Indications are that South African suppliers and services of a variety of products are zeroing-in on the association market both national and in particular international associations. The ground-swell has been building for some time and with the advent of convention bureaux both private and public sector driven a snap-shot of the association market may assist in understanding this specific part of the MICE end-user sector.

Market Percentage
Approximately 30% of the end-user market world-wide makes-up the association sector. 60% being the corporate sector and the remaining 10% is the public sector.

Delegation Type
Association delegations are mainly senior management the decision to attend their association conference is voluntary while the corporate and public sectors cover all management levels and the decision to attend is mandatory.

Decision-Making Process
A challenge within the majority of associations is the annual committee change hence unless an association has a dedicated event management department, the organising would be sub-contracted on a permanent basis to a professional event management company. Hence South African bidders would need to tread carefully as margins are stretched between national and international MICE managers.

Unlike the corporate market the serious association seeking off-shore destinations will plan well-in-advance in researching the selection and ultimately short-listing suitable destinations in meeting the associations MICE and destination requirements. If the conference is undertaken every second or third year the lead-times could be as much as 5 to 7 years before a decision is made.

Market Volatility
Association management are very aware of their value to a destination especially where the delegation is beyond 200 / 300 capacity. Hence the background investigations into each individual association is paramount. This is where the role of the convention bureau can be vital if undertaken in a detailed and effective manner. Finding the association market is part of the skill within an astute private sector company and sourcing and romancing is part of their day-to-day raison-detre.
Learning how an association actually ticks with detailed effectiveness is real intelligence work.

The most prime challenge within any association is the actual delegations numbers. Numbers can fluctuate due to a variety of circumstances. (1) Economic health of that particular sector (2) Value of the programme being presented (3) Delegates total packaged cost..

Many association delegates view an association conference as an excellent opportunity to tag-on a family holiday as invariably the overall rates are lower than if the delegate travelled independently to the destination on a family jaunt.

But most associations view their annual conference as a means of generating income for the associations coffers. It means that those seeking real returns within the association MICE market should not lurch forward on hearsay or a contact in the right places.

Deep research in relation to a specific industry association is an absolute priority in this highly lucrative market.