ABT-ACTE Russia: all MICE dreams lead to IMG Show!

International MICЕ Geography Show, a mega event for all the Russian MICE market participants will be organized by ABT-ACTE Russia in Moscow on September 17-18 for the first time. To learn more about the event that is so much spoken about, we have met Association representatives — exhibition manager Alyona Gurinova and partner relations director of ABT-ACTE Russia Irina Mikhalkova. We have talked about the concept of the event, MICE geography, creative humour competition and the plunge into Russian reality.

— Irina, Alyona, tell us how the idea of International MICE Geography Show appeared.

— IM: The idea appeared quite a long time ago — and it literally grew out of events that are well known to industry experts. Traditionally it was a place for corporate buyers to speak — they shared their professional experience in travel management. As the Association grew, more and more companies and organizations working in MICE and destination promotion joined it as partners and sponsors — state travel offices, DMCs, hotel chains... But it was not always suitable to include their presentations into the program of a session devoted, for example, to travel policy or payment solutions. So about a year ago we launched a brand new format — a series of educational sessions with the single title «MICE Geography». They are business breakfasts where service providers get an opportunity to tell their prospective customers — corporate buyers — about various destinations, for example, Abu Dhabi, Sochi, Greece, Japan, Jerusalem. It soon became evident that these events attracted a very large audience of MICE buyers: this is how the concept of an annual large scale event, an industry exhibition appeared.

— But there are regular exhibitions, including MICE exhibitions in Moscow...

— IM: Yes, but this is a brand new format for the industry! First of all, it will be the first two day MICE exhibition in Moscow: when we visited different international events, we came to the conclusion that the optimum variant would be to give participants time to look around at first, to get acquainted with each other, the city and local realities. At least to learn to say «Hello» in the language of the host country! So the first day will be some kind of immersion into Russian reality: it will be a sightseeing tour of Moscow in double-deckers organized by Sightseeing, exhibition partner, and a seminar for exhibitors, where we will speak about indices and trends in the Russian MICE market, and even a thematic gala dinner «MICE dreams».

-AG: We have a nice venue in the centre of Moscow right opposite the Bolshoi Theatre — the historic Metropol hotel, an old partner of ABT-ACTE Russia that supports many of our ideas. The gala dinner will be held in the main hall of this hotel — we hope it will be the highlight of the program, because guests will not only get acquainted, relax and have fun, but also have an opportunity to take part in a real competition, an RFP contest!

— So you are going to have a kind of a stock exchange, aren’t you?

— IM: It will be a virtual tender. We will place 5-7 real bids from corporate buyers on IMG Show website. Say, one company needs a conference for 40 persons, another — an incentive tour for 15 employees, and a third — a cyclic meeting for 1,5 thousand employees. Additional details will be provided on the length in days, geography of the event and other requirements. So, exhibitors will choose the event they are more interested in and react to this RFP with a video not more than 2 minutes long that will be shown during the gala-dinner.

— AG: An ordinary video of a country or a product will not do — a creative approach is necessary in this case. We sometimes compare it to home assignment in the Club of the Cheerful and Quick-witted or with videos that are demonstrated before the performance of Eurovision participants. Most exponents who have confirmed their participation in IMG Show were very enthusiastic about this contest. Because it is one more chance for them to show their worth and to win the battle for their prospective customer.

— Yes, but more than 70 exhibitors are expected to take part in IMG Show — will the guests really be able to see so many videos during the dinner?

— IM: There won’t be so many videos — far not all the exhibitors will be willing or ready to take part in this contest. Besides, some of the RFPs will be the most popular — in this case we set limit of three presentations for every request, and the preliminary choice will be made by corporate buyers themselves.

— Who will be the main participants of the workshop?

— IM: We are focused at specialized buyers of MICE-services — corporate buyers, TMСs and event agencies representatives, who arrange events for their customers. Participation in IMG Show is not free of charge. We will bring about 50 participants from the regions of Russia under our Hosted Buyers program — it includes accommodation, a pre-paid flight or a railway ticket, for example for guests from Saint Petersburg. There will be professional buyers from Ekaterinburg, Perm, Kazan, Tyumen, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk — ABT-ACTE Russia has already held or is going to hold educational events in these cities. But corporate buyers and agency representatives from other cities also can submit their applications and participate — it is important for us to provide an opportunity to meet providers to the maximum amount of Russian MICE buyers who are an important element of event arrangement in their or their customer’s company.

— AG: We are convinced that the date of the event, 17-18 of September, will be another important reason to visit it. On this date Leisure travel exhibition is traditionally held and non-resident exhibitors will be able to combine participation in two events during one trip. We do not set the goal of gathering a thousand and a half participants, for example. We prefer quality, and not quantity, so every exhibitor will have to hold at least 10 meetings during the workshop on September 18th.

