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The Macao SAR Government supports the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry here and has launched a series of measures to help develop the industry with a view to making Macao’s economy more diverse.

These support measures have achieved encouraging results in recent years with an increasing number of international meetings being held in Macao, which has seen the city’s MICE industry continue to rise in the global rankings. In line with the Government’s strategy of prioritising conventions, industry insiders think they see bright prospects. They say the city could become a major MICE destination in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ranking rising

In the recently published International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) annual statistics and rankings for 2016, the MICE industry here showed several improvements. Macao climbed to 72 in the worldwide city ranking, after appearing at 93 in 2015, being in the global top 100 for two consecutive years. In the Asia-Pacific region, the city was placed 17th in 2016, up four places from the previous year.

The association is the world’s foremost conference organisation. It has stringent requirements for assessment, only recognising meetings organised regularly by an international association or institution in rotation in three or more countries and regions with no less than 50 participants. There were 37 international meetings held in Macao in 2016 that were recognised, the highest number of events recognised by the association in Macao and an increase of nine events from 2015.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Macao Convention and Exhibition Association, Alan Ho, says the industry is still adapting to the momentum of the growing industry. The latest ranking shows that the city only trails Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai in the list of the Greater China region, an encouraging sign for the industry. In the next five years, the city could become a top 10 Asia-Pacific destination.

The Government has implemented its strategy to prioritise conventions in recent years. It has proved to be a boost to the MICE industry, says Mr Ho, adding that the “One-Stop Service for MICE Bidding and Support” – a service provided by the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) – has offered all-round support for convention and exhibition organisers that are interested in hosting events here.

The “One-Stop Service for MICE Bidding and Support” has helped the city attract large international meetings, including the Worldwide Chinese Life Insurance Congress and International Dragon Awards that drew more than 7,200 participants; the 9th ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia, attended by more than 6,000 people from more than 50 countries and regions; and the 2017 Asia Pacific Dental Federation Congress.

Macao climbed to 72 in the worldwide city ranking from the ICCA

Macao climbed to 72 in the worldwide city ranking from the ICCA

Macao climbed to 72 in the worldwide city ranking from the ICCA

Macao climbed to 72 in the worldwide city ranking from the ICCA

Source: Macao Statistics and Census Service

Source: Macao Statistics and Census Service

Source: Macao Statistics and Census Service

Source: Macao Statistics and Census Service

Supporting measures

Aside from the constant improvements made to the “One-Stop Service for MICE Bidding and Support”, IPIM has also overseen support programmes dedicated to the MICE industry since 2016.
Since assuming responsibility in 2016 for the implementation of the Convention and Exhibition Stimulation Programme and the International Meeting and Trade Fair Support Programme, which had been overseen by the Macao Economic Services, IPIM has worked with the industry to revise both, taking into consideration the industry’s needs. IPIM has improved the subsidies procedure for eligible buyers at events, revised the number of hours needed for meetings to be eligible for subsidies and altered the subsidies for catering and meeting packages.

The changes have had a positive impact on the MICE industry and encouraged organisers to bid for more ICCA-recognised meetings, says Mr Ho. IPIM also co-ordinates delegations that industry partners may join and participate in the MICE events that are held in Mainland China and elsewhere. IPIM seizes every opportunity to brief others about the advantages of hosting meetings and exhibitions in Macao, he says.

Looking ahead, Mr Ho says, to develop the MICE industry, emphasis should be given to the quality of the events arranged, following the strategy of giving priority to conventions. Event organisers should arrange exhibitions with unique characteristics and continue to hold good, novel trade shows to support the development of their industry.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Macao Convention and Exhibition Association, Alan Ho

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Macao Convention and Exhibition Association, Alan Ho

The numbers mount

Macao Statistics and Census Service data indicate that 1,276 MICE events were held here in 2016, nearly 25 percent more than in 2012, and the number of participants and attendees at these events was 1.72 million, 6.8 percent more than in 2012.

The number of meetings and conferences with 200 participants or more increased by 27.9 percent in year-on-year terms to 197 events in 2016, while the number of participants almost doubled to about 123,000 people, leading to a 49.2 percent growth in meetings and conferences participants in 2016.

Jochen Witt Consulting Senior Adviser Gerd Weber says you can clearly see that jurisdictions that have a government that recognises the importance of the MICE industry, and that supports the industry, have much better success.

Macao has begun to do this, as evidenced by the setting up of a dedicated immigration counter for participants at the 13th China Expo Forum for International Co-operation (CEFCO 2017) held in the city earlier this year. The changes could help Macao create a positive image as a MICE destination, says Mr Weber.

He says with service standards similar to Las Vegas and close ties with Europe and Portugal. Macao’s convention and exhibition industry possesses great development potential in the Pan-Pearl River Deltaregion. “The city is a melting pot, and it has its own qualities, but you have to promote them to the outside world and show to the people that you are different and maybe even better,” he says.

Jochen Witt Consulting Senior Adviser, Gerd Weber

Jochen Witt Consulting Senior Adviser, Gerd Weber