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Planning a MICE event in 2020

The world’s approach to travel, including MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) travel, has been forever altered due to COVID-19. There’s never been a more critical time for MICE event planners to familiarise themselves with the relevant changes and to look to MICE travel experts for guidance.

Flight Centre Associates (FCA) recently launched a niche MICE division to assist the corporate customer in planning successful MICE events, both during the pandemic and in a post-COVID world. These experts are well-versed in the ever-changing lockdown restrictions and have all of the correct information, not to mention fantastic venue options, at their fingertips.

MICE travel takes a knock

Before the pandemic became a reality across the globe, South Africa was a leading destination choice for business travellers. Business travel made up for an estimated 36% of the total travel spend in South Africa, according to the 2018 World Travel & Tourism Council report. With local borders closed to international visitors for the unforeseeable future, the once thriving MICE industry has taken a sizeable knock.

Luckily, local businesses are starting to embark on MICE travel once again with the easing of domestic travel restrictions. As MICE travel revives, there are various factors that need to be considered:

  • Travel insurance is vital

One of the important aspects of MICE event planning that the experts from the FCA MICE division recommend looking into is that of securing travel insurance. No one, not even the experts, know for sure what is going to happen next.

“Domestic travel insurance is more essential than ever,” says Chantal Gouws, General Manager Independent Brands at the Flight Centre Travel Group. “Travel insurance can provide cover to a company should newly-introduced restrictions prevent an event from taking place or should any of the guests fall ill.”

  • Finding the right venue

Finding the right venue has long been the top priority for MICE event planners. Nowadays, even more so. One needs to locate a venue that not only promises a memorable experience, that is of an appropriate size, and in a convenient location, but also one that adheres to the stringent health and safety protocols.

“MICE event planners need to make doubly sure that the venue they choose is indeed adhering to government regulations and safety best practices in relation to the virus. For example, venues and hotels should conduct screenings on all those entering the premises via temperature checks and a thorough health questionnaire. The conference venue layout is also crucial from a social distancing perspective, especially in relation to the number of guests in attendance,” comments Gouws.

Other important safety protocols include increased sanitising and disinfecting practices, encouraging smaller events, using the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), contactless registration, the installation and maintenance of improved air filtration systems for optimal ventilation, and carefully controlled dining facilities.

In the instance that the event planner is not happy with the layout of the venue’s interior or the ventilation available, it is always worthwhile to enquire regarding hosting the event outdoors instead. In fact, this approach is preferable from a health and safety perspective.

Digital platforms

With so many individuals working remotely in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, leveraging the digital realm has become a regular aspect of everyday life. Unsurprisingly, it is just as vital when it comes to putting together a MICE event.  

“Various online platforms, digital meeting platforms and social media can greatly assist event planners in not only helping them decide what types of venues they’re interested in and hold important pre-event meetings but also help them to communicate effectively with guests and attendees.

“Social media is the perfect tool for advertising the event and communicating details or changes to attendees. Finally, business owners and event organisers can also utilize digital means to send out invites, links to Google Maps, and more.”

Other considerations

Once all of the COVID-related considerations have been covered, MICE event planners, in conjunction with MICE travel experts, can begin to examine other aspects of the event. One of those aspects is ensuring that the chosen venue can cater for individuals who did not feel comfortable travelling, or those who are overseas and unable to join in person. Advanced and reliable technology and equipment will be required to broadcast the event live and in HD.

Considering how all attendees will have spent months and months in lockdown, finding a location that promises not only productive meetings, but also fun teambuilding and bonding experiences is vital.

“Planners should investigate teambuilding opportunities that allow for social distancing. The goal should be to bring teams closer together, while keeping them physically apart. From outdoor ‘treasure hunts’ and learning a new skill to Olympic challenges and dune driving, the options are endless. With face masks, lots of fresh air, and keeping a safe distance at all times, there are countless teambuilding activities that can be enjoyed safely throughout the times of COVID.” Gouws concludes.

MICE planners must be creative, resourceful, and adaptable. Specialist MICE travel experts can greatly assist planners in helping navigate the world of MICE travel successfully in our current reality. After all, learning how to navigate business travel and events is just one more item on the to-do list when it comes to transitioning to the ‘new normal.’

Source: Claire Lathe, Big Ambitions