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MICE-conference in Saint Petersburg encompassed global expertise and Russian trends in business tourism

MICE-conference in Saint Petersburg encompassed global expertise and Russian trends in business tourism

The opening of Expoforum Convention and Exhibition Centre in Saint Petersburg has brought the issues related to MICE industry to the foreground, considering the high relevance of this sector for the city as a travel destination. The 8th edition of the MICE-conference was held October 10 and gathered business tourism professionals and their customers in the framework of the largest travel trade fair in the Russian North-West INWETEX-CIS TRAVEL MARKET. The event was organised by the Saint Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development with support of Saint Petersburg Express LLC (RESTEC® Group).

Director of Saint-Petersburg Convention Bureau Dmitry Levykin presented a welcome address to the conference participants. In his speech “The role of congress and exhibition bureaus in urban development” he stressed, that one of the main premises of success for companies of this kind was an ability to influence relevant industries, such as:  infrastructure, transport companies, congress and exhibition cluster, national representatives of international professional organisations.

According to Dmitry Levykin, the major challenges of convention bureaus are the following: support of the current and attraction of new events to the territory, consulting and educational support of the industry; cooperation with representatives of enterprises and associations in Russia and city authorities, as well as engaging them to international congress activities.

The main development tendencies in the Russian MICE&Business travel market were highlighted by Alexandra Zager, Editor-in-Chief of the Business Travel magazine. She noted that this sector was relatively young, thus featuring quite a few market players (in comparison with leisure segment) and showing legislative instability and rather uneven growth. “Among characteristic features of the Russian market are: active infrastructure development, complicated logistics and transport problems, strained economic and political conditions, as well as the lack of qualified personnel,” stated Alexandra Zager.

However, MICE tourism shows an active growth throughout Russia: according to the study by Business Travel magazine, top-10 popular business travel destinations include Astrakhan, Baikal, Karelia, Kazan, Kamchatka, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar Krai, Samara, Yaroslavl and even the Crimea. Alexandra Zager provides a positive market development forecast: according to UNWTO, Russia may hit the top 10 most visited countries by business travelers in the world by 2020. Such large-scale sport events as Formula One and World Cup 2018 are sure to facilitate these results in the future. 

“The companies already engaged in the MICE market or just entering it, are to consider the rising competitiveness in the industry and the customers’ tendency to economise. New forms and inconvenient event venues are now on the trend, as well as various combined formats, edutainment (entertainment combined with education) and gamification, mobile apps as an essential part of organisation and execution of events.” summed up Alexandra Zager.

Within the MICE-conference the participants also travelled from reality to virtual space of business tourist. This issue was highlighted by online promotion specialist Elena Shveikina. The expert told the audience how travelers of all ages use the Internet and described their attitude to online and hybrid events.

Despite the convenience of online business meetings, only 3% of MICE professionals claim their readiness to withdraw live events in favour of online meetings, while 54% state that they use virtual and hybrid events just as a tool to attract participants to in-person events. At the same time, hybrid events are growing more popular: they combine advantages of face-to-face meetings with social network integration and effective feedback, in some cases provided right at a conference or a congress. Elena Shveikina also told the audience about the most widely used services and mobile apps for business tourism (LiveStream, Babelverse, Toptableplanner, Keynote, Micebook and other) and event promotion in social networks.

Andrey Suleikov, Managing Partner of Appreal LLC, took up this topic and highlighted the opportunities of business event promotion via TopTripTip, a new application for travelling in Russia, developed with support of the Federal Agency for Tourism, the Russian Union of Travel Industry and of National Association of Tourist and Information Organisations. In particular, the application allows creating separate pages for each event, making cross-references and promoting events via special projects, such as the World Cup 2018 section.

At the close of the working session the experts answered the questions by participants and media representatives.

The highlight of the 8th edition of the MICE-conference was the workshop by Hugo Slimbrouck, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Ovation Global DMC and expert in business trips with 38-year experience. “MICE-industry plays a key role in development of destinations. MICE-industry development have a positive impact on business community, authorities, travel industry and population as a whole,” claims Mr. Slimbrouck.

During the hour and a half workshop the speaker shared opinions with the audience and presented an outline of the MICE-industry worldwide and told about the main market players. The expert emphasized the role of convention and visitor bureaus (CVB) and their cooperation with professional convention organisations. He also uncovered the tips of destination promotion, dwelled on “bid books” for destinations and tools for sales and service marketing. The main metaphor used by him in the flow of his speech was a “deer hunting”, implying that a “hunter” (MICE specialist) should think as a “victim” and have keen senses of “environment”.

“I consider this workshop to be one of the most successful innovations of the MICE-conference. Hugo Slimbrouck demonstrated a global integrated approach to the MICE industry development worldwide – an approach we often lack in this country,” mentioned Ekaterina Nedelina, International Marketing Manager at ExpoForum International after attending the workshop.

At the close of the conference a range of face-to-face bilateral meetings between corporate buyers and MICE industry professionals took place. The meetings were prearranged via pre-schedule appointments system. Such large companies as BTC, Arkhyz, Dipaul, Viliya, Sfera-S and other participated as buyers. The buyers spoke to representatives of the leading St. Petersburg congress and exhibition companies and established new business contacts for further cooperation.