The MICE STUFF
With India being ranked as one of the fastest growing outbound business travel market globally, it is unsurprising that Stephanie Tanpure, VP, sales at Sands China, is keen to get more luxury and MICE tourists to frequent her companyâ€™s multi-use integrated resorts
By Vinita Bhatia
Hoteliers globally have discovered a segment that is fast emerging as their favourite one â€“ MICE tourism. An acronym for meetings, incentives, conferences, and events, this is one domain where hospitality companies are seeing a significant amount of business coming from; and this applies to India too.
According to figures published ahead of the 5th Annual MICE India and Luxury Travel Congress (MILT), India is estimated to generate 6.5 million outbound luxury and MICE tourists annually by 2020, reinforcing the countryâ€™s influence as a key source market for MICE and luxury travel. Stephanie Tanpure, VP, sales at Sands China Ltd, informed that last year, India was ranked as one of the fastest growing outbound business travel markets in the world. According to her, not only is this market growing in volume and value, but following the introduction of more direct flights to key cities across the world, Indian travellers are now venturing further than ever before. She shared more details on how her company is hoping to increase its Indian customer market share by 20% in the coming year.
What kind of scope do you see for MICE business from India to Macao?
India is estimated to generate 6.5 million outbound luxury and MICE tourists annually by 2020, reinforcing the countryâ€™s influence as a key source market for MICE travel. These figures were published ahead of the 5th Annual MICE India and Luxury Travel Congress (MILT) where Sands Resorts Macao was the Platinum Sponsor for this yearâ€™s event that was hosted in Mumbai. Given this level of growth and opportunity, the current scenario presents an even more exciting horizon for the Indian MICE into Macao than ever before.
How have Indian travellers contributed to the MICE business to your seven brands over the past three years on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis?
We are currently seeing a 40% y-o-y growth in the overall MICE demand to our properties in Macao. During peak seasons and weekends, we see very high occupancies. Over weekdays, we tend to focus on MICE and leisure groups.
India is an important market for us in terms of MICE groups. Big holidays and festive seasons especially are becoming more popular. India remains one of our three strongest markets outside the Greater China area, which is great, with diversification becoming the key to such sustained growth. We have been continually diversifying since we first opened The Venetian Macao in August 2007. Within 10 years, we captured a significant market share through this strategy.
Sands Resorts Macao enjoys over 84% of overnight market share of Indians coming to Macao. No other hotel company enjoys such a market share from a single market. With each year, we continue to diversify and increase our market share.
How do you expect this percentage to grow over the next two years?
At Sands Resorts Macao we are particularly optimistic about the anticipated growth in MICE and leisure groups over the next two years. We remain hopeful about increasing our Indian customer market share by 20% in the coming year. As a company we expected more demand from the Indian leisure and meetings segment as our latest property, The Parisian Macao, approached its first year anniversary this September. The opening of The Parisian Macao not only allowed us to diversify our themed hotel offering within the Indian leisure and meetings segment but provided a wider scope in price options to cater to all budgets.
And how have you tried to tap this burgeoning growth?
As one of the key MICE strategies for the India market, earlier this year in July 2017, Sands Resorts Macao partnered with the 5th Annual MICE India and Luxury Travel Congress (MILT). That aside, we continually source opportunities to drive brand awareness as Asiaâ€™s leading integrated resort for business and leisure within one of our most important markets, i.e. India.
How did partnering with MILT help create more awareness amongst your target audience?
Sands Resorts comprises seven world-class hotels, including The Venetian Macao and its sister property, The Parisian Macao. Selecting MILT Congress as a primary platform in 2017 provided us with the opportunity to connect with existing and potential clients who are looking for the ultimate meetings experience in an informal, yet structured, networking environment.
Which segment from the MICE domain contributes the maximum business to your revenue?
India is one of our key markets for both leisure travellers and MICE, and our goal is to continue to develop and drive this market even further. Sands Resorts Macao has been catering to the Indian market for a long time, so we know the kind of expectations Indian travellers have in terms of hospitality. We, therefore, try and offer that kind of service.
Our largest incentive group from India was the UltraTech Cement Stockists Annual Meet that was hosted at The Venetian Macao. The incentive programme was held for 600 attendees, which included the best performing stockists and their families.
We see significant traction within the manufacturing segment â€“ UltraTech Cement is an example of this â€“ in addition to the automotive and the finance segments.
In light of the recently announced GST, do you think that even local MICE business will now shift to international locations like Macao?
We donâ€™t believe that the introduction of GST in India will act as a driving force in shifting domestic MICE business further afield into the international arena. We would look favourably at new opportunities that may come from this new introduction. However, we do not see it as a game changer.