The number of foreign tourists to Vietnam in the
first seven months of 2010 increased by 35 percent, but the MICE tourism market
segment has not yet fully recovered from the global financial crisis.
According to some travel firms, the situation has become much better than 2009,
when there were very few MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition)
tourists. However, most come from Asia, while the scale of tourist groups is
smaller. There were only several small group of European tourists whose trips to
Vietnam were gifts from big companies.
Bui Viet Thuy Tien, Managing Director of Asian Trails Company, noted that in
2009 MICE partners in Europe even refused price estimates, but now they are
asking about services and fees again, while some partners have booked seats.
“We began having MICE tourists in September, but the number of clients remains
modest,” Tien confirmed.
New World Saigon (NWS) has also reported improvement in MICE tourism. In 2009,
tourists from Singapore and Hong Kong “kept quiet”, but now they are returning.
However, like Asian Trails, the hotel observed that the scale of MICE tourists
is smaller. “Some groups of tourists stayed here for three nights and booked
only 50-100 rooms. Meanwhile, in previous years, we sometimes had groups that
booked 250 rooms at one time,” recalled Pham Van Liem, NWS Sales Director.
The Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre in HCM City reported that the centre
is fully booked for events in September, October and November.
Tran Van Hau, its managing director, maintained that business is better. He
hopes that the situation will be brighter in 2011, when many large-scale events
will take place, including the automobile, wood furniture and maritime
exhibitions, organized once every two years. Hau added that European partners,
one of their two main client sources, have asked for next year’s information.
After last year’s financial difficulties, MICE organizers have been trying to
cut expenses. Also, more orders placed just before departure have appeared,
actions that did not happen in the past.
According to Tien, MICE tours can no longer bring travel firms much higher
profits than normal tours. Partners always think very carefully before booking.
Tien explained that travel firms now can only hope to earn high profits from
providing special services to MICE tourists. For example, some MICE travelers
want to meet domestic economists or have dinner with special people. “With such
special requests, the service fee could be 2-3 times higher. However, these
requests do not come regularly.
Pham Mai Hoang Loc from Saigontourist remarked that, previously, partners
regularly ordered all kinds of services. However, they now only use some
services. For example, some ask Vietnamese travel firms to be in charge of event
organization and hotel booking, while they arrange air tickets themselves.
“This has certainly led to sharp cuts in the revenue of travel firms. In times
of economic difficulties, it is understandable that partners must tighten their
belts,” Loc conceded.
Meanwhile, travel firms have become accustomed to late orders. “Previously, we
did not accept tours booked only three weeks before departure time, but now we
do,” Loc revealed.
Traffic jams discourage MICE tourists
Travel firms said that it is necessary to alleviate the traffic jam problem to
better serve MICE tours.
Loc from Saigontourist recalled that the head of a tourist group got angry with
the travel firm because of … the traffic jam. A tailoring shop in Tan Binh
district could not deliver ao dais that were to be worn by the group at an
evening party. The shop’s staff left at 2pm, hoping to deliver the ao dais at 4
pm. However, they were two hours late because of a traffic jam.
Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon