MoT strengthens MICE presence at IMEX Frankfurt; participating agents call for better participation, promotions

Notably, India’s current position at rank 9 in the ICCA ranking of countries in the Asia Pacific region for 2022 is a promising start. However, with stronger government support and industry collaboration, there is potential for India to climb even higher.

At the just concluded IMEX Frankfurt 2024, a leading trade show for the global events industry, India’s presence looked both, promising and an opportunity in the making. Through this platform, the Indian Ministry of Tourism aimed to showcase the strengths of India as a leading MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) destination to the global market and to act as a catalyst to bring forth greater number of Conferences and Conventions to be hosted in the country.

MICE Matters!

Despite the country’s remarkable potential as a MICE destination, the tour operators believe that more can be done to harness this potential fully. Speaking to Travel Trends Today live from IMEX, Ravi Gosain, MD, ERCO Travels, called for a stronger support from the Ministry of Tourism, highlighting the critical role this could play in elevating India’s status in the global MICE market.

“The Ministry of Tourism has been participating in this fair for many years, and while this year’s participation was remarkable, it could have been bigger and better. Considering India is the 5th largest economy in the world, we need to realise the huge potential of the MICE business. There should be a strong support from MOT to international conference and incentives organisers and operators on the similar lines as the other countries’ convention bureaus,” he shared.

Amaresh Tiwari, Vice Chairman, ICPB, who also participated this year, shared that while there’s been extensive discussion on the importance of MICE at high levels, including the PMO; there is massive opportunity for better execution. “There has been a lack of understanding and mindset for MICE. This year’s India participation at IMEX could have been better as the agents and operators’ presence at the event was notably minimal, with small stands and a lack of timely, pre event PR activities or marketing efforts,” he stated.

Tiwari also pointed that despite these, there was a growing interest for India as a MICE destination at IMEX, especially due to stability and emerging economy status.

“Unlike last year, this year’s IMEX saw a surge in interest, ranging from 10 to 12% increase in interested buyers. This can be attributed to India’s stable leadership and status as an emerging economy. Individual members present at the show reported positive experiences and fruitful interactions, with numerous inquiries pouring in for the country. Personally, as an exhibitor, I saw significant business interest coming in. However, the Ministry of Tourism needs to step up significantly,” he stressed.

He highlighted that with the recent appointment of Manisha Saxena as (DG Tourism) the Chairman of ICPB brings hope, as she recognises the importance of MICE and harbours progressive ideas. “We’re optimistic about the potential progress under her leadership. It’s imperative for India Tourism to ramp up efforts and adopt a more aggressive approach. I’ve personally highlighted to JS, who was present at IMEX about how other countries are effectively promoting MICE and believe it’s high time for India to follow suit and become more proactive in this regard,” he asserted.

Echoing his sentiments about IMEX being an ideal platform, Gosain said, “It is one of the most iconic MICE fairs in the world. Show this year was exceptionally well-organised, with prior B2B fixed appointments that ensure focused interactions. All participants were happy with the meetings, and there is hope that these will generate future business.”

On the other end, the Ministry of Tourism has indeed made strides in promoting India as a MICE destination. Recognising the sector’s potential to address seasonality and promote India as a year-round destination, the Ministry has launched the ‘Meet in India’ initiative under the ‘Incredible India’ campaign. This initiative aims to boost promotional efforts, positioning India as a top-tier destination with excellent connectivity, cutting-edge infrastructure, and a plethora of unique attractions.

The India Pavilion at IMEX Frankfurt, inaugurated by M. R. Synrem, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, showcased this commitment. The Pavilion brought together the India Convention Promotion Bureau, MICE planners, conference organizers, and destination management companies to present a unified front.

Collaboration is crucial

Joint support from all stakeholders, including the government, industry associations like ICPB, and convention bureaus, is crucial for realizing the full potential of the MICE industry in India, said Tiwari. “Strengthening ICPB and consolidating efforts under one umbrella could enhance India’s appeal as a MICE destination,” he suggested.

Further, Gosain acknowledged how bringing MICE business to India involves a lot of persuasion and hard work. “This needs comprehensive backing from the government, and all involved in the process including convention centers, hotels, airlines, and transport companies,” he said.

Learning from the G20 Success

India’s G20 Presidency in 2023 was a highlight, with over 200 meetings held across 56 cities, boosting both domestic and international tourism. This extensive showcase demonstrated India’s robust MICE infrastructure and its capacity to host large-scale international events. Destinations like Kashmir bore a sweeter fruit as the visitor numbers arrivals post G20 conferences in the U/T almost doubled with a huge number of flights being introduced catering to the huge inbound demand.

Building on this kind of success, the Ministry of Tourism is actively working to position the entire country as a premier global hub for MICE activities. According to the ministry, the enhanced internal connectivity and new infrastructural facilities have made travel within the country more convenient, making India an attractive option for international conference organisers.

“G20 was a game changer for India as the country has witnessed significant investment in convention centres across the country. Now is the time to unite efforts and present a cohesive front to attract more MICE events to India, leveraging facilities like Bharat Mandapam, Yashobhoomi, Jio Centre, and others. In fact, for 2028, I have got a query for hosting 20000 people willing to attend a particular conference from abroad. That is the kind of potential we have and must leverage it now,” added Tiwari.

Notably, India’s current position at rank 9 in the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) ranking of countries in the Asia Pacific region for 2022 is a promising start. However, with stronger government support and industry collaboration, there is potential for India to climb even higher.

By Gagneet Kaur