Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board (IAB) has presented a report to the City Municipal Executive recommending a bolder approach to MICE industry marketing.
The IAB is an advisory council made up of international experts from the MICE industry and other sectors and was asked to examine and report on the key steps needed to ensure a strong and future-proof MICE ecosystem in Rotterdam. Front of mind were value for the MICE customer and the city, sustainability and technological developments.
The clear brief was that the city needed a clear vision of how to use sustainability and technology to create economic, social and environmental value for both the organisers and visitors of MICE industry events.
A sustainable impact strategy, new partnerships between different cities and a city-wide and distinctive MICE brand strategy must be considered when implementing the new vision, the IAB report has advised.
Attracting conferences and business events is important for the Rotterdam economy and the pandemic has hit the sector hard. The report was commissioned to help the city assist the transformation of its MICE industry, taking into account the impact on the climate and the digitisation of events and conferences.
Eight international experts took part in a five-day virtual IAB conference to lay the foundations for the report.
IAB findings and recommendations
The IAB said it expected physical events to remain important after the pandemic. However, the experts predicted that live events would most likely have a more national or regional focus and physical events may decrease in visitor numbers. The report added that digital and hybrid events would also have a place in the future of the industry due to the benefits they bring: more cost-effective, more sustainable and the ability to reach a larger and more diverse audience. The visitor may also become more selective in attending events and look for a better overall experience, both for online and physical events. Besides offering high quality content, it is essential that the event experience is engaging and surprising for the visitor. Technological innovations play a major role in facilitating this.
The report delivered these four main practical recommendations for Rotterdam:
- Drive sustainable change with an integral impact strategy in co-creation with city stakeholders
Rotterdam should develop a bold, outspoken, integral and sustainable impact strategy for the MICE industry, in co-creation with relevant partners in the city, with a long-term vision that is aligned with the city’s ambitions in the terms of circularity, energy transition, climate change and a healthy city.
- Leverage technology to enable an optimal user journey
Using advanced technology and digital platforms, Rotterdam should aim to offer an optimal user experience that matches the needs and motivations of visitors. This means a shift from a functional to a more human-focused experience. Digital and physical events should be combined into one continuous international user journey.
- Transform existing business models and integrate new collaborative models
To create sustainable value for the MICE sector, Rotterdam should look for new partnerships at an international, national and local level. Stakeholders should form a strategic MICE alliance to work on a cohesive MICE strategy for the city. The city should also consider collaborations with competing destinations and facilitate relevant crossovers between locations, stakeholders and residents in the city and beyond. It is crucial to quantify the economic impact of the MICE industry for Rotterdam, directly and indirectly.
- Develop a unique brand strategy for the MICE industry focusing on Rotterdam’s strengths
Rotterdam should use a city-wide and consistent marketing communication approach to present itself in a distinctive way to the MICE clients worldwide. This involves translating the DNA, the innovative ecosystem and the sustainable economic ambitions of the city into value for the customer. Rotterdam should focus on niche sectors in which the city is at the forefront of innovation and set up specialised teams to attract relevant MICE events within these sectors.
The IAB conference is not the only project Rotterdam is using to investigate the future of the MICE industry. Rotterdam Partners previously launched the The Rotterdam Experiment. initiative, which tested innovative solutions within and outside the sector through a series of hybrid experiments.
The full IAB MICE sector report can be found here.
The chairman of this IAB is entrepreneur and investor Lars Crama (Innovators Inc). The other members are Bruce Redor (GainingEdge), Christina Caljé (start-up founder and investor), Guy Bigwood (The Global Destination Sustainability Movement), Joris Beerda (The Octalysis Group), Nick Morgan (We Are The Fair & We Are Placemaking), Patrick de Laive (TNW) and Senthil Gopinath (ICCA).