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Overseas markets chase Indian MICE biz

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With corporate travel resuming in India after a pandemic induced hiatus of about three years, overseas markets such as Hong Kong, Moscow, Turkiye and Dubai are betting big on corporates to host their meetings, conferences, and offsites there.

Puneet Kumar, director, South Asia and Middle East at Hong Kong Tourism Board said India is among the top five markets for Hong Kong in terms of incentive group travel and the pace of recovery of the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) segment has been a ‘surprise’.

“Companies in the BFSI space, pharmaceuticals, construction, and some of the new age companies that I had never heard of are bringing their events and employees to Hong Kong. We have also heard from our counterparts from Invest Hong Kong that they are also seeing traction from sectors such as gems and jewelry from India,” said Kumar.

“A lot of Indian companies are looking to set up their regional headquarters in Hong Kong which is very encouraging. We closed 2023 with 208,000 visitor arrivals from India and we are looking at doubling our India numbers this year,” he added.

Anastasia Popova, deputy general director for international and industry cooperation at Moscow City Tourism Committee said Moscow is planning to directly reach out to large corporate clients in India this year for promoting its MICE offerings and is hoping to double numbers from India through greater MICE travel.

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“Excluding our neighbouring countries, India was among the top three markets besides the Middle East and China. About one fifth of the tourists coming to Moscow are business tourists,” she said. “We have an agreement with the NIMA (network of Indian MICE agents) association in India. This year, we plan to reach out to corporate clients directly to promote our MICE offerings,” she added.

Hotels are developing offers specifically for guests from India, and tourist navigation is duplicated in foreign languages, which makes the trip even more comfortable, said Evgeny Kozlov, first deputy head of the office of the Mayor and the government of Moscow, and chairman of the Moscow City Tourism Committee.

On Thursday, Dubai introduced a five-year multiple-entry visa to further bolster travel from India.

Bader Ali Habib, regional headof proximity markets at Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) said last year, MICE demand stayed consistent all through last year from India unlike previous years and the five year visa will help boost MICE travel as well. “A lot of Indian investors sit in Dubai. A lot of seed capital is raised in Dubai. Dubai is a premium destination. We are working on ensuring that we provide value to corporates. We are working on opportunities where we could also customise our approach for group travel. A destination such as Surat, which is a hub for diamond merchants has direct connectivity to Dubai now so that should also help boost travel,” he added.

The Turkiye Tourism Board said with an ‘easy’ visa application system for MICE groups, it expects to host over 30,000 Indian MICE travellers in 2024, which is higher than last year.

Rajeev Kale, president and country head for holidays, MICE, Visa at Thomas Cook (India) said top destinations witnessing high demand for corporate MICE travel are New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Scandinavia and Turkiye. “The MICE event industry is evolving from standard agendas and information delivery mechanism towards more immersive experiences and enhanced engagement,” he said. SD Nandakumar, president and country head for corporate tours at SOTC Travel said Japan, South Korea and Qatar are also among destinations looking at boosting MICE numbers from India.

Markus Tan, regional director, India, Middle East, South Asia and Africa International Group at Singapore Tourism Board said despite factors such as high land costs, Singapore continues to see a strong demand for MICE travel from India.

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