Vietnam has many advantages to develop MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences/conventions, and exhibitions/ events) tourism, however the potential of this type of tourism has yet to be recognised.

General Director of Hoa Binh International Tourism and Trade Investment (Hoabinhtourist & Convention) Nguyen Khac Huyen said in a recent interview with the Vietnam Business Forum that Vietnam needed to identify MICE as a potential industry to develop suitable strategies for it. He added it was time to consider establishing MICE business associations.

*Can it be said that the potential of Vietnam MICE tourism is huge?

Vietnam is considered to have great potential to develop MICE tourism. First, Vietnam has a lot of scenic, heritage and our people are open, enthusiastic and friendly. Vietnamese cuisine is very rich, and wonderful. The four thousand year history of Vietnam is also an attraction for tourists, especially tourists of event tourism. These are favourable conditions for Vietnam to develop MICE tourism.

However, only until the 2008-2009 period when the country developed to a new level, trade activities expanded with the conclusion of a series of bilateral trade agreements, the promotion of tourism cooperation, could this type of tourism truly flourish.

Currently, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the two locations that have the ability to exploit this strength quite effectively. Many popular tourist destinations of Vietnam have been selected in the MICE programme such as Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hue, Nha Trang, Hanoi...

There are thousands of Vietnam companies working in the MICE sector. The annual growth rate is 20 percent approximately. Since 2003, Hoabinhtourist & Convention has identified MICE as the new direction of international tourism as well as the key areas of development for the company. The company has since then invested in technology, learned from the experiences of specialized organizations in this field to introduce this model in Vietnam.

*So, what has hindered Vietnam to become a country of developed MICE industry?

Compared to other countries in the region such as Singapore, Thailand, or Malaysia, Vietnam is endowed with internal resources and natural favours, however, Vietnam is also a developing country so it’s understandable that there still are difficulties for us to develop MICE tourism.

First, Vietnam is lacking in the number of conference centres with big capacity enough for large-scale of several thousand people. Currently in Vietnam there are only a few centres which can hold more than five thousand people such as the My Dinh National Conference Centre, Giang Vo Exhibition Centre, Saigon Exhibition Centre. The number of five star hotel in recent years even though has increased considerably, but still not capable of responding to large events of regional level.

The second difficulty must be mentioned is the lack of qualified human resources to cope with the demand of organising high-level conference and workshops. Especially, the human resources in tourism is not only inefficient in quantity but also quality. Engineering team can operate presentation machinery and equipment, especially machines of large capacity up to 16 thousand, is inadequate because up to now, Vietnam has yet to have many chance to organise large workshops so investments of enterprises in this field is limited and the training is unprofessional.

Moreover, as Vietnam hasn’t got a clear strategy for the investment of becoming a MICE attraction, our enterprises therefore haven’t proactively invested to develop quality human resources providing for workshops or conferences of international scale.

Another factor is the unavailable of a good marketing strategy for Vietnam landscapes. Excellent marketing strategies through various channels such as TV, video, movies, etc. is the key to Korea’s successful marketing of Jeju Island, turning it into a scenic natural wonders comparable to Ha Long Bay, attracting hordes of visitors, a flight on every five minutes on average. Or another simpler example is the kimchi dish, the everyday dish has become a Korea's culinary symbol thanks to diversified and effective marketing.

*How do you think Vietnam should develop MICE tourism?

From the limitations mentioned above, it can be seen that in order to develop MICE tourism, Vietnam should first invest in infrastructure, roads, building more convention centres and big hotels. We also need a comprehensive marketing strategy from agencies and localities to businesses to promote Vietnam as an attractive destination for MICE tourism development.

More importantly, agencies should identify MICE as an industry besides tourism, an industry that brings huge profits so that they can build effective investment strategy. Vietnam must understand and be committed to investing and developing MICE as a separate industry which has the potential to bring even more great resources, to develop more powerful than tourism rather than a branch of tourism. As calculated by tour companies, currently MICE tourism’s revenue was six times higher than conventional forms of tourism. Therefore, this will be a great resource which the Vietnamese Government and enterprises should pay a great determination to develop into a strong industry.

Additionally, because Vietnam’s development is slower than other countries, we must leapfrog, which means Vietnam needs to set up a strategy specified each stage of human resources training for MICE. Training here does not simply mean sending a team to practice, to participate in conferences or seminars but to have specific programmes on experience exchange, joint training activities, etc. with countries of developed MICE industry.

Besides, Vietnam should also approach, research to find out the key to MICE promotion success of other countries. Currently, promotional spending in Vietnam is relatively low compared to other countries in the region so Vietnam should consider spending items to avoid inefficiencies so that Vietnam’s image, culture and heritage can be marketed extensively, professionally and more effectively.

Like the case of Korean kimchi, Vietnam also can market our unique everyday dishes such as Banh Chung or fat meat and pickled onions etc. Vietnamese foods such as nem or pho although has been a popular choice among foreign tourists coming to Vietnam but those quintessential dish has not yet become a culinary brand in the world. The tourism industry needs to enlist the cooperation of ministries and agencies, taking every opportunity to promote MICE tourism on events and forums of regional and international levels to let the world know more about Vietnam.

In difficult circumstances of tourism saturation, many companies will invest in the much more potential field of MICE. Therefore, the Tourism Association also needs to think of the establishment of a MICE tourism business association to manage, support and create development momentum for businesses as well as promote better cooperation among companies in order to pull major events to Vietnam... If the host country couldn’t even maintain a connection, support among businesses, then it would be even more difficult for Vietnamese enterprises to grow into big corporations which can compete with foreign enterprises in this sector or can rub shoulders with developed MICE countries in the world.-VNA