TourismFirst spoke to Ashish Vyas, GM, Jaipur Exhibition and Convention Center about the future of the MICE sector in India and also about what needs to be done to highlight the importance of the sector for the Indian economy. Edited excerpts:
1. What is the single biggest problem in running your convention centre? What needs to be done to address the issue?
Aashish Vyas: The infrastructure policies which amass the power to promote MICE tourism and Conventions in the country need to be strengthened as a whole. India, as a country, needs to showcase itself more as a start-up destination which offers unlimited opportunities in terms of technology, transfers, etc. In order to run a massive exhibition and convention centre like JECC, we require the Government to generate more awareness and develop marketing campaigns that perfectly showcase all that India has to offer.
The Government has undoubtedly done a lot for inbound tourism, but the need of the hour is to enhance policies relating to MICE.
2. How has the last year been in terms of business? What are some of the expectations from this year and how has the demonetisation impact shaped up?
AV: Prior to demonetization, the pace at which business was growing was faster and stronger. Demonetization has had an impact on peripheral business mainly. Since the buying power of the clients went downhill, they had to relook at their financial planning which did lead to some cancellations, especially in the ‘Socials’ segment. However, all the large Conventions and Exhibitions stayed untouched.
3. The Indian MICE landscape is set for an infrastructural change. The iconic Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan, in the capital, was recently put under the hammer for redevelopment. Even though the step is bound to give this segment a much needed boost, what are some of the other elements that need to be looked in to for sustained development of the sector?
AV: Undoubtedly, the overall MICE infrastructure in the country needs a greater push. In addition to that, the MICE sector would be able to reap a lot of benefits by the creation of a separate Conventions’ Cell. Herein, trade bodies, Ministry of External Affairs, MHA, Customs, etc. become one single window. This results in an increase in intellectual attendance since it becomes easier to get visas, sharing of technology, and faster security clearance. Hence, sustained development of the MICE sector.
4. India, with its focus on MICE, is set to become a serious competitor for the South East Asian as well as Middle East countries in the segment. What should be the marketing approach to promote this sector in order for it to reach its true potential?
AV: For the Indian MICE sector to reach its true potential, Government in India, in association with the State Governments, needs to participate in international MICE fairs and create marketing campaigns with a global outreach. We need to inform the world that that the prerequisite systems comprising of world class hotels, advanced technologies, superb air connectivity, client entertainment, etc. are already in place. As an economic destination, India is growing steadily and stealthily. Thus, a marketing campaign which helps us portray India as an impeccable MICE
5. MICE is generally perceived as being part of the tourism industry but in the broader sense, it can be said that the MICE segment is essentially a part of the ‘knowledge’ industry (exchange of ideas, global best practices, technology etc.) Do you think that there is a need for this change in outlook?
AV: Yes, definitely. It is well known fact that MICE contributes economically much more to a country’s GDP than inbound tourism. A recent study showed that a MICE traveller’s spending per trip is 2.5 times more than a leisure traveller’s spending per trip. By bringing a change in the way in which we perceive this segment, we can garner more support from the authorities and help get the sector a much needed push.
6. What are your views on the recently announced GST rates? How do you think this will impact the MICE landscape?
AV: In my opinion, the Government could have waited a little longer to levy the GST. For 2-3 years, it is imperative for the GST to be kept low in order to boost MICE. There are a lot of MICE destinations in India which do not run alongside hotels chains. Destinations like these solely depend upon exhibitions, conventions, and conferences. With an increase in GST, the organisers will undoubtedly hesitate to go large scale in order to be economically viable.