Knowing and understanding the business tourism sector and the MICE industry
500 pax incentive in Singapore (large MICE event)

Knowing and understanding the business tourism sector and the MICE industry

The MICE industry is a specialized component of business tourism, itself part of the tourism and travel industry. MICE is an acronym which stands for and groups together the activities planning, organising and coordinating Meetings for “M”, Incentive for “I”, Conferences for “C” and finally Events and Exhibitions for “E”.

In other words, the MICE events organisers (EO for event organisers) can follow the below specialties : 

  • To plan seminars and conventions : they are called Meeting Planners
  • To plan incentive trip for sales teams for example : they are sometimes called Incentive House
  • To plan the organization of professional conferences : sometimes called Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) 
  • The organization of trade fairs and exhibitions

The place of MICE tourism in Business Tourism and Tourism in general

The tourism sector is a large sector of the world economy – accounting for close to 10% of global GDP (according to the ILO). MICE business tourism accounts for between 20% and 30% of total tourism industry revenues. Yet it is poorly known and difficult to pin down. 

It is a strategic sector on a world and national scale, because of the role it plays in the economy and its spillover effects in employment. Business tourism being the biggest value creator in tourism it helps sustain local economies and destinations, boost local providers and foster local heritage protection. In addition, trade shows and other professional meetings bring together businesses and institutions through local or international companies.

The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes”. If business travelers can be alone, MICE travelers are business travelers in GROUPS.

What is unique about the business tourism industry ?

In MICE tourism as in other forms of tourism, destinations and venues are keys,  including hotels, villas, guest rooms, meeting space or even business centers, “convention centers” or “exhibition areas. ». Venues include restaurants, business and shopping areas, but also places of culture and discovery – such as amusement parks, museums and other points of interest. In addition, other sectors are benefited from the MICE industry, such as corporate gifts and promotional material, audio-visual and printing equipment and of course technology because of the absolute need for each participant to be connected.

What is unique about the business tourism industry is its target audience: professionals, employees, teams of organisations, from companies, associations or professional affiliation and from around the world. Broadly the MICE industry caters to this very large group: the professionals. 

The needs of business travelers revolve around flight and point-to-point transportation, accommodation, and work and meeting spaces. Co-working spaces are an interesting example of new forms of work – more flexible and mobile.

A typology of MICE services

As for MICE services, although all require travelling to a destination, we should distinguish between those that involve sending the participant abroad (typical offsite meeting or incentives) and for which an “agency” is recruited to plan and organise such outings and those that involve inviting participants to a fixed venue for an exhibition or a trade show. In the second case the organising agency is typically an exhibition organisers. Although seemingly comparable, there is a structural difference in the sense that in the first case, the organiser and the client are typically based in the “Sending zone” whereas in the first case the organiser is based in the “receiving zone” or destination itself.

A destination marketing organization is an organisation which promotes a location as an attractive travel destination. DMOs are known as tourist boards, tourism authorities or “Convention and Visitors Bureaux”. 

As for business seminars, study days, incentive trips, their typical durations range from one day for small business seminars or study days – up to a dozen days and nights for incentives – incentive or reward trips – to distant destinations.

The business tourism sector has traditionally been structured around large specialist agencies like American Express that help companies manage the business trips of their employees. For 15-20 years online agencies like Expedia or Priceline have outgrown “traditional” agencies and have also developed in the business tourism sector. Expedia thus bought Egencia, one of the French leaders in this field.

But the MICE sector is a combination of large trade fair organizers – such as Informa or Reed Exhibitions -, and medium to small event agencies, more or less integrated into global or regional networks of local players: small or medium-sized event agencies, Destination Management Companies (DMCs), and of course restaurants, parks and hotels, which all are looking for the lucrative MICE business.

Key associations in the global MICE landscape

Some key associations in the global MICE landscape :

The Global MICE Collaborative provides Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) professionals throughout emerging worldwide markets with a “best of” collaboration that includes access to a combined network of 126 chapters worldwide.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is the largest meeting and event industry association worldwide. The organization provides innovative and relevant education, networking opportunities and business exchanges, and acts as a prominent voice for the promotion and growth of the industry. MPI has a global community of 60,000 meeting and event professionals including nearly 14,000 engaged members. It has nearly 70 chapters, clubs and members in more than 75 countries worldwide. “When we meet, we change the world.”

Incentive travel, the “I” in MICE, is the fastest growing sector of the Business Events industry with the highest per capita spend and the widest supply chain.

Accounting for about 7% of all Business Events activities, the Events Industry Council’s Global Economic Impact study (2018) estimates the incentive travel industry to be worth around $75 billion globally.

The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) is the only Business Events association dedicated exclusively to the global incentive travel industry.

Founded in 1973, SITE are a professional association of 2,500 members located in 90 countries, working in corporations, agencies, airlines, cruise companies and across the entire destination supply chain.