Calls to Change an Industry Heard

The MICE (Meetings, Events, Conferences & Events) industry has long spoken of the need for change but Covid-19 has put an end to debate and finally driven the need for action. Be it a training session for ten employees or hundreds of delegates convening as an organisation, the planning, procurement and financial management has long been a time-consuming, manual and expensive process with transparency and compliance challenging at best for organisations.

Gone are the days when MICE budgets were secondary to the entertainment value of a creative, extravagant event at an exotic venue, today’s business priorities and requirements are changing as much as the industry has been hit hard by Covid-19. Professional Conference Organising companies (PCO’s) have been decimated as have the hotel and venues sectors. What remains of the once, profitable supply chains such as audio visual and catering companies remains to be seen?

The 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast published by American Express, predicted that in five to ten years there would be sophisticated tools to control rates, policies and preferred suppliers of MICE. The same report in 2021 suggested that more investment in technology would be beneficial to the industry and now health and safety or duty of care of one’s employees ranks as the number one issue.

So what technology exits and is readily available to South African companies to better manage their meetings & events planning, protocols and policies?

Much in the same way that in the past sales people largely went unmanaged, software’s such as ‘Salesforce’ and ‘Pipedrive’ now manage all aspects of the sales industry. Traditional corporate travel has long enjoyed sophisticated technology supplied by their large travel management companies (TMC’s) tracking and monitoring complex travel policies, the supply chain, rates, fees and overall expenditure. But why have companies remained so exposed due to a lack of technology in this sector? Large ERP’s such as ‘SAP’ and ‘Oracle’ tend to control the ordering, authorisation and expenditure of most services and products, but are not aligned nor offer sufficient flexibility to best manage the often fluid nature of MICE procurement. There are technology companies offering venue location databases, delegate management apps and basic requests for proposals, but to date none offer the primary considerations of health & safety, the training of meeting organisers post-Covid as many experienced planners have been redeployed of made redundant. The industry needs a full-stack solution to responsibly handle the re-emergence of meetings and events.

*Source: North American, European, South American and Asian Pacific Surveys by American Express 2020.

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