Corporate travel will no longer be the same as in the past
Four prominent experts consulted by FITUR reveal their vision on the MICE segment
The growing importance of MICE tourism is reflected each year in FITUR MICE, the specialized section of the Fair organized by IFEMA MADRID that calls meetings, incentives, congresses and events tourism every year, a great promoter of the global tourism industry. Along these lines, we have asked four leading experts their opinion on the evolution of this type of traveler in 2022.
Cayetano Soler, partner responsible for Tourism, Transportation and Logistics of the consulting firm PwC, affirms that travel for meetings, incentives, conferences and events will begin to reappear in the next year. “With changes and new expectations about how it will be, the truth is that an important growth of this tourist segment is predicted; but it will not be until the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024 when MICE tourism reaches relevant figures, such as those of 2019, although only by reinventing itself will it be able to achieve its full recovery ”.
In any case, the MICE segment shows optimistic forecasts, with "a strong increase in face-to-face meetings for the coming months," according to Luis Gómez Encinas, specialist tutor at CESAE Business & Tourism School. "They will be fairs and congresses that, in many cases, will coexist with hybrid formats where the virtual will have an important weight".
Miguel Flecha, managing director Accenture of Travel in Europe, warns that business travel will no longer be the same as in the past, there will be new segments and new travelers that the industry will have to attend to. "But above all, there needs to be a purpose to travel, and the industry must help companies get the most out of the trips they take, making every trip worthwhile."
For his part, Xavier Trias, partner in charge of the EY Tourism Sector, believes that “business tourism will have a slower recovery than vacation tourism, since it has been much more volatile to the uncertainties derived from the impact of successive waves of the Covid-19 ”. However, "the stages of recovery that we have been experiencing have shown clear signs that there will be a strong return, yes, in stages, and as the health situation normalizes." All of this allows "to be optimistic regarding their recovery and reaching pre-pandemic activity levels."
Luis Gómez (CESAE Business & Tourism School) points out that the recent report of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), ensuring that in 2022 world spending on business travel will reach two-thirds of the levels prior to the pandemic, has put the media focus on this segment so important to the entire travel industry.
"The resurgence of this type of tourism is being slower than others, such as vacation leisure, due to the uncertainty that still surrounds companies with respect to the evolution of the economy and obstacles to international travel through the sanitary restrictions”, it indicates.
In his opinion, the implementation of sustainability policies, digital transformation and strict security regulations are limiting factors for business travel as we have known it until now. “However, there are sectors of the economy clearly on the rise, such as food, health and logistics, among others, in which there is a greater recovery in the demand for business travel, which indicates that this corporate spending it continues to be closely linked to the good performance of the companies”.
For its part, the MICE segment shows more optimistic forecasts, with a strong increase in face-to-face meetings for the coming months. “They will be fairs and congresses that, in many cases, will coexist with hybrid formats where the virtual will have an important weight. The public administrations and the different tourist organizations are going to be involved with a special interest in the promotion and development of these events, for what they represent for the economy as a whole. And, in any case, the outbreaks and intensity of the new pandemic waves will decisively mark the success of these tourist events".
Cayetano Soler (PwC) opina que los viajes de reuniones, incentivos, conferencias y eventos empezarán a resurgir en el próximo año. “Con cambios y nuevas expectativas en torno a cómo será, lo cierto es que se augura un importante crecimiento de este segmento turístico, aunque no será hasta finales de 2023 o principios de 2024 que el turismo MICE alcance cifras relevantes, como las de 2019, aunque solo reinventándose podrá conseguir su plena recuperación. El subsegmento de turismo de incentivos se recuperará en 2022, alcanzando cifras prepandemia y será el driver de crecimiento del negocio MICE en su conjunto, según la opinión de los analistas”.
In his opinion, the keys to his recovery are diverse. In the first place, "to generate an environment of trust for the entire tourist value chain and that allows transmitting security within the framework with which we find ourselves". Second, technology 4.0. “Technology is a fundamental element both for the development of the MICE business, promoting the connectivity of the value chain, and for transmitting security, since it facilitates communication and interaction processes. Promoting solutions that converge type, augmented reality, streaming, webcasting and artificial intelligence, digitization of operational processes, will be key for the promotion, organization and logistics of this type of business”.
