A TOURISM industry stakeholder is urging the government to establish a full-staffed and experienced bureau dedicated to the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) market.
Speaking at the Tourism Summit on Wednesday, Bernadette Jingco, a hospitality educator of the Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, said that with the series of big- ticket events being hosted by the Philippines, it is time for the government to create a Mice bureau that will have its own budget and will be run by skilled and competent individuals.
The creation of a Mice bureau, according to Jingco, will help the country harness its full potential in hosting more big-ticket events. It will, likewise, take care of all the Mice-related information, concerns and promotional activities of the identified Mice island destinations.
Jingco said the Philippines’ location in Asia, the presence of competitive Mice planners and suppliers, and the wide range of hotel accommodations are some of the country’s strengths.
However, she said that the country has to work doubly hard in putting up more Mice facilities that can accommodate more people, improve its road system and boost its internet connectivity.
She challenged stakeholders to step up their Mice offerings and services, as countries like Vietnam and Thailand are stepping up their own Mice initiatives.
“We need to concentrate on this market because that is where the revenue is,” said Jingco, adding that a Mice delegate spends six times more than a regular tourist.
Travel spending in Asia Pacific was 40 percent of the $1.5 trillion spent in the global market in 2015. It is expected to grow 5.6 percent, generating an average of $1.6 trillion by 2020.
In 2016, industry records show that the Philippines was the fastest growing trade fair market in Asia, with space sales up by 9.6 percent.
Jingco added Mice is a high-value adding industry that creates a multiplier effect on other industries. It likewise stimulates trade and investment and facilitates technology transfer.
The Philippines in the past year has played host to several big international events, which includes the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and related meetings, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit and World Economic Forum.
Cebu, on the other hand, also played host to several related meetings of Asean and Apec in the past years. Next year, the city will host three big events such as Iron Man Asia Pacific, Routes Asia and Centre for Aviation Low Cost Carrier (Capa LCC) North Asia Summit.
Jingco said other opportunities that the country could tap into is the development of a curriculum for a Mice-related course consistent with international standards, development of a distinct branding for Cebu Mice, and new areas for potential Mice destinations.
Alice Queblatin, who heads the Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), welcomes this suggestion, saying the creation of a Mice bureau would lift Cebu’s standing in the global Mice market.
In the past, Cebu created a similar organization called Cebu Visitors and Convention Bureau but it later became inactive. Queblatin said the organization was created to introduce Cebu as a Mice destination when it hosted the Asean Tourism Forum in the past.
“The creation of a bureau is the way to go and the right way is for the government to lead it. But it has to be manned by experts and professionals that are independent of private interests,” said Queblatin.
The Catos official added that she would lobby for this suggestion to her fellow stakeholders so Cebu could have a better voice in the creation of the bureau.
Queblatin said the industry was inspired to recreate an organization solely dedicated for Mice when a managing director of Jeju’s convention bureau highlighted Cebu’s potential to become a leading Mice destination during the recently-concluded East Asian Tourism Forum.
“He said the government has to lead the creation and it has to be now. He described Cebu as already ripe in handling Mice events,” said Queblatin.
“But the challenge now is to have a unified movement to sustain this industry,” she added.
During her recent visit to Cebu, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said hosting big ticket events in Cebu is a good opportunity to sell Cebu and the Philippines to the world.
Puyat said Cebu plays a critical role in the country’s Mice development, with the presence of its international airport, good food, warm hospitality, proximity to other islands like Bohol and its minutes-away drive to beaches.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) targets to invite this year 40 Mice organizers and assist 140 Mice events.
To push the country’s standing in the global Mice market, Puyat said that they will need to accelerate infrastructure improvements, develop a highly competitive human resource, and strengthen research and development.