— Do you thing the event will be of interest for exhibitors who provide services abroad? The shift to Russian domestic destinations is evident in the current economic situation.

— IM: Indeed, due to considerable rouble rate fluctuations about 18% of companies consider the possibility of replacing international MICE events with activities within the country — these were the results of the survey held for our Yearbook-2015 research. In this connection we are of course interested in attracting as many Russian providers to IMG Show as possible: exhibition venues and conference halls, hotel chains and independent hotels, DMCs. Their participation fee is in roubles and does not change. But at the same time we should note the growing interest to near-abroad countries — Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc. And the reason is not in attractive prices, but also in the opportunity to stay in the usual language environment, to get acquainted with rich historic and cultural heritage.

— AG: Let’s not bury the Russian MICE market! It may not grow much this year, indeed, — at the moment we predict a drop of 10-15%. But the rest 80-85% of companies still book services as actively as before, take groups to events, look for new destinations and activities! We have held polls at ABT-ACTE Russia events: corporate buyers are interested in Malaysia, China (especially Macao and Hong Kong), Singapore, Thailand, Slovenia, Romania, Denmark, Poland, Serbia, Mexico, Dominican Republic — as you can see, event geography is broad. Many of these destinations are not budget friendly at all, which is also meaningful. So we are convinced that providers that offer MICE services and accommodation in different countries may gain a good return on event investment due to business or long-term contracts they have obtained.

— Are there exhibitors who have confirmed their participation at the moment?

— AG: Yes, they include Abu Dhabi and Malaysia Tourism Offices, IHG, a hotel chain operator, the regional representative office of Kempinski Hotels in Russia and the CIS, Air France-KLM, Accor Group, a French hotel operator, Chateau de la Messardière, a five star hotel in St Tropez, Tourism Office of the Spanish Embassy, Monaco Tourism Office, Singapore Tourism Bureau, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Saberatours-Sevan Travel Agency, a DMC in Armenia, Tourism Bureau of France and others.

— IM: Note that participants have a unique opportunity to work in tandem — share tables and practically — the cost of exhibition package. But the budget is not the main thing, because support of a bigger partner, a DMC, for example, strengthens positions of its fellow exhibitor, that can be an independent hotel, for example. The aim of IMG Show participants is not just to collect contacts, but to provide information to corporate buyers, to explain in detail in a short time how useful they can be for a certain company.

— Do I understand you right that IMG Show will include the traditional ABT-ACTE Russia educational component?

— IM: On September 18th a conference is to take place, it will include two educational sections — for corporate buyers and representatives of business travel and MICE agencies. It is important that this program will not be held on the background of the workshop as it usually is in the vast majority of exhibitions. Our guests will not have to choose between attending the conference and meeting providers. They will have a special time for the educational part.

— AG: Besides, the program of the conference was made up according to participants` requests — we have held a poll to find out what topics they were interested in most of all. The leading topic at the moment is holding MICE tenders. And it is not surprising — we heard an opinion at ACTE Forum that was held not long ago that there is a market trend to hold tenders even for events with only three participants! Many IMG Show participants also said they would like to learn more about practical use of Big Data in the business travel industry, to speak about the role of professional conference organizers in the settlement of complex situations and problems that may arise in the course of the event.

— IM: We see one of our objects in telling participants about the opportunities of tourism offices and convention bureaus that work in Russia, in dispelling some stereotypes. They are not just organizations where you can get a city map. They may recommend good providers, help you get a grant or a subsidy for your event in their countries, or even reimburse part of your costs from their own budget. We are speaking about real money — compensation of certain cost items. When we held MICE Geography educational sessions devoted Jerusalem and Singapore, for example, and travel office representatives spoke about it, the reaction of corporate buyers proved it was a complete surprise for many of them.

— What is your vision of the global mission of IMG Show?

— IM: Nowadays the main task of ABT-ACTE Russia is to bring new ideas and practices of professional travel and MICE management to the regions, to make our Moscow events all-Russian in terms of the geography of their participants. So we are glad that IMG Show will be visited by corporate buyers and agency representatives from many Russian cities. There are real professionals there, but they often just do not have an appropriate ground to exchange experience and to communicate. And our idea is being brought to life already: participants from Ekaterinburg, Perm, Saint Petersburg attended ACTE Forum that was held not long ago. We would like to remind you that the main ABT-ACTE Russia events are free of charge for corporate buyers, because we work for them.

-AG: IMG Show will be our important contribution to domestic tourism development, including promotion of Moscow as a travel destination. All non-resident participants will have an opportunity not only to see the capital during the sightseeing tour, but also to prolong they stay here, because the event is planned for Thursday and Friday. Besides, IMG Show has already gained support of Moscow Committee on Travel and Hospitality Industry and has been included into the calendar of official Moscow business events of 2015.

Interviewed by Natalia Travova

Source: http://buyingbusinesstravel.com.ru