Nepal is a country known around the globe for its visual paradise with magnificent mountain ranges, diversified flora and fauna, thriving multi-ethnicity, rich cultures, and captivating sights. Nepal has a mammoth potential for growth for MICE Tourism. In this writing, I am going to explain how MICE tourism can contribute to the national economy of Nepal. If properly planned, MICE tourism can be a recovery plan for the post-pandemic tourism business in Nepal.
What Is MICE What is MICE? Simply put, it is business tourism. MICE stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events or Exhibitions. It is a sector of tourism that has witnessed rapid growth in recent years. We can understand it better with an example. Let’s say Apple plans to launch a new iPhone in the market through a public event targeting the Asian market and the location for the event is set to be Kathmandu, Nepal. Such a global event will attract media personnel, tech reviewers, and other interested people from all around the world to witness the launch of the new product. People attending the event will require accommodation, food catering, transportation, and other facilities during their stay. Additionally, post-event entertainment or vacation plans can also aid the tourism industry. Nepal is one of the most suitable countries to conduct MICE events given its vast list of benefactors. The first and foremost is the serene environment in which the country sits peacefully. Such natural beauty can refresh the body and mind. Moreover, the multitude of the finest dishes and cuisines (like thakali khana set) that the country has to offer coupled with an array of adventure activities like Trekking to the Everest base camp, bungee jumping, jungle safari in Chitwan National Park (UNESCO World Heritage site), paragliding in the Pokhara valley and mountain flights, etc. could be some post-event things-to-do. Now discussing the importance of MICE tourism for Nepal, perfect round-the-year weather, a very affordable cost of living, and the harmonious existence of various religions make Nepal a perfect spot to host the events safely and soundly. Not to mention the massive conference and exhibition spaces like the newly constructed exhibition centre in Godawari, Kathmandu city hall, Russian culture centre, Bhrikuti Mandap Exhibition Centre, and other many convention halls from private sectors including event halls in hotels are capable of handling hundreds of guests. The availability of qualified professionals to help with such events along with top-of-the-line IT facilities is a cherry on the cake. All these conditions show why Nepal is adaptable for MICE tourism. The development of MICE tourism is a very crucial aspect for the country's tourism industry as it acts as the driving force for ample industries associated with the same. With over 12 five-star hotels in the place and a few more under construction, a clear rise in infrastructure to cater to the anticipated demand can be witnessed. In terms of growth in the IT sector, over 70% of the total population as per the Nepal Telecommunication Authority MIS Report of 2020 are active internet users, and over 15,000 engineers added to the tally signifies the massive growth. According to world data analysis, the country also observed a 2% fall in 2019 in the unemployment rate which is a direct contribution of the tourism industry. A very interesting example of MICE tourism is from Singapore. MICE tourism is a key sector for Singapore's growth over the last 40 years. Nepal can also idealize Singapore's MICE tourism model and try to follow the same tracks to be successful in establishing a name for itself in this industry. The national tourism policy 2010 prepared by the Ministry of Tourism aims to encourage the opening of administrative offices of International Organisations in Nepal. The government policy also encourages organisations to organise conferences, meetings, events, and trade fairs in Nepal. If we look at the government’s efforts to promote MICE tourism in Nepal, there have been very few efforts so far. Few examples from the past include: A proposal to provide an income tax discount for travel trade entrepreneurs who bring in more than 5,000 tourists in 2020. During the Visit Nepal campaign, the Government of Nepal tried to encourage sports tourism. Though the tourism entrepreneurs suggested providing special cash grants for firms organising international sports events in Nepal, the government did not announce such direct cash incentives, but there were certain tax refund policies. to firms bringing 500 tourists at a time into the Kathmandu valley and 300 tourists elsewhere in the country. In the year 2011, grants of Rs. 500,000 were provided to any organiser holding interaction and MICE programs that involved over 100 foreign passport holders entering by Air into the country. Looking into the scope, MICE has the potential to significantly contribute to the country’s development and growth given the country’s infrastructure and resources. Nepal can benefit from its strategic position between the two giant economies, India and China, but due to the presence of only one international airport, incoming MICE tourists could face logistical issues. The two upcoming international airports at Bhairahawa and Pokhara give hope for the promotion of MICE tourism in Nepal. In the post-pandemic time, it is essential to restore the tourism industry. It seems the normal traditional tourism will take some more time to bounce back. MICE tourism can be hoped for reviving our tourism business. Also, such events require a lot of planning and security measures as a lot of big personalities. The safety and security of these people and smooth operations are a part of the responsibility of the hosting country. Marketing can also be a challenge to a small country like Nepal. Without making the world aware of the capabilities of the country to host small to large MICE events there will not be a significant increase in tourism. Monika Petra Scheiblauer, the General Manager of Hotel Yak and Yeti states, “With the increase in competition and competitors, the demand for targeted marketing is very important. Cultural marketing and religious marketing needs an extra push because the diversified culture itself is a fascinating element for foreigners”. Therefore, it is critical to properly market the right aspects to the right audiences. In conclusion, Nepal offers a tremendous amount of hotels, conference and seminar facilities, convention centres, etc. which takes it to the list of prime locations for MICE events. The ease of visa further boosts the country's capability to organize MICE events in South Asia. State-of-art MICE halls equipped with the latest technologies, well-trained human resources, and hospitable people can also upgrade the experience of MICE tourists. Moreover, suitable climatic conditions and naturally beautiful landscapes can increase the occurrence of such events. With over 2% employment generated and a 7.9% total contribution to the overall GDP, MICE tourism holds a significant value in the development of our country. With a few improvements in the infrastructure, safety, and security protocols, Nepal can soon be a great hosting candidate nation for many such events.
(Juhi is Kathmandu based freelance writer. She can be contacted at twittwe @juhi_adhikari)