Travel firms and airlines vow to develop MICE tourism

The fact that travel firms and airlines decided to cooperate to develop MICE (meeting, incentives, conference, exhibition) tourism promises the bright prospect for the “no-smoke industry”.

Experts have pointed out that Vietnam is in no way inferior to other regional countries like Singapore or Thailand in terms of the potentials for MICE tourism development, but its achievements in the field are really lower than that of the countries.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism VNAT, in 2010, Vietnam received five million foreign tourists in 2010, including more than one million MICE tourists. Hanoi and HCM City – the commercial hubs, the sea cities of Da Nang and Nha Trang, Hue ancient capital city and Phu Quoc Island have been well known destinations for MICE tourists. Especially, MICE tourism has been highlighted by the HCM City authorities as one of the main four types of tourism that will develop well in the future.

According to Gilbert Whelan, former Chair of the Pacific Asia Travel Association PATA, now Director of MICE Vietnam Club, MICE tourism can bring the revenue much higher than other normal types of tourism. Statistics show that the average spending level (not including tour fees) of European MICE tourists is 700-1000 dollars per day, while the figure is 400 dollars per day for Asian tourists.

However, he said that the number of MICE tourists to Vietnam remains modest which does not correspond to the great potentials of the country.

Explaining this, travel firms say that Vietnam does not have many 4-and-5 star hotels, high grade shopping malls, special souvenirs and high end services, the things that MICE tourists, who have high income, target.

Meanwhile, Gilbert Whelan from PATA has blamed this on the ineffective advertisement campaigns about Vietnam’s tourism in general and MICE tourism in particular, and Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, PR Director of Fiditour, has attributed to the lack of the schools which provide professional training courses in the MICE technology.

Joining hands to march forward

Two months ago, the Vietnam MICE Tourism Club was set up, the event which shows the determination by Vietnamese travel firms to attract more MICE tourists to Vietnam.

The first meeting of the club’s members, held in early August came to a conclusion that travel firms and airlines need to join hands to develop.

Phan Xuan Anh, Chair of Viet Excursions, complains that French MICE tourists usually choose Air France or Thai Airways instead of Vietnam Airlines to fly to Hanoi, where they start a trans-Viet tour by sea. It is because it is more difficult to book Vietnam Airlines’ tickets and that the airfares are higher than other international airlines.

Meanwhile, the representative from the flag air carrier said that in fact, Vietnam Airlines applies a flexible airfare policy and it has got ready to cooperate to attract more MICE tourists. The problem here is the lack of information, according to the officer.

“We can offer low airfares at some certain periods. We can have air tickets at good prices for MICE tourists,” said Nguyen Hong Nga, Deputy Head of the Sales Development and Marketing Division of Vietnam Airlines.

Bui Le Quan from VCCI Exhibition Company said that international MICE tourists usually choose foreign service providers instead of Vietnamese, because they want all-in services at good prices, the things that cannot be provided by Vietnamese companies due to the lack of cooperation among relating parties.

“In many cases, tour designers can arrange in-land services at good prices, but the partners refuse to book tours because of the high airfares,” he said.

Nga from Vietnam Airlines said the air carrier will set up a special pricing policy for the members of the MICE club. The special airfares will be applied to some air routes with high number of MICE tourists including the ones to Australia, Europe, Singapore and some Asian countries. Also, the policies on post-free baggage and airfare discounts for member companies will also be considered.

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