What skill sets are needed for those working in the MICE industry? What is being done in Asia to meet the challenges? Donald Gasper looks at examples in India and Hong Kong.

“Seeing the fast development in the skills set required by event managers today, universities won’t be able to cope with such speed to equip students with latest trends to kick start their career in the events industry. They give a solid foundation to start with, but this has to be reinforced with extra curriculum activities to stay competitive and be employable.” – The MICE Blog

India is an example of a country which is paying a great deal of attention to MICE – Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (or Meetings, incentives, conventions and events) – and therefore to the development of MICE skills.

Human Software is ‘the key to success’ when it comes to MICE,’ says MICE Indiaa, India’s digital MICE Industry magazine. “Every guest-facing individual is an ambassador, who is expected to deliver exactly in tune with the group corporate philosophy, every time. And to deliver it consistently, regular soft-skill training and up-gradation is imperative.

More specifically in the Services Industry, Hospitality, Business Travel and MICE, training is fundamental for growth and development.Technically, training involves change in attitude, skills or knowledge of a person with resultant improvement on the behaviour.”

India is already poised to be the world’s fastest-growing outbound MICE tourism market, according to a recent report which forecasts the country will generate more than 20 million tourists by 2020.

Now India is striving to position itself also as a destination for inbound MICE tourism. “It has a lot of MICE infrastructure, some still underutilised,” writes Ashkay Kumar in Travel Trends Today. “Today, India is very well equipped to cater to this segment, yet we have not been able to completely tap its potential.”

“It is important to remember that the MICE industry is one of the fastest growing segments within the tourism industry in India,” says Julia Tham, general manager, Mercure Lavasa and Lavasa International Convention Centre in Pune, quoted by the same magazine. “The prospects for the MICE industry are bright as the economy has started picking up. As the economy improves, the demand for exhibitions, meetings and events is going to increase leading to exponential growth.

To help India harness its full MICE potential it is necessary to plug challenges like finding and retaining skilled manpower believes Tham: A major challenge for the entire industry is skill development and talent retention. MICE is a very specialised and niche business and requires a lot of highly skilled manpower, which at the moment is difficult to procure in India.

Speaking about the challenges Gorav Arora, Director of Sales & Marketing, Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre & HICC, says in Travel Trends Today: “Hospitality is a highly dynamic industry and employee turnover is one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces today. Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre and Hyderabad International Convention Centre attract a large number of MICE guests and business travellers. For us, one of the major challenges is getting the skilled employees and retaining them with the company. Both international and national visitors travelling for MICE events have a specific set of requirements as they come for different nature of events. To serve these guests up to their satisfaction level, making their stay and meetings at the property a memorable and flawless experience, demands a proactive understanding and a greater skill set at employee front. Hence to bring such talent into the company and train them as per AccorHotels’ service standard is imperative. With growing opportunities in the industry it becomes a challenge to find good resources and retain them.”

Knowledge and core skills

“Knowledge and core skills are important for an event planner,” says Vivian Chan, programme manager (Event Management) at Hong Kong’s International Culinary Institute (ICI). “In our curriculum, we provide event management students with knowledge on event planning and coordination, presentation and communication, operations and control, customer services, etc. To widen their exposure, we constantly arrange different kinds of visits to local indoor and outdoor events for them to observe, explore and see how industry experts manage events of different styles and scales.”

“To lay a solid foundation for their core skills as future event professionals, we believe in practice and hands-on experience for our event students.”

Core skills, Chan says, include communications skills, time management skills, being well organised and detailed-oriented.

“In addition, we aim to develop their EQP – Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Passion,” says Chan. “They have to learn to be patient, flexible and they have to enjoy and celebrate the success of their events. Managing events includes a lot of last minute changes, frustrations and unpredictable scenarios. You can hardly teach students all the possible cases and how to manage and react under a stressful situation in a timely manner. Only with a high EQ and being passionate with what one does, will one be able to tackle events in the ever-changing MICE industry.”