Greater brand recognition, an improved security climate and higher capacity have catalysed growth in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism segment in Kenya. The multi-million dollar industry in 2014 accounted for 15.6% of international tourist arrivals to the country. So when the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, recently launched the MICE logo, it was in the backdrop of the segment’s unprecedented performance.

The fig tree-shaped MICE logo is in the custody of the newly-formed Kenya National Convention Bureau (KNCB). Aptly staged in front of the iconic one-and-a-half-century-old fig tree in Westlands, the launch felt poetic. Fig trees or Mugumo trees carry a traditional significance in Africa. Under their ancient shade, elders congregated to discuss important community issues. Ironically, the tree nearly met its end weeks before to pave the way for a new Express Way under construction. The launch of the MICE Logo comes ahead of an anticipated re-opening after COVID-19.

The MICE Blueprint

KNCB, the vehicle through which Kenya aims to tap into the 900-billion-dollar global MICE market, recently unveiled its MICE blueprint. The bureau targets positioning Kenya among the top fifty international MICE destinations and top three in Africa by 2030. It will do so by focussing on the following four key building blocks:

  1. Building industry competitiveness.
  2. Strengthening stakeholder partnerships.
  3. Accelerating growth.
  4. Increasing the socio-economic benefits of the sector among Kenya’s communities.

That, of course, will mean doing more than unveiling a colourful MICE logo. So instead, a post-COVID-19 pandemic strategy must also consider these five emerging trends.

1. Hybrid Events

Social distancing and concerns for health safety have given rise to hybrid events. Future MICE events will take an in-person and virtual audience format. Virtual participants can engage with speakers, participate in Q&A sessions, and network with fellow attendees in this new normal. Because of this, MICE venues will need to invest in a stable Wi-Fi connection, enough bandwidth and sufficient power.

2. Diminished Travel that is Local

Additional immigration paperwork, including vaccine validation, now makes international travel hugely cumbersome. Loss of livelihoods will only worsen the situation. As a result, people will opt to travel locally, doing so in smaller numbers. Unsurprisingly, MICE events will tend to follow the same pattern.

3. Online Travel Agencies Handling Bookings

Did you know 76% of travellers rely on peer-reviewed online platforms for their booking decisions? MICE event planners and attendees will soon follow suit. Good SEO for your online presence to offer the benefit of quicker discoverability and ultimate conversion will become critical.

4. Demand for Safe Events

From now on, safe meetings and events will take precedence over everything else. Moreover, as Generation Clean emerges, event planners will gravitate towards venues that prioritise health and safety to meet this group’s safety standards. Some outfits are even going Artificial Intelligence (AI). Westin Houston Medical Center in Houston, Texas, is one example. The centre, which mostly accommodates patients seeking medical treatment at the hospital, uses robots for fumigation.

5. Greater Call to Sustainable Travel, in their sustainable travel report, indicate that almost three quarters (72%) of travellers believe that people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices. Most travellers (70%) also indicated they were more likely to book an eco-friendly hotel regardless of whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not. The COVID-19 pandemic has sounded a wake-up call to what danger lies in upsetting nature. With recent wildfires, earthquakes and floods, a new consciousness for the protection of the planet grows even stronger.

While a MICE logo is suitable for brand identity because it unifies purpose, these five emerging trends will also need consideration. Combining the MICE 2030 vision and lessons learned from the new COVID normal will realise quick wins for the industry.