MICE tourism was one of the first types of tourism to be impacted by the global spread of Covid-19 and it could be one of the last to fully recover if it ever does for that matter.

Major global events such as Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress were cancelled in late February, long before international travel flows were halted due to the spread of the virus. Looking forward to 2021, events have already been cancelled or scrapped completely. The organisers of the Geneva Motor Show have already called off next year’s event and are looking to sell up completely due to weakened demand. While major events for 2021 are already being dismissed, international tourism flows for leisure trips have re-started in regions such as Europe.

The longer restrictions and guidelines last around MICE tourism, while national economies start to pick up, the more companies, attendees and event organisers may start to become accustomed to hosting and attending MICE events online while appreciating the unseen benefits they bring.

Why MICE tourism may not return

Companies in all sectors will be looking for ways to reduce costs in the coming years as they reel from the economic impact created by Covid-19. Business travel is a costly expense for all companies, and with the rise of video conferencing software such as Zoom and Google Meet, many will realise that this type of ongoing expense is unnecessary, especially when it comes to meetings and conferences. As well as the potential of MICE trips now being seen as an unnecessary financial burden, business travellers themselves may not be keen to undertake the frequent and often stressful trips they were doing prior the pandemic.

The ongoing danger of contracting the virus at a MICE event paired with the fact that business travellers can now achieve the same objectives and goals of a conference in the comfort of their own home means that demand for MICE events is likely to fall. Event organisers have also shifted their focus to online events in order to avoid cancellation and postponements. Not as much money will be able to be made online per event and the economic benefits a large event brings to a local area will be non-existent. However, a broader range of people can now attend these events and they can also take place more frequently, which means that revenue generated for organisers can be spread more evenly across a calendar year.

MICE tourism still has a fighting chance

There is a good chance that meeting and conference tourism demand may never recover. Exhibitions and trade fairs are much more effective when they take place face-to-face due to attendee motivations around networking and assessing products and services on offer through their own eyes and without the intermediation of a screen. However, due to the mass gatherings of people that these events encourage, it is unclear when it will be safe to start holding these events once again.

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