Guest article:
Shantanu Jain
Lead- Experiential Marketing
EVENTFAQS Media Pvt. Ltd.

India today stands tall as one of the biggest outbound MICE markets across the world, estimated to generate a staggering 6.5 Million outbound luxury and MICE tourists annually by 2020. The number though, is an approximation, clearly reflecting on how Indian MICE planners and corporates are willing to shell out the big bucks when it comes to organising international extravaganzas, be it in form of Incentive Travels, Congresses, Conventions, or Exhibitions for their valued audiences.

Moving away from the traditional notion of an event as just another “outing”, MICE planners are now seeking to bring in elements of interest and a ‘theme’ to the planning. With cultures crossing borders and destinations experimenting with different entertainment avenues from food and drink festivals to adventures, the wide gamut of opportunities has been thrown open, creating a build-up of interest in out-of-the-box implementations.

The opportunity is also huge for international destinations and tourism boards – as sadly, somewhere between all the positives and growing trends, the ‘Experience’ quotient of celebrating the ethos of an unknown international destination is usually missing at most of these MICE spectacles – something the planners are now looking at remedying.
Speaking exclusively to ExM as a part of a focus study, delegates who have been to over 5 international MICE programmes in the past decade revealed that despite the need for innovation, most of the MICE programmes restrict the engagement of delegates at international destinations to the tried-and-tested shopping spree or a beach party.

“What these MICE planners do not understand is the fact that merely hosting a party in an international hotel instead of a domestic one does not serve the purpose of an inventive travel. We want to experience the culture of the destination, drench ourselves in their heritage and take back a memory to remember. Sadly, sometimes it’s the security that they are concerned about and other times it is just laziness on their part.”– shared a sales professional from a leading financial multinational in India. (Name withheld on request)

Commenting on the importance of weaving unique experiences as part of an overall MICE project, Brian Tellis, Co-Founder & Group CEO, Fountainhead MKTG comments, “Incentive travel is an age-old gratification exercise for either performing employees or indeed retailers and distributors. Beyond gratification, one is always looking for meaningful ways to engage, motivate or just purposefully entertain the participant. For instance, if one was planning Europe, one could include a live sporting event like the Euro Football League or any other aspirational event like Formula 1, etc. One could also tap into a Music Concert Calendar, A Theatre Calendar, etc. Another approach could be to marry the kind of business the travelers are in, with the experience curated. For example, could a bunch of financial professionals be exposed and educated on the trip, by a globally celebrated entrepreneur, on stories that could be relevant? One needs to combine heightened experiences with ‘Bragging Rights’.I, for one, feel a huge need for positive disruption in the MICE story.”

Tushar Maheshwari, Founder & Director, E3 Integrated elucidates, “The concept of assimilating iconic festivals into MICE events is an exciting way to make incentive travel for immersive for audiences. A lot of corporates are willing to pay for such experiences and in the past, we have organisedsuch events whichhave been big hits. However, in most cases, the concept of what to integrate intothe MICE program depends on timelines we are given to work around by our clients.”

Sharing his views on the subject, Karthik Raman, CMO, IDBI Federal Life Insurance remarks, “The idea of integrating a special event as a part of the overall MICE itinerary is absolutely phenomenal as the very concept behind such travel is to serve a local flavor of the destination to the delegates. However, one of the challenges we face while organising such MICE programmes is that these local festivals should also align with our timelines. Most of our MICE events happen within the two months of our financial closing.”

Recalling details from a MICE event that his agency planned last year for Vodafone, Dhanraj Madnani, Senior Manager – Business Development & Client Servicing, Maximus MICE and Media Solutions shares, “We were organising the Vodafone sales offsite which was supposed to happen in Europe in August initially. But when the dates of the same changed to September 16, (which coincided with the first day of Oktoberfest ‘17) we decided to make it a part of the overall MICE itinerary. A lot of planners hesitate to make such global festivals a part of their MICE programs because it is believed that the first day of the festival is a mess with a lot of crowd and obviously they are responsible for the security of everyone. Interestingly, this is what all festivals will seem to you if you are sitting and planning things from the comfort of your office.”

“We on the other hand went to check out the reality at ground-zero itself. Yes, the risk factor was high, but we realised that with in depth and detailed planning we would be able to make the entire MICE program extremely memorable for the audiences. We chalked out maps, drafted schedules, re-worked a couple of things,and managed to pull it off beautifully without any hassles.”

Such insights from top MICE planners and corporates reveal that while there is a definite need to elevate the experiential quotient of outbound MICE programmes being organised by India, there is limited awareness about the possibilities of how this can be achieved. Which is why in this feature of ExM, we pick 7 destinations across the globe that you can plan your next MICE programmes in and include an exceptional event experience as part of it.

The complete article in the Experiential Marketing Magazine (ExM), on page 59-73.