FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Delivering Event Wow Factors

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Delivering Event Wow Factors

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, 16 May 2024 – These past few months in Fiji have been filled with excitement and activity.

Each day brings new opportunities and challenges, reminding us of the vitality of life and the need to turn each challenge into an opportunity somehow.

Our schedules have been packed with back-to-back meetings, expos, and conferences.

This bustling pace can often be what drives our dynamic tourism industry, whether we’re participating in these events, organising them, or using them to plan for future business opportunities.

Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) are fundamental to the global tourism landscape. They encompass a wide range of business events that boost economic growth and encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing.

But they can often be used to reframe or transform a business model, launch a new one, or simply celebrate achievements, targets and surpassed performance indicators.

From corporate meetings to incentive trips and large-scale conferences, MICE events play a crucial role in helping shape tourism globally.

They go beyond mere visitor numbers, bringing together industry professionals, thought leaders, innovators, and stakeholders from diverse sectors. These events create dynamic platforms for networking, learning, and fostering business development.

They can also act as catalysts for innovation, driving progress across various industries like hospitality, technology, finance, healthcare, and more. These events remind us what
we’re hoping to achieve or help us celebrate new or achieved successes.

And maybe the reason that a captured audience sees Fiji for the first time and decides to return on their own or with the family the next time.

While we might consider Fiji a quality visitor destination; enticing conferences that demand lower rates for larger crowds with all the bells and whistles thrown in for good measure, require clever marketing, artful value-adds and often some hardnosed negotiations for the bargain-hunting agents eager to capture the larger groups.

Showcasing our pristine natural beauty, warm hospitality, and strategic location might simply be the default attractions that come with the full packaging that make up the prerequisites for international gatherings looking for a venue with everything needed to make a successful conference or forum.

Historically, Fiji has hosted a myriad of MICE events, ranging from regional conferences to high-profile corporate summits, leveraging its unique blend of cultural richness and modern amenities to attract a global audience.

The virtual meeting or event had its time in the sun; but there’s nothing quite like meeting with clients or customers face to face, thrashing out simple or even contentious issues and then kicking back later with cocktails and dinner in an exotic location designed to get your innovative juices working better than your usual 4 x 4 cubicle back at head office.

The interest in Fiji’s MICE offerings can be attributed to several factors.

Firstly, Fiji’s proactive measures in ensuring safety and hygiene standards have instilled confidence among event planners and attendees, paving the way for a return to face-to-face interactions.

Secondly, Fiji’s strategic partnerships with industry stakeholders, government support, and investment in infrastructure have enhanced its appeal as a premier MICE destination.

Furthermore, Fiji’s diverse calendar of MICE events, ranging from industry-specific conferences to cultural festivals and sporting extravaganzas, showcases the destination’s versatility and ability to cater to a wide range of interests and objectives.

Whether it’s hosting a corporate retreat amidst breathtaking landscapes or organising a cutting-edge technology expo, Fiji offers a compelling setting that combines business with leisure seamlessly.

The Asia Pacific MICE market has been experiencing a robust growth trajectory, significantly impacting the regional economy.

The usual suspects pop up in a who’s who major MICE destinations: Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand (especially Bangkok), China (particularly Shanghai and Beijing), Japan (Tokyo and Osaka), South Korea (Seoul), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), and Australia (Sydney, Melbourne).

It is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the world, accounting for a significant share of global MICE revenue. In 2021, the market size was estimated to be worth over USD 250 billion.

The Asia Pacific MICE market has been experiencing robust growth, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 8% from 2019 to 2024.

This growth is driven by factors such as increasing business travel, expanding infrastructure, and growing international trade and investment activities.

Several key factors have contributed to this expansion, making it a focal point for businesses, governments, and tourism stakeholders alike.

So, what can Fiji be doing to ensure we are growing this lucrative market and ensuring we are capturing the conference and events opportunities that are floating around out there – sometimes only a few hours away by flight?

For starters, our events and marketing people from the hotels, airline, transportation and even airports sectors need to be moving away from the basic “off the shelf” product offerings and “we’ve always done it this way” thinking, to how they become more innovative and even revolutionary, to put Fiji more firmly on the MICE market map.

Responding quickly to interest for quotes (our worst complaint), tailoring an event to suit (instead of the same old boring offers from years ago), reviewing offerings to make hard-to-beat offers that include value-additions and treats that have that elusive “wow” factor, is becoming rarer to find (reinforced at a recent webinar to discuss this).

Marketing and events people may have forgotten that we’re in a changed world now. A notable factor driving the expansion of the MICE sector is the evolving travel habits of business travellers.

There has been a noticeable shift as business travellers increasingly combine work-related trips with leisure activities, commonly referred to as “bleisure” travel.

This trend has led to longer stays, and increased spending on accommodations, dining, and recreational activities, thereby contributing significantly to the overall revenue generated by MICE-related tourism.

But only IF we can capture them with more creative offers.

How do you get more creative? By working with the other partners that will provide the air, land and even sea transport for seamless connectivity, by including new players in entertainment, culture and product offerings, by putting yourself in the shoes of the conference attendee and seeing what can, and should amaze you.

By being ready to go the extra mile so that your event becomes the type of event that every MICE agent wants to book.

We can do more at a national level as well. Many governments in the Asia Pacific region have recognized the economic benefits associated with hosting MICE events and have thus implemented policies and incentives to attract event organizers, exhibitors, and delegates.

These initiatives include subsidies for venue rentals, facilitation of visa processes, and promotional campaigns to showcase the region’s capabilities as a premier MICE destination.

So far in 2024, Fiji is tracking well enough in hosting MICE events, including the South Pacific Tourism Exchange (SPTE) and Fiji Tourism Exchange (FTE), boosting tourism and sustainability discussions.

The Fringe Festival “Fiji Untold” celebrated culture, while workshops emphasized Fiji’s commitment to sustainable tourism in the Asia Pacific.

Later this year, Fiji will host a range of exciting MICE events, boosting tourism and economic growth.

The Fiji Regatta Week (11-15 September 2024) will showcase maritime culture and competitive sailing, attracting global participants and benefiting the local economy.

The World Surf League Championship Tour (20-29 August 2024) will return after 5 years, drawing top surfers and highlighting Fiji’s surfing appeal.

The Oceania Athletics Championships (4-8 June 2024) will showcase sporting excellence, promoting sports tourism and benefiting local businesses.

The AHICE Fiji Investment in Tourism Summit (3-4 July 2024) and the Hospitality Conference (7 June 2024) will drive investment, foster collaboration, and enhance industry skills, contributing to economic growth.

For us at FHTA, a special spotlight is on the HOTEC 2024 trade show scheduled for 24-25 October 2024 is a significant highlight.

As the largest hospitality tradeshow event in Fiji, it draws exhibitors, buyers, and industry experts from across the region.

This platform is not just about showcasing the latest products, services, and innovations in the hospitality sector; it’s about fostering business opportunities and driving economic growth.

What’s particularly exciting about HOTEC 2024 is that it marks the first time we’re truly making it a regional event.

We’ve extended an open invitation to regional hotel operators who are eager to explore new and innovative products and services all under one roof and we’re working on securing discounted air travel, accommodations, and transportation to and from the event venue.

This inclusivity and accessibility are essential for promoting collaboration, knowledge exchange, and industry advancement across the region.

That “wow” factor demands we work closely with our partners to connect, introduce and showcase what we have on offer. These initiatives drive further demand.

This surge in demand benefits a whole range of businesses along the supply chain –to the communities we rely on for fresh produce, entertainment, raw materials, flowers and extra staff to deliver great service.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 16 May 2024)