacting corporate travel and the MICE business.”
Balasubramanian highlights, “Globally many countries have made a mark in convention centre business due to a conscious effort to develop infrastructure. Convention centres in Europe and North America have been funded by public investments. The ones in Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta have been built on private-public partnership. The support provided by the government in these regions are exemplary. India needs to emulate this and bridge the gaps. Convention industry also needs a nodal body to lobby with state and central governments for enhancing convention and allied infrastructure. The overall development of MICE industry cannot happen just with investments from the private sector.
The government should look at connecting the relevant stakeholders of MICE industry together and give it due importance both in terms of industry status as well as providing a supporting hand for its development.” He continues adding, “Infrastructure and supporting systems are crucial for organising more technical conventions. Exhibition and convention centres must employ technically sound skilled workforce who could integrate technology into live-streaming videos and social media enhanced presentations. Convention centres also need an uninterrupted power distribution. This is important since in India frequent power outages are a norm. There would be a tremendous demand for bandwidth for connecting various wireless devices, which needs to be taken care of.”
India has always been an enchanting and a potentially top destination for MICE from all around the world. Yet, as on date, India attracts only one per cent of the total international market in MICE. As pointed out by Kumar, “Unlike many countries abroad, where the state pushes things forward and hugely incentivises MICE industry, the machinery in India is propelled in the bottom to up direction. The government should come forward by giving administrative support and also for funding bids. It should promote the MICE industry and must strive to develop the necessary infrastructure to keep national technological offerings on par with global standards.”
He adds further saying, “Mutual competition and trust deficit restricts entities to come together to bid for a big show and end up losing valuable business. Also, there is no DMO in any state or a convention bureau, which could handhold the organisers and facilitate them at each and every step to get the conference and help it to make it a success. Organising a big-ticket event is a daunting task and needs a lot of cooperative work. Only recently organisers have started using event management software for many tasks. To gauge India’s strength as an emerging MICE destination, besides harnessing inbound business, it is also important to understand Indian outbound MICE tourism, given the growth pace and scope of India’s economy.”
Purpose-built convention centres, star accommodations, strong airport connectivity, advance local commute options, city-specific bureaus, security measures, ease of access to local tourism and skilled manpower to cater to the dynamic requirements of international and national travellers are the basics which international associations, conference boards and MICE organisers look for while choosing destination for their events.
Earlier it was a fact that the hotel industries were dependant on the room occupancy but now, it has altered as more business is attracted because of banquet facilities, present in hotels and convention centres. Social functions have become a must-to-do thing and clients want to celebrate them at best of ways. A self-sufficient convention centre is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to selecting a hotel as a good MICE venue. Today, organisers and business guests seek a lot more than just the capacity of the venue or technology provisions.
With a rapid and 24x7 lifestyle, business delegates tend to combine work with pleasure and travel along with their family. Recently, tier II and III cities have also been performing well and aggressively in the MICE segment. “The Indian hospitality industry rode impressive growth rates over the last couple of years on the back of increasing number of MICE events across several Indian cities. Industry experts and analysts attribute increasing MICE events, including investor summits, to an improved economic sentiment amidst growing competition among states to score better ratings in ease of doing business and attract investments,” says Sharma.
With the Ministry of Home Affairs shortly launching an online module for submission of applications by the organisers of international conferences, it is hopeful to boost MICE tourism by driving awareness to the international MICE community that India is on the world map as a great MICE destination with increased presence of global hotel chains and more hotel room inventory. Furthermore, it will improve the city infrastructure with upcoming metros and better air connectivity, along with the ease of improvised visa norms. Currently, India is at the 31st position on the global MICE map but with the developing infrastructure and profitable business policies, it is highly possible that the Indian MICE will surpass other countries to reserve a higher position, globally.