ETHIOPIA AIMS AT THE MICE MARKET AS NEW HOTELS AND MEETING FACILITIES COME ON LINE
(Posted 20th June 2019)
By Asrat Begashaw, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
MICE is Ethiopia’s future:
As every year just before the rainy season starts the ritual tourism, travel and hospitality fraternity from over 100 companies will grace the city of Addis for the hospitality show at Millennium Hall.
The show fascinates many for its sheer size and variety that they are able to bring to its visitors. From just 70 exhibitors representing 110 companies seven years ago, today the show attracts 180 exhibitors factoring 380 companies and over half a million visitors.
The largest East Africa trade fair for MICE will again open its doors this year on the 27th of June, a week later than initially planned for according to information received. For those who are meeting and event professionals then this provides a platform where groups interact with more than 380 companies in one place from major event groups to the latest tech providers.
This year’s Hotel Show Africa features the new Ethiopian Skylight Hotel which is located across the road from the exhibition centre Millennium Hall. Located in busy street of Bole, Ethiopian Skylight Hotel offers 373 modern rooms, an all day multi cuisine restaurant and one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Africa.
The hotel has made itself more desirable by adding a new elegant Kilimanjaro Lounge where it offers comfortable seating to relax on top of the roof facing landing and takeoff flights.
MICE is Ethiopia’s future, as believed by one of the brave advocates of hospitality Mr.Kumneger Teketel, of the growing sectors in tourism as that which goes by the acronym stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions.
MICE Is a Growing Industry with Promising Opportunities to Our Nation and the Continent,’ Kumneger Teketel, on his interview with English daily newspaper, Ethiopian Herald.;
“Despite Ethiopia’s aspirations in tapping its rich tourism resources, the Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism has not been paid due attention, unlike leisure tourism.’’
Yet, for Kumneger Teketel, the nation could lure multiple benefits with a closer understanding and support of the industry, describing it as a “new industry frontier“.
Kumneger Teketel W/Gabriel, (MBA International Business, LLB, Finance), Managing Director and Lead Consultant of OZZIE Business & Hospitality Consultancy and International Events Company – Ethiopian Head Quartered Company in Hotel & Tourism sector that exclusively hosts Hotel Show Africa- Hospitality Investment Trade fair and MICE East Africa- Meetings Industry/Travel Industry, explains the MICE concept :
Though the hospitality industry has taken a new dimension ahead, we are a bit lagging behind from celebration of its full advantages. African economies are already dragged to the global investment map, and also adding continental voice in global issues. This globally trending shift has added a new industry frontier to the existing leisure tourism. MICE are the new tourism concept arrived in our modern times. At this particular era, the hospitality industry has reached a new height where it can yield much more to economies. Therefore, MICE which is complementary to conventional leisure tourism is a growing industry with promising opportunities to our nation and the continent.
The World Travel and Tourism Council estimated global MICE tourism to be worth more than 800 billion Dollars. It is painful to learn Africa accounts only for around 2% of this figure out of which Ethiopia’s share is insignificant.
However, the future is bright, Henk Graaff, Managing Director of SW Africa, shares five reasons why he believes Africa could be hugely successful in the MICE-sector in 2019:
1. Increased flight access opens new possibilities
Flight access to and connectivity on the African continent has improved drastically in 2018. Ethiopia Airlines added new services to Chicago and Los Angeles, while, recently, Kenya Airways launched a direct flight to New York. Also, Rwandair has ambitious plans to launch another new service to the Big Apple.
These new connections have opened up new destination choices for MICE organizers. Victoria Falls, the Masai Mara and Africa’s Mountain Gorillas, have all become more accessible to international MICE travellers as a result of improved flight connections, says Graaff.
Intra-African airline connectivity has also increased, approximately five per cent year-on-year, in 2018 with the establishment of 70 new routes and 30 more intra-continental routes in the pipeline.
2. New African destinations expand MICE offerings
Rwanda has been hard at work to position itself as a MICE destination of choice. Clare Akamanzi, Rwanda Development Board Chief Executive Officer, who said Rwanda aimed to increase its MICE receipts to US$74-million in 2018 alone, up from US$42-million in 2017, highlighted the benefit of private sector support.
“As you know, Rwanda has prioritized MICE as one of the drivers of economic growth, and the Government has invested in infrastructures like the Kigali Convention Centre and the national airline. We have also invested in hotels and attracted the private sector to support the value chain of conference tourism,” Akamanzi highlighted.
Uganda has also indicated it is keen to explore the MICE market further. According to Graaff, both Rwanda and Uganda offer unique products and services for MICE travellers and buyers, with the possibility to experience a trip to the Mountain Gorillas a favourite programme highlight.
Says Graaff: “One of the greatest advantages of opting for Rwanda is that the condition of the roads is very good, the travel distances are relatively small and the infrastructure is great. This means gorilla tracking has become more accessible to MICE travellers, who want to visit the gorillas after their meetings are done and dusted.”
Meanwhile, Uganda offers gorilla permits that are much more affordable. The country also provides a more extensive range of accommodation, ranging from mid-budget to luxury. Uganda also has a fantastic chimp-tracking programme in Kibale, as well as a few authentic visitor experiences with the indigenous Batwa people.
3. South Africa still tops the MICE wish-list
South Africa has been rated the number one meetings destination in Africa by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). The country also ranked 34th in the world as a MICE destination.
Speaking at IBTM World 2018 (Institute of Business Travel Management) in Barcelona, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer for the South African National Bureau, said meetings, conferences and conventions had attracted one-million international delegates to South Africa annually. She added that there are around 211,000 national, regional and international meetings, conventions, and conferences hosted in South Africa each year.
South Africa will continue to be a destination of choice for MICE organizers, says Graaff, who highlighted the favourable exchange rate as a major incentive, and organizers with larger budgets can add a lot more bells and whistles to their events in South Africa, he said.
4. Hyper-personalization and unusual venues are the norms in Africa
There has been an increasing trend for hyper-personalization, with MICE organizers looking to tailor and adapt any event, conference or meeting to the client needs and company values. They seek unique outdoor spaces and out-of-the-box venue ideas to make the experience more memorable.
Africa offers a vast array of exceptional locations, from a meeting on the Blue Train to a convention at the new Zeitz Museum in Cape Town. SW Africa has previously hosted meetings out in the middle of the wilderness, as part of a mobile safari camp.
Says Graaff: “We have definitely experienced a need for more personalized and non-traditional MICE experiences, and I guess you can say that we can count ourselves lucky that Southern and Eastern Africa as our operating environment never fails to present us with opportunities to exceed expectations.”
5. Exciting Corporate Social Responsibility Projects
Sustainability and corporate social responsibility will continue to be another primary focus in 2019. The war on single-use plastic has been a hot topic this year and is set to remain a significant trend.
Africa offers a host of opportunities for delegates who want to give back. In a private concession in the Kruger National Park, for example, delegates can embark upon a conservation safari with the Elephant Collaring Project. They can lend a hand by fitting specific elephants with GPS-enabled satellite collars that help identify habitual crop raiders and assist in combating human-wildlife conflict.
A MICE delegate will love the value adds of sleep-outs under the stars, surprise morning bush breakfasts, sophisticated safari dining and tailor-made menus with catering services.
At last Mr. Kumnger Tektele is a man molding the mountain as the quote describes him
‘’ The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones’’ Confucius.