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‘A delegate is nothing more than a tourist with an expense account’ This quote was first spied in the 3rd edition of Convention Sales & Services written by Milton T Astroff & James R Abbey circa 1999 and sponsored by several American hotel chains in order to get to grips with this MICE business that is wedged somewhere in the hospitality industry.

This quote has been taken out of context – with the result there is an assumption the MICE industry is a tourism-led approach instead of a MICE-led operation. The outcome? In many instances there are less than successful MICE undertakings for the client when led by the travel/tourism industry. If one takes the financial basket of bottom-line profits from any MICE gathering, it is more than likely the volume purchase of travel, accommodation with various meals included and possible tours takes the lion’s share of the money.

The MICE component being space/s used – usually without hire charge plus some meals within a package together with the audio visual is likely to be far less than the big ticket items of travel, accommodation and tours. Lest we forget – if there is not the initial motivation of the MICE undertaking, there is essentially no big ticket items on which to profit. Yet there are more misinterpretations with this quote ‘A delegate is nothing more than a tourist with an expense account’. For even though a delegate has more spending power than the average tourist, delegate’s profiles differ even more from their tourist counterpart.

Tourists are relaxed and don’t won’t any hassles during that well-earned break from the day-to-day routine. In other words tourists are in a laid-back state-of-mind. Whereas a delegate is either being paid for by the company or paying as an association member to learn the latest techniques about his particular industry sector. A delegate is therefore in a serious/business state-of-mind. From an organising view-point – the differences are a stark reality that ‘the suits (delegates) do not mix comfortably with the floral shirts (tourists)’. Perhaps this is the counter quote which levels the playing fields between MICE and Tourism.

Yet there is an irony which the Academy is hard-pushed to explain that is ASATA’s (Assoc. of SA Travel Agents) annual conference at a selected international destination. The combination of an effective conference programme with outstanding choice of tours – before and following the conference as educationals – works to perfection. Their almost one week gathering marries conference and travel as a very slick operation on behalf of the travel industry. Go figure.