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When a prominent sovereign president was asked what was the state of the nation – he succinctly replied: ‘It’s in a helluva state’.  The same could be said for the supplier/services sector of the South African MICE industry.

It took a conference venue such as Hacklebrooke in Johannesburg to take a marketing initiative and expose – not only their venue to a wider audience but also – the controversial issues of money and definitions as well as semantics by way of two separate panel discussions to bring home the anomalies within the MICE supplier/services industry.

The panel discussions – ably facilitated by Michael Jackson – consisted of:

  • professional presenters – their rates, bureaux and contractual arrangements and
  • member associations – their respective benefits and stance on commissions as opposed to fee structures.

The panellists were not wholly representative of the MICE industry’s respective constituents yet it was sufficient to gain informed supplier/service perspectives from those who should know.

The outcomes? Further discussions are suggested by the organisers between various panellists, government departments and the like.  This has been mooted, once a debriefing is completed and dissected with the main platform players.

The MICE Academy’s take on the Event Industry Summit can be summed-up under five headings:

Size of the Buyer/End-user Market
Contrary to comments from the audience – the size of the industry has been researched and well-documented in it’s various sectors as to the type of end-user/buyer.

  • 60% Corporate
  • 20% Association
  • 10% Government
  • 10% Other

Government are not considered major players within the MICE industry as the majority of spend is either on straight hospitality items or curtailed since restrictions on government MICE spend. The halcyon days are over to the extent that selected government organisers –mainly travel/DMC agents – have to first check whether facilities are available internally – within government structures -prior to booking external venues. Also the ceiling on accommodation has been severely pegged and is not to be exceeded under any circumstances.

Member Associations Benefits
The benefits of member associations – those having been established 10 or more years ago in their respective sectors should have been an eye-opener for the audience. If there had been a serious break-down of member categories as well as actual number of paid members – independently researched – it would have illustrated the need for a re-focus by the majority of industry associations on the broader MICE market.

Government Interventions
Perhaps the most questionable involvement within the supplier/services industries are the various government departments.   At this time there are no less than four government departments intervening within the events industry. These are Departments of: Trade & Industries, Higher Education, Tourism plus Arts & Culture. Each appears to have a different event penetration slant yet essentially the similarities are the same. The Academy having been – for many years – at the very sharp cutting edge of government involvement hence without fear of contradiction – the industry should note – that government agendas bear little resemblance to private sector agendas.

Those within the private sector that are spearheading these initiatives whether for fame and/or fortune, with or without hand-on-heart, should first-and-foremost discover the manner in which internal government hierarchy operate and their actual objectives for the myriad of discussions, meetings and more meetings going forward.

Financial Methods and Payment Structures
Organising fee structures as opposed to commissions being paid here, there and everywhere including speaker exit fees will continue to bedevil the MICE suppliers/services industry.  While there are venues willing to pay anyone for bringing the business to their door and end-users who play supplier commissions off against lower fee structures, it is unlikely the status-quo will change.  It’s a quick, easy way of making a fair living without too much knowledge or experience. It’s a win-win situation notwithstanding the advent of major procurement interventions in recent times.

Qualifications & Certifications
The Academy are equally well-placed on this subject to advise the industry that before venturing into real unchartered waters, not only research but also the differing types of individuals who would support a qualification/certification programme and the reasons for doing so, should be thoroughly explored nationally.  Planning on the basis of seeing an end-purpose could prove an expensive and limited take-up exercise.

Except for a very few, the Event Industry Summit did not have the major players in attendance such as: Hotel groups, DMCs and corporate/association event managers.  Yet it was a good reflection of a bigger picture within the MICE suppliers/services industries within South Africa.