The City of Hyderabad has seen infrastructural development, rising room inventory and convention and exhibition spaces being set up across the city. At Express Food & Hospitality Expo Hyderabad, general managers of leading hotels in the city describe the roadmap for the destination as a MICE market
By Akshay Nayak
At the 38th edition of Express Food and Hospitality Expo held at Hitex Exhibition Centre, Hyderabad, the panelists at the GM’s Conclave on day one discussed on the topic “Hyderabad as MICE destination”, sharing invaluable insights about the evolution of the City of Nizams as a MICE destination and the hurdles and catalysts affecting the CAGR of the market. They also, unanimously, urged the state government to roll out the tourism policy soon and to promote Hyderabad as an ‘experiential MICE village’.
Going down memory lane, Reginald Corbett, regional manager Hyderabad & GM, Lemon Tree Premier Hitec City reminisced about the first convention held in 2001 by CII in Taj Krishna and Taj Residency, which also saw international participation and was a huge success. “Fast forward to now, with technology serving varied purposes like audio-visuals, laptops, acoustic systems, etc, MICE has come a long way in Hyderabad and India likewise. It has grown and we look forward to its growth in the forthcoming years too,” he added.
Ravi Khubchandani, GM, Novotel Hyderabad Airport also agreed that there has been a massive growth in the city’s MICE market with a CAGR of eight per cent. He said, “Hyderabad has witnessed a well-grounded growth. Also, what has kept Hyderabad as a key attraction for MICE is its connectivity and infrastructure to host sizeable conventions, and hence is also popularly known as the MICE capital of the country.”
Tejinder Singh, GM, ITC Kohenur, opined that since 2001, Hyderabad has seen a lot of positive things in terms of connectivity and destinations to visit. He went on to say, “Hyderabad is a good market for conferences and other scalable events. Infrastructurally it is getting better. The bigger players are moving to this market. HICC, Hitex and other convention centres have attracted a lot of hotel brands to enter the market. Also, there are good facilities for accommodation across various segments within the market. India doesn’t have a lot of luxury MICE. People here will always remain very competitive. But, our vision remains that we don’t compete for destination against destination. Hyderabad needs to have a unified marketing approach as ‘Destination Hyderabad’. The government has to pitch in. With the large airport, Hyderabad will see massive growth. Also, the heritage part of Hyderabad is still living and celebrated. We have seen what good companies like Taj has done with Falaknuma Palace, which has become a key attraction for the destination weddings market. The government is very friendly and open to talk business, but the only thing is that they need to promote Hyderabad as a tourist destination too.”
Hyderabad’s MICE muscle
While Corbett felt that the market has shown a positive growth year-on-year with organic growth in the MICE business, Khubchandani opined that the advent of more inventory is only going to make it robust. He explained, “MICE in Hyderabad has seen about eight per cent of healthy growth in the last few years. With the inventory now stabilising and with more inventory coming in, the city is now having a lot of convention centres of various sizes. Another thing that is helping us is the infrastructure growing at a very fast rate. A lot of hotel inventory coming up in the vicinity of convention centres is helping this market to prosper. The airport too is one of the finest ones. All these facilities will come together to show that we are going to have magic growth ahead.”
Singh, however, mentioned how, in spite of all the facilities in place, the potential MICE business which is always value-driven is moving out of Hyderabad to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Sri Lanka. “A large hotel with MICE facilities, allows a person to check the inventory of hundreds of rooms in one property; do everything there and hence cut the logistics. Once you can cut the logstics, you can spend more on the delegate. We lose a lot of business to Sri Lanka and other destinations due to the value proposition. Singapore or Hong Kong is in the vicinity with fly time to reach these destinations being just 2-4 hours. We need to have some world-class facilities and the state will have to look beyond Hyderabad. Also, there is need to develop some activity products and things to do for the leisure time of MICE guests. Hyderabad has a lot of potential. But the Char Minar is not the Taj Mahal and hence you cannot just show a picture of Char Minar and expect your guests to book their flights to Hyderabad. Kerala has completely transformed itself, likewise, we would want Telangana to transform itself.”
Experiential MICE village
Commenting on the role of the state government, Corbett suggested, “We have to create a kind of MICE village where the guests do not only attend meetings but also have facilities to relax, rejuvenate and immerse themselves in unique experience during their leisure time. It will go a long way for the Hyderabad market.”
Khubchandani agreed, “When somebody comes into Hyderabad, they find the least time to explore the city as they are usually spending time at the conventions and other MICE activities. So in that context, there is enough growth that can be achieved in this market, so the patron gets more experience in the city. The value proposition is, of course, the foremost thing. In this case, we have the leverage to capitalise on 10 per cent of the cost spent by the end-user on the MICE organiser, to add the experiential element to their business travel. We are constantly evolving.”
Also regarding the draft tourism policy proposed by the state government, Singh reminisced, “When we were entering the market, the tourism policy was just announced. A policy should have a good language. It should be known to everybody.” Corbett said that LTH is already working with HRATS to further prod the government about the tourism policy. “All our suggestions are being taken into consideration, and moving forward we expect it to roll out soon,” Corbett added.