Virtual MICE Expo 2021: Sri Lanka takes lead in revival of MICE travel

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Virtual MICE Expo 2021: Sri Lanka takes lead in revival of MICE travel

The objective of the Sri Lanka MICE Expo 2021 was to showcase the MICE capabilities of the industry (IO photos/ Varsha Singh)

Sri Lanka’s first MICE Expo since pandemic outbreak was a success.
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Even as the rest of the world was combating Omicron scare and uncertainty around it, Sri Lanka stole a march over others by organising the inaugural Virtual MICE Expo organised by the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition and Event Organisers (SLAPCEO) in Colombo in December, 2021.

The Expo was a hybrid event with strong participation not only from India, but also from China and various countries around the world, connecting Sri Lanka MICE industry stakeholders for the first time ever with their global industry colleagues.

The objective of the Sri Lanka MICE Expo 2021 was to showcase the MICE capabilities of the industry and to send out a clear message that Sri Lanka was ready to welcome MICE travellers for meetings, conferences, exhibitions and events.

The three-day event had various discussions and activities to make it a comprehensive business event for all kinds of stakeholders in MICE tourism as well as business event organisers and wedding planners. It also came with a virtual exhibition, interactive webinars, four business forums and engaging experiences to showcase what Sri Lanka offers for MICE and business events. To enhance quality of engaging experiences, several activities like Master MICE Challenge, Visitor Competitions, Tea Experiences and Culinary Experiences were also held.

The Expo kicked off on December 1 with a virtual business forum for meetings & conference organisers, featuring noted speakers from international associations such as IAPCO and ICCA, many of whom joined the forum virtually. The forum offered a platform for global and local meetings and conference organisers to e-meet and discuss current trends related to the global meeting industry.

Similarly, another virtual business forum featured incentive organisers with speakers from international associations such as SITE International and yet another forum was the Wedding Planners Virtual Business Forum with speakers from international associations such as IWPA. On December 3, a virtual business forum for exhibition organisers was held with the participation of speakers from Indian Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA).

Despite the Omicron raging across parts of the world in early December, the Expo attracted a huge interest from participants, not just from Sri Lanka, but also from around the world.Well before the event, Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism Kimarli Fernando told India Outbound, the sole Indian media partner for the event, that as the biggest source market for Sri Lanka tourism as well as the biggest economy of the region, India was pivotal to the success of the event. The response from the Indian market has been far beyond their expectations. “We expected around 100 buyers for the event, but even now we have around 300 registered, 40 pc of them from India,” Fernando said.

Indeed, India is the main market for Sri Lanka’s MICE sector with the air connectivity, lesser travel time, trade transactions and the convenience to travel between the two counties. A total of 355,000 tourists from India travelled to Sri Lanka recorded in 2019 before the pandemic outbreak. SLCB estimates that out of total tourist arrivals, around 15 pc-20 pc visitors represented MICE travellers. Officials say the economic and political relationship between the two countries will help increase this number further.

To promote MICE travel, Sri Lanka has partnered with leading international hotel brands to develop infrastructure for the industry. These include Intercontinental, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, Four Seasons and Radisson.The development of Cinnamon Life, the latest integrated resort in Colombo, will add more venues, facilities and luxury experience for MICE travellers. Similarly, the development of Port City will add more avenues for MICE and events industry to provide world class experience.


A total of 355,000 tourists from India travelled to Sri Lanka recorded in 2019 before the pandemic outbreak (IO photos/Varsha Singh)

‘‘Sri Lanka combines MICE with experiences and the positioning strategy focused on authenticity, diversity and compactness. Sri Lanka is very famous for its beaches and the mandatory sun, sand and the sea, as well as wildlife, nature, adventure and heritage.

Sri Lanka combines MICE with above wonderful experiences to make the journey a memorable in Sri Lanka,’’ says Fernando.

For the SLCB and other organisers, the virtual expo was an absolute success. “We had a hybrid event with virtual and some physical presence. We reached out to our partners in India, across the region and even globally. We told them what we had and this is a dialogue we will continue; that we need to continue. We have hotels and purposebuilt conventional centres like the BMICH or Hambantota. But, what is unique about Sri Lanka is that with Covid-19, people don’t want to go somewhere just for a business meeting, they want to combine business with some leisure. This is superb for Sri Lanka as here you can come for a business meet and let your family join you for the holiday as Sri Lanka is a family-friendly destination and I truly believe that Sri Lanka is an amazing place for MICE, compared to many other countries,” says Fernando.

For SLAPCEO president Imran Hassan, too, the event was an unqualified success on many grounds. “It was a good exposure between industry players from Sri Lanka, India and China and it was a learning occasion for the Sri Lanka industry to see on how it could benefit from the expertise of the Indian industry and the Chinese network and how we all can come together in promoting trade fairs that are organised in Sri Lanka. I know that a lot of people are now working on gains from the event through the contacts made and the knowledge gained at the event,’’ Hassan tells India Outbound.

“There was a lot of excitement created within Sri Lanka as it was also an occasion for other stakeholders and authorities to realise how important the MICE industry is for Sri Lanka,’’ he says, adding that so encouraged was SLAPCEO by the maiden event’s success that they have begun planning a sequel, a fully physical MICE Expo in Sri Lanka in October 2022.

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