The International Advisory Board (IAB) has presented their final advice report to the Rotterdam Municipal Executive containing recommendations about the future of the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) in Rotterdam. The IAB, an advisory council made up of international experts from the MICE industry and other sectors, met at a virtual conference earlier this year to address this topic. An examination of the hard-hit MICE sector is more relevant than ever as long-term repercussions are uncertain.
The advice focuses on important themes for a strong and future-proof MICE ecosystem in Rotterdam: value for the MICE customer and the city, sustainability and technological developments. The city needs a clear vision of how to use sustainability and technology to create economic, social and environmental value for both the organisers and visitors of MICE industry events. A sustainable impact strategy, new partnerships between different cities and a city-wide and distinctive MICE brand strategy must be considered when implementing this vision.
The IAB was executed by Rotterdam Partners in close collaboration with the Municipality of Rotterdam and representatives from the industry. The final report is a long-term action perspective for the city to strengthen its position as a MICE destination, and it provides guidance on how to collaboratively attract MICE events to Rotterdam. The full report can be viewed here.
Attracting conferences, exhibitions, meetings and business events is important for the Rotterdam economy. The industry drives high-value tourism, promotes employment and builds Rotterdam’s international profile as a knowledge and business hub. The corona pandemic hit this sector hard, and because the long-term consequences are unknown, an extensive investigation into this sector is pertinent. This is also needed because of the transformation that the MICE industry is undergoing as a result of a growing awareness of the sector’s impact on the climate and the digitisation of events and conferences.
Five-day IAB Conference
Eight international experts from the events industry and other sectors shared their knowledge and perspective on the future of the MICE industry during a five-day virtual IAB conference. The aim was to assess how changes within this sector affect the most important business and revenue models and what Rotterdam can do to capitalise on opportunities. The experts’ conclusions and recommendations are bundled in an extensive report.
IAB Findings: physical, digital, sustainable and value-driven
A number of important findings emerged from the conference. The IAB expects physical events to remain important after the pandemic. The need for in-person interaction may even be greater than before. However, they predict that live events will most likely have a more national or regional focus and physical events may decrease in visitor numbers. Digital and hybrid events will also have a place in the future of the industry due to the benefits they bring: more cost-effective, more sustainable and the ability to reach a larger and more diverse audience. The visitor may also become more selective in attending events and look for a better overall experience, both for online and physical events. Besides offering high quality content, it is essential that the event experience is engaging and surprising for the visitor. Technological innovations play a major role in facilitating this.
Four main recommendations
Based on the combined expertise, the main findings from the five-day IAB conference and discussions with key stakeholders, the experts have four practical recommendations:
1. Drive sustainable change with an integral impact strategy in co-creation with city stakeholders
Rotterdam should develop a bold, outspoken, integral and sustainable impact strategy for the MICE industry, in co-creation with relevant partners in the city, with a long-term vision that is aligned with the city’s ambitions in the terms of circularity, energy transition, climate change and a healthy city.
2. Leverage technology to enable an optimal user journey
Using advanced technology and digital platforms, Rotterdam should aim to offer an optimal user experience that matches the needs and motivations of visitors. This means a shift from a functional to a more human-focused experience. Digital and physical events should be combined into one continuous international user journey.
3. Transform existing business models and integrate new collaborative models
To create sustainable value for the MICE sector, Rotterdam should look for new partnerships at an international, national and local level. Stakeholders should form a strategic MICE alliance to work on a cohesive MICE strategy for the city. The city should also consider collaborations with competing destinations and facilitate relevant crossovers between locations, stakeholders and residents in the city and beyond. It is crucial to quantify the economic impact of the MICE industry for Rotterdam, directly and indirectly.
4. Develop a unique brand strategy for the MICE industry focusing on Rotterdam’s strengths
Rotterdam should use a city-wide and consistent marketing communication approach to present itself in a distinctive way to the MICE clients worldwide. This involves translating the DNA, the innovative ecosystem and the sustainable economic ambitions of the city into value for the customer. Rotterdam should focus on niche sectors in which the city is at the forefront of innovation and set up specialised teams to attract relevant MICE events within these sectors.