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Interview: David Hall on Selling MICE in Indonesia

Expert on Managing Conference and Visitor Bureaus Shares His Views on Selling Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions in Indonesia.


Bali News: Interview: David Hall on Selling MICE in Indonesia
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(11/25/2006)

As reported on balidiscovery.com, [Minister Wacik to Establish a Directorate of MICE], the Indonesian government is growing increasingly aware of the potential of the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition) markets and the critical role they can play in the national tourism economy.

To shed further light on this important subject, balidiscovery.com recently caught up with David Hall of David Hall & Associates, an acknowledged expert on the subject of convention and visitor bureaus.

David an Australian who was born in England, has more than 30 years experience in the convention and exhibition industry.

His early career was spent in London, Montreal and New York in corporate public relations roles before moving to New Zealand. Since the late 1960s, David has been the CEO of various convention and visitor bureaus in New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia. In the early 1990s, following a one year contract at the Bali International Convention Center (BICC), he was invited to consult on the establishment of the Jakarta Convention Bureau, resident in the capital from 1993 to 1997.

A board member of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaux (IACVB), and The Asian Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaux (AACVB) - David also served as the President of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) for five years. He authored the governmental submission on construction of the Adelaide Convention Centre, and was the consultant on the start-up of convention bureaus in Jakarta, Istanbul, Cape Town and Sarawak Malaysia.

During the past 12 years, with his own company David Hall and Associates, he has consulted to various governments and destinations in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand on the development and operation of convention & visitor bureaus and the international marketing requirements for dedicated convention and exhibition facilities. His most recent assignment this year was the establishment of the Sarawak Convention Bureau (Malaysia).

The Editor of Bali Update from Balidiscovery.com was fortunate to catch up recently with David Hall and tap in on his considerable expertise durig the following exclusive interview.

David Hall – The Interview

Balidiscovery.com: Jakarta took the initiative 15 years ago and under your guidance established the Jakarta Convention Bureau, but it would appear, certainly at a national level, that little or nothing has been done to capitalize on that initiative.

David Hall: I am not being critical of Indonesia, the destination and its MICE Directorate idea. It is just on ten years since I left Jakarta after four very challenging but happy and exciting years establishing the Jakarta Convention Bureau. Naturally I have a genuine heartfelt interest and bond with Indonesia but really do believe there is potential to do so much better when it comes to the highly competitive but lucrative MICE market. May I add that it is imperative for Governments to understand the long term nature of MICE marketing – it is not an instant panacea to shortfalls in other market segments. The long term understanding of the market must be matched by a sustained commitment of realistic funding.

Balidiscovery.com: Indonesia as a nation spends millions on tourism promotion, so why do you think it is not attracting as many MICE activities as it should?

David Hall: It needs to be recognized that whilst convention and exhibition visitors use much of the same infrastructure - hotels, restaurants, transportation as the leisure visitor, there is absolutely no similarity whatsoever in the marketing strategies required by both these visitor segments. In fact, and unfortunately as a consequence of the now widely used acronym MICE, the Incentive Travel component of that grouping also needs strategies totally different to Meetings, Exhibitions and the leisure sectors.

Balidiscovery.com: It is always difficult to convince any government that extra spending is required to meet the needs of what could be perceived as a 'boutique' segment of the tourism market. What would you say to the government to encourage them to consider additional funding for this specialized sector of the visitor market?

David Hall: Sadly, too many destinations, particularly in emerging nations, simply do not recognize the enormous social and economic benefits that attracting MICE business can provide across the whole community. Its not just about delegates spending four or five days in a destination, and indeed up to five times (more) expenditure per delegate than the leisure tourist, but much more important is the longer term benefits through investments and joint ventures that flow by attracting influential business people from around the world to attend meetings and exhibitions. Interestingly, research is showing that some destinations are attracting up to 50% of delegates returning as leisure visitors within five years of their initial visitation as a convention or exhibition delegate.

To achieve sustainable growth, in what I have already stated is a fiercely competitive market, requires a well planned, long-term commitment by governments in funding the marketing needs of an appropriately structured body such as an impartial and unbiased Convention Bureau. In terms of the Republic of Indonesia's Convention Bureaus, (it must demonstrate) a return to the community with well-structured strategic marketing plans which recognize and abide by the two fundamentals of successful convention marketing; that it must be a 'pragmatic' and a 'systematic' approach.

Balidiscovery.com: If additional funds were made available, how would you suggest it be allocated to increase MICE business to Indonesia?

David Hall: Put simply, in the international Association Meeting Market there are about ten thousand meetings held annually, of which half have the potential to meet in the Asia/Pacific Region. However, the level of a destination's capability of attracting a share of this business is also influenced by various factors such as rotational policies, necessity of local host Association, etc. When all these factors are taken into consideration, any one destination will find the final list of potential meetings they can attract is down to several hundred. So, why not focus and concentrate on these qualified potential pieces of business?

Unfortunately too much time, effort and therefore unnecessary expenditure is thrown at too large a target before the essential 'research and qualify' criteria are applied.

Balidiscovery.com: There is bound to be some opposition to the suggestion of more government funds being directed into this lucrative niche of the tourism industry. How would you counter this resistance?

David Hall: MICE marketing is target marketing and, as I say, if the correct research effort is applied using such marketing intelligence sources as the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) much can be achieved at a reasonable cost to Government(s). It needs to be kept in mind that of the 600 plus Convention Bureaus world-wide, the average financial support from Government is approximately 80% of the total funding requirement. So, it's no use any Government saying that industry must pay - yes they will make some contribution, but they simply cannot and should not be asked to be the primary funding source.

Balidiscovery.com: What, i


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