Why Exhibition Conferences are a Great Opportunity for MICE Tourism

Mine Entra 2019 Roundup

The 24th edition of Mine Entra in Bulawayo ended on a high note as reported in the media. The exhibitions outfit, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company (ZITF), organised the the annual mining, industry and engineering expo. Mine Entra is also known for business conferences.

At this year’s exhibition, held under the theme, “Accelerating Zimbabwe’ Mining Future to 2030,” the Women in Mining Conference and Young Professionals Forum, and the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation Small Scale Miners’ conference on Friday were the highlights at the Zimbabwe International Exhibitions Centre.

This was a boon for the country’s second largest city when participants from all parts of the country and abroad flocked in to attend. There were major benefits for the hospitality and destination tourism entities in the city.

An estimated 200 direct local and foreign exhibitors from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, China, Kenya, and South Korea attended.


The MICE Opportunity

With events like these taking place regularly throughout the year, the tourism and events industry in Zimbabwe has a prodigious opportunity to grow exponentially. It is with this in mind that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is making efforts to attract MICE tourism.

MICE is the acronym for meetings, incentives, conventions and events. “E” sometimes refers to exhibitions while “C” also refers to conferences. This is a growing new form of tourism that has immense economic and social effects.

The International Association of Professional Congress Organisers defines meetings as the coming together of a number of people in one place for a particular purpose. They could be on an ad-hoc basis or to a set pattern. These could be annual general meetings, committee or strategic planning meetings.

A conference is a participatory meeting for discussion, fact-finding, problem-solving and consultation. It is smaller in scale than a congress and is usually of limited duration with specific objectives.

An event or exhibition involves the display of products and services, for example a launch, career fair or motor show among many examples.

Global MICE Tourism

Globally, MICE tourism has become a major marketing tool and a key driver of destination development and an important generator of income, employment and foreign investment. The global meetings industry has begun to recognise Zimbabwe as a sought-after destination. Cities such as Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls can attract this foreign investment.

The MICE sector is one of the fastest growing segments in the tourism industry generating millions in revenue for cities and tourist destinations around the world. Statistics show that the total global MICE market is in excess of $270 billion and that output from this form of tourism accounts for about 1% of the world’s gross domestic product.

Foundations of MICE Tourism

MICE tourism is usually organised around a well-planned agenda-centred theme or topic for a professional trade organisation, a special interest group or educational institution. They could be business, health and IT professionals, industry related or that of multilateral organisations such as the United Nations agencies, the African Union, Southern Africa Development Community, COMESA or the World Bank.

This kind of tourism product often takes the form of a specialised event with its own exhibition and practices. It attracts participants from around the world to a specific venue. The annual conference business generated around the ZITF, for example, can be classified under MICE.

This attracts business people from both within and outside Zimbabwe to Bulawayo for the exhibition thus allowing service providers in the City of Kings to market and sell their products and services to a regional and global community of business people.

Very much linked to this is incentive tourism. This is a type of employee reward by a company or institution for targets met or exceeded, or a job well done. It is conducted purely for entertainment, rather than for professional or educational purposes.

Harnessing MICE Tourism

How then can the local tourism and events management industry take advantage of this new phenomenon whose common characteristics are those of generating high income and profit?

Research shows that the per-capita consumption of MICE tourism is four to five times higher than that of an ordinary tourist.

Events companies such as the ZITF Company and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society are well positioned to take advantage of the influx of global, regional and local business and commerce that attends their exhibitions to showcase the benefits and the potential of MICE to local players in the tourism industry.

Upcoming Opportunities

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority will later this year host the annual the Sanganayi Hlanganani World Tourism Expo from 12th to 14th September at the same venue in Bulawayo.

They plan to attract stakeholders and service providers who will exhibit tourism products, services and facilities to the business audience who will be attending including a large number of tourism buyers from all over the world.

As with the other exhibition at the Zimbabwe International Conference Centre, a number of conferences and workshops that will feature key international, regional and local speakers will be held.

As we speak, a business matchmaking programme is underway to assist visiting service providers and tour operators target clients and potential partners well ahead of the tourism expo.

Zimbabwe, having grown in the last few years to being a much sought after tourist destination, needs a structured approach to marketing what it has to offer. This is an important step towards tapping from a burgeoning global market.

There are ways through which local players can benefit or become attractive for the lucrative MICE market. Studies have shown that apart from critical factors such as convention facilities and accommodation, a destination must offer additional unique features to compete efficiently.

Key Considerations

Key convention site selection factors include security, accessibility, local support, extra conference opportunities, information, and site environment. Other criteria like the level of risk, profitability, promotion by local associations such as the ZTA as well as the novelty of a destination also come into play.

Simply put MICE tourism is business tourism that when well marketed it could benefit local events and tourism industry players. These also includes many “downstream” service providers.

Players who are sure to benefit include those in international and domestic transport such as airlines, coach and taxi operators. Hotels, lodges and B and B’s that provide accommodation, catering and conference facilities, tour operators, exhibition companies, and those that operate audio-visual and telecommunications services are also in the mix.

Critical for those in the business is the competitive pricing of their tourism products. In the wake of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 promulgated by the Zimbabwe government, there have been calls for cool heads.

The price madness that has long been associated with the tourism industry is sure to scare away visitors. Rather than kill the goose that lays the golden egg, let us go for a subtler and saner approach of coxing the elusive dollar from the business visitor’s wallet.

Lenox Mhlanga is lead consultant with Magna Carta Reputation Management, an integrated communications company. He is on the council of the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations and is a member of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. Contact him at lenox@magnacarta.co.zw.


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