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Wednesday, 13 November, 2019, 12 : 59 PM [IST]

‘The need for a nodal association to unify MICE fragments is pertinent’

2HUB, a B2B reseller platform from the Eastbound Group, is spreading its wings in the MICE vertical. Anirban Sengupta, Senior Vice President, 2HUB, speaks to Disha Shah Ghosh about the potential of the segment, deploying technology, and the journey of 2HUB.

Q How has been the journey of 2HUB over the past 13 years since setting up operations? How has this vertical diversified in its offerings?
While the journey of Eastbound can be mapped close to 15 years, 2HUB is actually a one-year story, established as a distribution channel for exceptional travel services. Which was further diversified since April 2019 to cater to MICE requirements for corporate clients. In our journey (of the whole group) we have witnessed rapid expansion of products and services. The vision is to continue growing, reaching new markets and customer needs.

Q MICE travel has emerged as a key tourism segment in India. How has the dynamics of MICE bookings changed with technology becoming an integral part of the travel journey?
Unfortunately the MICE industry in India is yet to truly adopt technology. At most the industry is exposed to simple travel apps and procurement platforms, while MICE technology globally, has made rapid progression. The primary reason for this is poor exposure and lack of indigenous development. While the India MICE story may be booming it is yet to realise its true potential. Investments to develop indigenous MICE technology are far and few. Operators themselves are not exposed to the technology development globally. The market itself is in its infancy. However, as maturity sets in – the need to create differentiation will be eminent. Technology will be one such differentiator. Operators and users that adopt technology faster will be at the top of the curve.

Q Elaborate on your MICE strategy for MNCs, SMEs and MSMEs. What are your key differentiators in terms of strategy for each of the consumer base?
The key difference amongst the market segments are their exposure to products and services. Large MNCs conduct more meetings and business travels and more widely than a MSME. Therefore, the needs are very different. Frequent users are in the lookout for newer destination and experiences, while first time users are looking at iconic memories. As an operator we need to understand the specific needs and service them accordingly.

Q Which industries have you seen a strong performance for MICE business? Which sectors are key contributors to the growth statistics?
Finance and pharmaceutical continue to be the lead contributor for MICE in India. Both put together would hold 50% of the market share. Since both these industries have a robust distribution network the need for events to connect them is very high. Also, sales/distributor incentive is a common model of operation for these industries.

Q In terms of preferences, what kind of traveller behaviour do you see for popular destinations vs. niche concepts like experiential holidays?
In our experience, most MICE activity is incentive driven – which is why experiments are fairly low. Clients are more comfortable to stick to the tried and tested model. However as the markets are growing and popular destinations are getting over exposed, markets are opening up to unique experiences. If not immediately, but in the near future – more and more Indian clients will be open for experiences. Operators and suppliers should start looking at this trend as it will become a need very soon.

Q How are you leveraging mobile technology to drive MICE bookings?
Mobile is the easiest and quickest way to connect large groups of people. With the reach of mobile technology across far corners including SMART hard wares, MICE apps are slowly becoming a norm in this business. Be it a small corporate meeting or a large congress – clients are looking at their mobiles phones to ease the experience. Although the cost of set- up is a barrier for most MICE operators at the moment – but soon the demand should rationalise pricing. In a few years the whole industry would transfer to a comprehensive technology platform – mobile being the most basic and widespread platforms,

Q Are you working with MICE associations in India and overseas to enhance and bring India on the MICE Tourism map?
MICE cannot be grown with independent efforts; it needs a group of organisations to get together. Any country that has done well to develop their destinations for MICE has done so by organised efforts. India as well has made a mark through various organisations working towards this goal. The need is to have a more cohesive strategy which needs to be put into action top-down. Currently not all associations are accessible for all operators, so the need for a nodal association to unify the fragments is pertinent.
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