MICE tourism important for Bhutan’s economy 

One tourism sector that was gaining popularity in Bhutan before the COVID-19 pandemic was MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) tourism.  The MICE segment is important because of the potential it has for boosting the economy, apart from other reasons that have a direct link with the economic impact.

According to MICE tourism operators in the country, the greatest hindrance in operating MICE tourism is infrastructure, such as hotels, some of which do not have enough rooms. “As we are not able to accommodate all the people who come to attend the conference or meetings in the same hotels, it makes it inconvenient and not a very friendly environment for the visitors having to travel to their stay hotel to the place of meetings,” one of the MICE tour operators in the country said.

Meanwhile, studies say that among the components of price factor influencing the choice of the MICE venue by consumers, the main components include organizations’ budget allocations, ongoing promotions, cost of the venue and flexible payment terms.

“Due to the benefits of MICE tourism like helping build reputation for the country, open business opportunities, it was for long a part of the Tourism Industry’s priority. Bhutan is a perfect venue,” another tour operator said, adding that the economic impact is huge.

In terms of other benefits, Tandin, formerly in the tourism industry said MICE tourist spends more than a traditional tourist. “They may be traveling for business purposes, but based on what a destination has to offer, they will extend their stay,” he said, adding there cannot be a better marketing strategy than MICE. “When large international symposiums are attended by hundreds or thousands of delegates the destination gets a place on the world map. And once a destination proves its capabilities, others will follow suit,” he said.

Meanwhile, owner of Heavenly Bhutan, one of the tour operators in the country, said that he had just started exploring MICE tourism with positive outcomes when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 

 “In 2019, I organized around 20 MICE events, and after the pandemic, there has been none. However, inquiries are coming in,” he said. 

“The challenges in MICE tourism after the pandemic are not completely due to the revised tourism policy. There is no problem with the money as all the expenses are borne by the organizing company. But some of the challenges are high flight ticket fares, fewer flight frequencies and flight carrying capacity, as well as hotel room capacity,” he said. 

He added that guests who opt for weddings in Bhutan after seeing the natural ambiance of the place do not have any problem paying the big amount, but due to low flight seating capacity, fewer flight frequencies, and fewer hotel rooms, their guests face difficulties.

  According to old records (before the pandemic) of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, now known as the Department of Tourism (DoT), in the MICE industry, 77.09% of visitors came for culture and festivals, 9.25% for trekking, 5.30% for bird watching, 3.11% for textile, 4.19% for adventure, and 1.06% for spiritual and wellness.

With the tourism sector in the country trying its best to promote tourism, MICE tourism is also on the agenda. The DoT’s chief marketing officer said, “MICE will continue to be one of the important segments of tourism in the country, and efforts will be made to promote MICE tourism.”

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu