In a new series concentrating on island destinations we look at Iceland and Ireland:
Meet in Reykjavik’s director of marketing, Sigurður Valur Sigurðsson shares some insights on how Iceland is planning its return to international MICE business:
We have used the last year and a half to reorganise and focus on what makes Iceland unique as a MICE destination. Last year Meet in Reykjavík CVB merged with Business Iceland, a public-private partnership leading the marketing of Iceland. We have also been working on building a stronger coalition between local suppliers.
The business traveller demographic is changing with a younger generation that sees business travel as an opportunity to meet new people, build new networks, be away from their desks and create new experiences. The lines between business and leisure in travel are blurring, creating a new ‘bleisure’ trip category where travellers want to use their time to relax and explore what an area has to offer. After the confinement at home, this segment is yearning for a new adventure and there is a higher demand for dynamic events than ever. What it means to design and execute a successful business event is being redefined. And a destination is more than just geography, it’s a quintessential piece of the puzzle that defines meeting success. A purposeful meeting isn’t complete without a destination that reinforces that purpose.
What Iceland and Reykjavík has to offer is a chance to inspire through unmatched experiences in nature, food, and wellness.
We believe that the most successful business events are driven by a sense of adventure and unconventional thinking. And we are keen to share our values in sustainability, gender equality and unwavering belief in human rights.
Before the pandemic, 2020 was expected to be another record year. The MICE industry in Iceland has been growing every year since 2012 when the Harpa conference centre opened in Reykjavík. We estimate that about 20% of MICE events were cancelled in 2020, while 80% were postponed or moved online. In 2021 we expect to reach about 35% of our market share compared to 2019 but are seeing positive signs especially regarding incentive trips.
As of 1 July, the measures at Iceland’s borders were relaxed and the testing of those who present a certificate of vaccination or prior infection with Covid-19 ceased. Guests may also travel freely within the country, as Iceland is fully open.
The maximum number of people allowed in the same location is 300 at time of writing but we are hopeful that any limitation on social gatherings will be lifted before the summer is over.
Ireland proactive in support of its business events sector
An island always punching above its weight, Ireland boasts a business tourism industry that has long been one of the fastest growing segments of the Irish tourism industry, contributing more than €716m annually to the economy and supporting up to 20,000 jobs.
As Covid-19 set in, Meet in Ireland, (the business tourism division of Ireland’s National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland) focussed on supporting Irish business tourism partners to remain viable. Paramount to this work was supporting the sector and its business partners in a way that would assist them in protecting Ireland’s share of this important market.
The initial response was to save as many previously won events as possible, by way of deferral and working in partnership with industry and the convention bureaux. Since the onset of the pandemic, the team has successfully rescheduled 248 events, worth over €190m for future years.
Ciara Gallagher, Meet in Ireland manager, explains: “By helping to get as many events as possible deferred, we were not only securing incoming business for Ireland when the pandemic passes, we were supporting a broader range of tourism businesses including accommodation and venues, by ensuring they had a business case to access financial supports they might need to sustain their business in the short term.”
Membership fees across Ireland’s five bureaux were waived for two years and webinars, sales platforms and virtual familiarisation trips enabled suppliers to keep in touch with the market.
In June 2020 Ireland established a Business Tourism Recovery Taskforce (BTRT), to develop a plan to help rebuild the Irish business events market. This is a group chaired by the CEO of the Convention Centre Dublin with representation from Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Tourism, Convention Bureau of Ireland and various business tourism trade associations.
The BTRT’s four key programmes of work are as follows:
• Business survival and rebooting the business tourism sector
• Driving competitiveness
• Driving conversions
• Driving lead generation
Under these pillars, Meet in Ireland developed a suite of practical and financial support, including a tripling of financial aid for each international visitor, with funding to assist with virtual site inspections and, when the time is right to travel again, in-person site inspection.
There is also funding to help PCOs, DMCs or Conference Ambassadors cover the cost of developing digital assets such as video or content creation.
Meet in Ireland’s free virtual sales platforms have given 230 Irish industry partners the opportunity to reach 2,200 international meeting planners and, in 2021, the national CVB helped 150 Irish trade opportunities to virtually meet influential meeting planners in core markets via a series of virtual events.
There are also temporary schemes to support Irish-based DMCs and PCOs in their efforts to retain and develop their business pipeline were provided. A ‘Business Continuity Scheme’ successfully distributed €10m to 97 Irish-based inbound agents, and a Destination Development Fund assists with lead generation activities, with support of up to €6,000 available per applicant for DMCs.
A Compensation Scheme is in place to assist with costs incurred for international business events which were cancelled or postponed and where the association or client is unable to pay for work completed.
A revamped planner’s toolkit section is soon to be launched on the Meet in Ireland website, including digital assets.
A capital investment scheme is supporting the development of up to seven Gala Dinner Venues in Ireland’s Business Tourism hubs, and a Dublin City Charter for International Conferences and Events is in the pipeline which will outline a citywide approach to welcoming business tourism visitors, as well as laying out the various supports available to international planners bringing events to Dublin.