Economic turmoil hits MICE tourism

Travel firms and exhibition centers in HCMC have suffered a downturn in MICE tourism given the impact of the global economic crisis, reporting that the number of MICE tourists had fallen sharply this year.

Tran Van Hau, managing director of Saigon Exhibition and Convention Joint Venture Co., which runs the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center in Phu My Hung town, reported a quiet atmosphere at the center compared to last year.

Some organizers have cancelled Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) events while the center has received only a few bookings recently. Some even cancelled events after depositing large sums of money due to few participants. So, this will be a challenging year, Hau said.

Given the situation, the enterprise has applied solutions to lure customers to the 9,000-square-meter center. The center has housed a number of entertainment events instead of focusing on economic and trade exhibitions, while it is in talks with foreign companies to maintain current exhibition programs.

“We have suggested foreign organizers to join forces and hold events with a similar theme instead of canceling. The center will provide them with incentives,” Hau added.

Saigontourist Travel Services Co. is one of the few companies in the city reporting steady growth in MICE tourists this year, while most companies take a gloomy view of the market.

Vietravel has received a small number of MICE tourists this year, while the size of each MICE delegation has fallen from 150-200 to just 60-80 guests. The MICE guests mostly come from Japan, Southeast Asia and China.

“While the travel sector still runs smoothly, the MICE sector has declined sharply given the economic crisis. We have yet to receive good orders for the coming months,” said Nguyen Quoc Ky, Vietravel general director.

Meanwhile, hotel operators in the city are concerned about the lack of MICE delegations from crisis-hit Europe.

Dang Huy Hai, deputy general director of New World Saigon Hotel, said the MICE sector will decline in the future, although the number of MICE guests at the five-star hotel now is similar to last year.

“We target a 10% growth rate for the international MICE sector but the scale of current MICE groups has narrowed,” Hai said.