Did you know that around 25% of travel is accounted for by business trips? This figure hints at the true dimension of a type of tourism, MICE tourism, destined to be one of the backbones of the service sector worldwide.
What does MICE tourism consist of? What impact does it have on Spanish tourism? What are its main characteristics and what direction is it taking in a future marked by digitalisation and a virtual environment? Let us take a look.
What is MICE tourism and what do its initials stand for ?
MICE tourism is any tourism related with business trips for meetings, incentives, corporate events, seminars, congresses… the principal element is the motivation of those in the world of work by shifting from one location to another.
The initials MICE refer to four concepts: Meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions, which make up the group of activities (or some of them) which form part of this type of business tourism.
Types of MICE events
Although we have already spoken extensively about the types of MICE events in the article on types of corporate events, it is useful to review certain particularities of each one.
- Meetings: Referring to work meetings. This includes not only large corporate events but also small business meetings which require a change of location of one of the parts: board meetings, shareholder meetings, gala dinners, team building actions…
- Incentives: Incentive trips, travel packages which companies offer to their workers as part of their remuneration for reaching certain targets. They are, in short, just prizes or benefits which workers obtain as a compensation for good work, the development of a project, reaching certain targets or a sale or contract which is advantageous for their company.
- Conferencing : Refers to conferences, professional meetings where a specific topic is dealt with through presentations by authorities on the subject under discussion and which also implies an exchange of ideas among the attendees. Within this section, we can include actions such as press conferences, conferences or seminars.
- Exhibitions: Professional exhibitions aimed at a particular collective, which have as their objective to show a product, service or idea to a professional or private public which may be interested. In this facet, presentations of products or services, showrooms, roadshows or fairs could be included.
Different activities for business trips : examples
As we are already familiar with the most important aspects of business tourism, let us see examples of what the most common activities and principal motives are for business trips in Spain.
- Meetings with partners, clients or workers
- Attending corporate events related with the worker´s activity (congresses, seminars, fairs, showrooms…)
- Training, exchange of expertise or networking among workers of the same sector.
- Benefit trips connected with the corporate social responsibility of the company.
- Incentive trips as a reward for an emplyee carrying out his or her professional activity.
- Travel with the aim of establishing commercial relationships, negotiations with suppliers or capturing investment opportunities
- Visits to branch offices or headquarters of the company.
Characteristics of Business Tourism
Due to the fact that it is a very particular model of tourism, MICE tourism has certain singularities which deserve to be taken into account to understand its dimension and how it may impact on the global tourism sector.
- Mice is non-seasonal tourism: Mice tourism has the particularity that it is organised every month of the year. In fact, due to its close link to the working world, it is probably during the summer (global tourism peak season) when the MICE sector intensity falls. This is vitally important for the tertiary sector as it balances out the marked seasonality in leisure tourism, by generating activity all year round.
- It generates a 30% higher average spend per visitor than conventional tourism. Although in absolute terms , leisure tourism generates greater dividends, the MICE traveller spends more, in spite of the fact that the average stay is far shorter, as we will see here.
- The average stay is two days: The MICE tourism traveller has an average stay of four days (2019 figures), similar to the average stay of the events. This contrasts with the average stay of the leisure tourist which is a little more than seven days.
- Generation of alternative job positions: Just as with conventional tourism, MICE tourism generates an important source of jobs which however differ slightly from those fomented by traditional tourism. In the case of MICE sector trips, the direct job opportunities created are those of event planners and all profiles related with set design, audiovisuals, catering and restaurant services, passenger transport, translators etc.
- Support for the promotion of particular tourist destinations which opt for specialization in business tourism.This type of corporate tourism can be a substantial source of income for certain cities and towns which aim for tourists centred on the MICE sector, with their urban and commercial growth based on this premise.
History of Business tourism
The globalised world in which we live, together with our current ecosystem where huge companies with an international presence emerge can make us think that business tourism is a recent phenomenon. This is far from true. In fact, commercial travel and MICE events go back to the Middle Ages.
In that era, commercial travel was common for the promotion and sale of agricultural or technological products ( technology understood as that of the epoch ), already making a clear professional distinction between the artisan and the commercial world.
This type of commercial relationship gave rise in the Middle Ages, to fairs and exhibitions of products in which movements of the population were already happening for trading purposes.In fact, some of the great fairs we know today internationally, have their origins in these old agricultural and livestock fairs
The arrival of industrialization favoured this type of commercial tourism thanks to the improvement in transport, which also fomented commercial links based on importation and exportation of products abroad
Nowadays, the MICE sector is in full swing.
Commercial tourism in figures
As we will see in the following section, the reality of business tourism from 2020 has suffered a setback as a result of the Covid 19 health crisis.Although 2023 is forecast to be the year when there is a return to the previous figures, 2019 and before can give us a clear indication as to the importance of business tourism in Spain.
Annual figures of international tourists visiting Spain for work reasons.
- 2016: 4.67 millions of tourists
- 2017: 4.72 millions of tourists
- 2018: 5.02 millions of tourists
- 2019: 5.41 millions of tourists
Spanish cities with most business tourism
Let us now make a brief review of the Spanish geography to know which are currently the cities with the most business tourism in Spain. As you will imagine, Madrid and Barcelona are at the top of the ranking.
- Madrid is currently the Spanish city which leads the ranking for hotels ( 6.9%) and flights ( 89%). The privileged geographical situation of the Spanish capital favours the mobility of its visitors as well as offering a great number of facilities dedicated to this purpose.
- Barcelona is the second city in the Spanish league table with the most business tourists. Hotel bookings represent 3.4% and flights 5.9%, due to the concentration of technology and communications companies, and also cutting edge companies in biotechnology, energy and aeonautics among others.
- The Andalusian towns of Seville and Malaga also provide interesting figures in this sector. The south of Spain is to be found in third position as host to national business travel thanks to its emerging economy over the last few years.
- In recent years, a change of trend has been perceived in these types of events towards places which offer a pleasant climate, seeking warm climates which allow this type of MICE events to be held year round. In addition, a well established tourist offer such as that of the Spanish islands, or coastal regions like Valencia or the Costa Blanca (Alicante) in the Valencian Community can be enjoyed.
The future of MICE tourism
Having recovered from the harshest phase of the worldwide pandemic, MICE tourism looks forward to recovering the 2019 figures in the year 2023.However, an adjusted vision of the global economy and distant events could modify certain habits which MICE tourism had been developing.
Now a more important role is being taken on in MICE tourism by the possibility of staging hybrid events which combine face to face and digital components (also pending the development of the metaverse as a far more down to earth idea than the current one) and a greater awareness of the worker in matters such as safety, health and sustainability.