MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) travel is crucial to the Kenya tourism segment and a key driver of economic, intellectual, and cultural growth. COVID-19 had brought the entire tourism ecosystem including MICE to a standstill. UNWTO predicts that the overall tourism volumes could contract by 80% in 2021. Consultations with the industry stakeholders and convention bureau assert that some segments of the sector are particularly vulnerable and could face irreversible damage. Others, with prudent interventions, could weather the storm.
Understandably, industry players in Kenya are itching to resume MICE activities with safe travel made possible as well as the discovery of covid-19 vaccine. But the ecosystem is fragile. Local destinations will need to carefully align their strategies to the recovery outlook of MICE sub-sectors. Not all sub-sectors will recover, and the rate and pace of recovery will be uneven.
From a purely quantitative point of view, according to current knowledge, the recovery of the MICE market will extend beyond 2021. However, a qualitative structural change in the market has already begun that was massively accelerated by the pandemic.
The digital transformation and the megatrend of sustainability are creating innovative concepts. The trend towards hybrid and spatially distributed events will continue to grow. People will return to face-to-face events, but in most cases, these will be expanded virtually and thus open to larger communities.
And many providers of conference and congress venues are already reacting accordingly. Event centers, conference hotels and event locations have invested in technology for hybrid or digital formats due to the pandemic. The other half was already equipped with it.
Innovation More Important Than Ever
The current and the next focus of the innovation network RevMeet, initiated by PrideInn Hotels, also deals with the change in the MICE market and the new ecosystem that is developing from it.
These changes were accelerated during the pandemic. A prime example of this is the trend towards hybrid and digital events, which require the development of sustainable and innovative event formats, services and business model.
Innovation is more important than ever for the design of a sustainable event landscape in the MICE market. The aim of the entire innovation process is to analyze the challenges of the outlined change, use scenarios for real, to develop hybrid and virtual meetings, and thus to make a contribution to securing Kenya’s excellent position as a meeting and congress venue in the long term.
Due to its cross-cutting economic nature and deep social footprint, tourism is uniquely positioned to help societies and communities affected return to growth and stability. Over the years, the sector has consistently proven its resilience and its ability not only to bounce back as a sector but to lead the wider economic and social recovery. This depends on adequate political support and recognition.
Unprecedented times need well-thought solutions. I don’t want to suggest that there’s an easy fix. And the response will need to be tailored for each destination. But it’s clear that getting our story out clearly and as early as possible is crucial. Encouraging visitors and investors to return to our cities is fundamental to regaining our economic footing, and to do that, we need to inspire trust in the strength of our place and our community.
No one knows as yet the exact extent of the economic impact of the pandemic. What is certain is that the paralysis of air traffic, the shutdown of tourism activities in almost all markets and destinations, the disruption of supply chains and the possible disruption of the labor market in many countries, all of these will have a resounding negative impact on production and consumption and on global economic growth even in 2021.
The writer is the CEO and Founder of PrideInn group of Hotels