The third key is "focusing on the development of personalized experiences, throughout the travel chain, from inspiration to post-travel, both in leisure and in the development of the event, it will be essential to promote this type of experience. of tourism ”. Added to this is “promoting public-private collaboration to define promotion and positioning strategies for the MICE subsector; design and promote a transversal sustainability plan for the entire tourist experience of this segment, in the social, economic and environmental spheres; and promote the training and education of professionals in the sector, so that they adapt to the framework of responsibility and the adaptation of these technologies and the operation model that is required”.
Soler concludes that “only through public-private collaboration for the recovery, repositioning and reinvention of the MICE business can we once again generate an environment of trust and promotion that allows us to reactivate this segment so relevant to the development of our economic activity. We are on the way, but we must give a joint response among all the agents of the tourism value chain”.
Business trip motivations
According to Miguel Flecha, at Accenture they believe that there are three key motivations that determine the business traveler's decision and influence corporate expectations. First of all, security. "Travelers need peace of mind, and clear communication from travel companies is one of the best ways to rebuild that trust."
Second, flexibility. “Traveling at this time is more complicated and there are more sticking points than before the pandemic, so the ability to make changes easily is a top priority for business travelers. Technology can play a critical role in enhancing security and simplifying the traveler experience to ensure an omni-directional experience that restores trust as business travel returns. Transparency is key from all angles ”. Finally, there is a focus on the environmental impact of travel. "Travelers are more aware of the impact of travel and prioritize more sustainable options."
Going forward, business travel-related emissions must be reduced in order to meet company targets. “For the business travel industry, participating in sustainability initiatives means mitigating risk, complying with regulations, and also an opportunity to innovate and grow at the same time. All players in the travel industry should play an active role on the path to sustainable business travel".
The business trip will not be the same as in the past, there will be new segments and new travelers that the industry will have to attend to. “Employees who work remotely and need to travel to their headquarters throughout the year. Digital nomads working full time in remote locations. Employees who do not have access to a physical office, but need to meet with clients and partners, and "bleisure" travelers who extend their stay, adding an element of leisure to their business trips. But, above all, there needs to be a purpose for traveling, and the industry must help companies get the most out of the trips they make, making each trip worthwhile”, concludes Flecha.
One round with force
Xavier Trias (EY) believes that business tourism will have a slower recovery than vacation tourism, since it has been much more volatile to the uncertainties derived from the impact of successive waves of Covid-19. “However, the recovery stages that we have been experiencing have shown clear signs that there will be a strong return, yes, in stages, and as the health situation returns to normal. All this allows us to be optimistic regarding their recovery and reaching pre-pandemic activity levels”.
For this recovery to be as fast and stable as possible, “it is vitally important to have clear, consistent and simpler policies and protocols (frictionless) between destinations, especially in relation to travel, but also in the restrictions set in each destination ”. On the other hand, “as has been seen with the appearance of new variants and waves, business tourism will continue to be very sensitive to the uncertainty generated by these risks, so it will also be vital that administrations react quickly to minimize the impact and associated alarms. In summary, although the force of demand is strong and shows clear signs of recovery, it is vital to design and have a stable framework that allows minimally planning assistance and the organization of events, visits, meetings,
Faced with this situation, companies must continue to adopt solutions and protocols that guarantee real and perceived security by customers, minimizing the negative impact and maximizing the positive impact on the experience. "Obviously, for this, the contribution of new technologies is essential both to advance the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative processes and operations, and to digitize the experience of our customers, allowing not only 100% contactless experiences, as well as adapted to the needs particular to each client”.
For all these reasons, "business tourism should gradually adapt the products and experiences offered depending on the moment in which the market is, betting on the contribution of value and maximum guarantees to customers who first bet on standardization".
Finally, “we must not forget that the structural recovery will be affected by the time of reincorporation in the budgets of the items necessary to return to pre-pandemic activity levels, for which we recommend working together with clients on plans to long-term that add value and ensure the recovery and value of said activity”.