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What is the outlook for the MICE sector?

While the agriculture trade show is currently being held at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center after a truncated year and a cancelled date, the event bringing together three trade shows in Vienna next March has been postponed to 2023. The sector still lacks the business benchmarks to be able to project forward. A situation that has not prevented professionals from making the most of these months of fluctuating activity to move forward.

A sector waiting for a sustainable recovery

The tourism fair, the real estate fair and the Wohnen & Interieur have been postponed to 2023, a definite loss for the occupation of accommodation in the Austrian capital. Conversely, after a rearranged 2021 session in the French capital, the MIPIM is about to open its doors in 2 weeks in Cannes, an impact clearly visible in the booking data for mid-March. The event welcomed 26,800 people to the Mediterranean in 2019, if the 2022 edition will not be at the level of the gauges prior to the crisis related to COVID 19. It is a strong signal for the market of conferences and events as well as an important booster for the frequentation of accommodation in Cannes at the very beginning of the season.

Paris, ranked in 2019 as the top convention and event destination by ICCA, recently shared activity indicators for the last quarter of 2021 that are certainly encouraging but still far from 2019. According to the Paris Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 77.1% fewer trade shows were scheduled in Paris Region in 2021 than in 2019. Exhibitor attendance was down 68% after years 2017 to 2019 of increased activity. An encouraging medium-term indicator of the resilience of the business market visible after the attacks of 2015 and 2016.

Thus, in 2021, 202 face-to-face trade shows were cancelled, representing a loss of €2.2 billion in economic benefits for the territories, according to data provided by the Paris Region Chamber of Commerce.

The signs are there, as confirmed by the organization of certain key events such as the MIPIM and the Agricultural Show. However, trade show organizers are waiting for a clearer normalization in order to regain confidence in a growth cycle for the sector. The lack of recognition of certain international vaccines is a real issue for some trade shows with a high proportion of overseas visitors.

The signals are no longer red with, for example, a strong recovery expected from summer 2022 for the Austria Center Vienna. Followingthe year 2021, the convention center has scheduled the maximum number of events it will host between April and October to limit the risks of a viral recovery.

In Spain, the national association EVEA said in its annual review that 50% of its members had decided to recruit in the last quarter of 2021 to cope with the upturn in activity.

The challenge of events

On the French market, the MICE activity represents more than 70 million people who meet every year, as UNIMEV President Pierre-Louis Roucariès reminded us at the press conference held by the Confédération des Acteurs du Tourisme on February 17. He also underlined the challenges that the professional event organization sector had to face following the acceleration of changes in consumer trends caused by the arrival of COVID 19. Remote events to compensate for the impossibility of meeting face-to-face, then hybrid events to respect the size of the audience and get around the constraints of international travel. Practices that are now deeply rooted in the services expected and that require significant investments for the owners and operators of venues. However, the impact of the use of digital tools on the planet will be an issue that will quickly become a central concern for players seeking to implement virtuous approaches.

Another factor to take into account is the need to offer sustainable events whose impact on the planet and its ecosystems is as low as possible or even virtuous. Here again, measuring one's carbon impact or sourcing suppliers who have a sustainable approach, many players in the sector have adopted this approach. However, traveling to meet is a practice that will be increasingly questioned to reduce its carbon impact. It is nevertheless clearly established that no technology is to date able to replace direct human contact, unless it is man who needs this contact. In any case, to do business and find new connections, nothing replaces the direct link in the perception of many employees.

Meet less but better?

The 2021 report submitted by the Paris Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry highlighted the absence of large companies, particularly foreign companies, from the 2021 events on the Paris market, with an over-representation of SMEs that use smaller areas.

Hoteliers are actively working to offer solutions that are in line with consumer expectations. Many of them are now offering hybrid meeting possibilities and allowing the organization of responsible and sustainable events for the planet and its inhabitants.

The angle of green seminars and team building is a real axis of development for many accommodation providers whose destinations have been put in the spotlight during the months of lockdown and travel restrictions. Going to the countryside for a few days to strengthen team cohesion is an increasingly popular way to combine business with pleasure.

As part of its Travel With Purpose 2030 program, the Hilton Group now offers in 60 of its properties around the world a calculation of the carbon impact of its events and a total compensation of the emissions without any additional cost for the customer. The LightStay system developed by the American group measures these emissions.

Most hotel groups are now offering environmentally friendly events with a minimum impact through actions such as waste sorting or the banning of single-use plastic, as implemented by the Accor group's properties, for example.

However, the challenge is considerably higher for congress and convention centers that handle larger volumes of participants.

Professionals get involved

On February 28, the CRT Côte d'Azur France brought together 200 professionals from the sector to share their views on upcoming events in the region. The results of the study commissioned by the region show that there is still a lot of potential for business events, with, for example, strong expectations from consumers to be able to meet again.

In order to be stronger in the decision making chain at the European level, 13 European associations have federated to create BT4Europe in order to engage in more targeted lobbying actions and have more weight to make the voices of the sector heard.

The MICE sector has a strong impact on the economic dynamism of the tourism activity in France; bringing in foreign currency, filling up the accommodation, generating consumption within the destinations in addition to the economic activity directly linked to the organization of events. Its pauses, more or less long, have also affected the transport sector in addition to accommodation and catering. Professionals continued to invest despite the lack of activity, betting on the attractiveness of the French market, its dynamism and professionalism to conquer the organization of international events and to develop an ancillary activity around the smaller event.

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