Rise in MICE Tourism in Vietnam

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The development of MICE Tourism (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) is expanding quickly in Vietnam as businesses look to the country as a viable destination where they can send partners and employees as an incentive for working with them or to hold events, conferences and exhibitions about their latest products and services. MICE travel consists of the following components.

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Meeting vs Conference Travel

The International Association of Professional Congress Organizers’ definition of a “meeting” is any number of people coming together in one place for a particular activity. This can either be a one-time or a recurring activity. A conference is similar to a meeting, but the term usually connotes a specific objective and informational exchange. A conference is typically a larger gathering.

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Incentive Travel

Incentive travel is travel that is granted to an employee as a reward. It does not usually involve an information exchange or a specific educational component. It is generally a leisure vacation offered to an employee as a means of rewarding good performance, often involving the family of the employee or a group of high performing workers.

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Exhibitions Travel

An exhibition is an event in which products or services are presented and are usually the focal point of the event. Conferences may feature an exhibition as a component. Often, businesses use exhibitions to court new clients and introduce their newest offerings to clients or buyers.

Video source: Christopher Lye

According to Vietnam.net, surveys show that there are more than five million meetings, conferences and events globally which consume a total of up to US$7 billion annually. The United States hosts the majority of these conferences and events, but Southeast Asia is quickly developing its own market for MICE tourism, with Singapore and Thailand leading the way and Vietnam making great strides in becoming a prime destination.

Marion Klein, the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, gives #iAMHCMC her view on the socio-economic factors in Vietnam that are attracting MICE tourism. “This is a new and emerging market which stimulates integration. There are many potential developments, with many opportunities to promote to overseas markets. In addition, the infrastructure and transportation systems have made great strides thanks to the special attention and motivation of the city and local authorities, such as the increase in the number of domestic and international routes contributing to tourism growth. After four years of construction, the first ever metro line in HCMc has completed more than 70 percent of the schedule, the entire 17 km of overhead railway is expected to be operational by 2018.”

Vietnam - A Hub for Business Travellers

Vietnam has already hosted sizeable events, such as APEC 2017, the ASEAN Summit in 2010, the ASEAN Tourism Forum-ATD in 2009, and the 18th Global Women’s Summit. China, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have been mostly responsible for the rise in MICE tourism in Vietnam, with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the most popular destinations. Statistics from McKinsey show that 17 percent of all tourists who traveled to Ho Chi Minh City did so for business purposes, which is 14-15 percent more than any other country in the region. As general tourism is increasing in cities like Da Nang and Phu Quoc, those places are also beginning to open up to the MICE market. Klein continues, “We all know that Vietnam is fast developing with emerging MICE destinations like Da Nang, Phu Quoc. We believe that these cities will help [make] Vietnam even stronger with MICE business thanks to more connections to the international markets.”

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Often, MICE tourists travel in large groups and are also known for consuming more than other tourists.

David Wicker, General Manager of the New World Saigon Hotel, explains, “MICE tourists are mostly on a company account for a sizable portion of travel-related expense, and are most likely limited to generally a shorter stay with limited ‘free’ time, as numerous day and evening activities would be catered. [This] leaves all logistic issues to organisers and not the individuals, whereas other tourists most likely pay their own way for everything from their home point and back and may have flexible travel plans within Vietnam. They most likely have larger personal disposable spending.”

Planning for Progress

Although Wicker is hopeful about the future of MICE tourism in Vietnam, he also feels that there is some work to be done so that the services provided can meet international standards. “Vietnam has really only started to ‘open up’ following conflicts that ended with the reunification. The human resource factors from the early ’80s until now still lack an understanding of the international world around them, and while they exude enthusiasm and smiles, many standard operating procedures are not understood, [and there is a] lack consistency in delivery of services. However, visitors are easily enamoured by their ‘innocence’ or simplistic approach to life…”

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Vietnam’s relatively stable political system makes it a strong candidate for companies seeking to hold conferences and events. According to the UK’s Department of International Trade, “Vietnam is one of the more politically stable countries in Southeast Asia. Its leadership does not welcome dissent. Internal conflict is rare…” This, along with the aforementioned factors, puts Vietnam on the map for companies developing MICE tourism as a prime destination. As a result, MICE tourism is expected to expand greatly in Vietnam in the coming years.

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