Recently, I was tasked with preparing a report on the Canadian MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) industry for a global airline. I had to explain the “state-of-the-nation” and what the future has in store for suppliers to the meetings and incentive industry when doing business in Canada.
It’s difficult to obtain statistical data on activity from Canadian-based MICE organizations. Large conglomerates and multi-national travel corporations seldom separate MICE volume in annual reporting. Mid-size, regional and privately-held event planning firms report no financial or statistical data. However, by extracting data from this magazine’s consistent and reliable annual yearly survey and report, the SITE/J.D. Power & Associates’ Index Report and IBIS World, a picture of the current and future of doing business in Canada took shape.
What did it look like? The MICE industry in Canada is “an inch deep and a mile wide” and growth is stagnant. A staggering number of companies operate with 10 employees or less. A considerable “experiences” gap exists between the millennial buyer and the boomer event organizer. In its current state, the industry faces significant challenges.
To begin with, there is the pricing transparency that continues to drive down margins. Also important is the fact that workers, who are the backbone of long-term client relationships, are stretched to the point of breaking as they do more work, with fewer resources. There are also economic factors at play. Increasing airline costs and a weak world economy rate as higher factors in having a negative impact on the industry than terrorism threats. In addition, the Canadian dollar weighs heavily on the destination selection process.
What does this mean for the industry moving forward? The future state of the industry in Canada will require a significant shift in business strategy to survive, and thrive, whether operating with 10 employees or 100. Lean, nimble organizations will have to be pricing competitively, and be responsive to change and evolving business demands. Buyers of incentive, meetings and conference management services will be looking for smarter uses of technology to eliminate traditional costs associated with staging group movements.
Right now, online platforms to help real-world groups and professional communities manage themselves are plentiful. We can easily use virtual reality for destination familiarity, and set up live webcasts to reduce the need for site visits. Look at the way you conduct your business day to day. Are you challenging the status quo? Is the challenge being addressed because your client is demanding innovation, or through your own motivation to survive and thrive?
Can you implement solutions so that you and your most valuable resource, your front-line workers, are less “time poor”? People will find money to buy knowledge and expertise from a true professional that is a strategic partner. Overloaded employees exhibiting anxiety and stress make doing business with their company a less than rewarding experience.
If the current state of affairs is “good enough,” please take note of other industries that have been slow to adapt to customer demands for convenience, creativity and cost savings. Photography and video dominate our everyday lives through online and traditional media. Yet Kodak, the dominant player in the photography market for 128 years, resolutely kept its focus on internal projects, not recognizing the changing landscape all around them.
Is your three-year business plan leading to a “Kodak Moment” or moving you toward being part of the future of the industry in Canada?
– Dallyce Macas is a 25-year veteran of the travel and incentive travel industries. She runs eminence Canada, which represents Platinum DMC Collection, VAT IT (value added tax reclaim specialists), and explora Lodges in South America.