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Goa is good for MICE business but it must maintain its essence: GMs Conclave

The GMs Conclave panel discussion at the 36th edition of Express Food & Hospitality Expo, threw light on the opportunities and shortcomings of promoting Goa as a MICE destination
By Akshay Nayak

The Goa edition of Express Food & Hospitality Expo conducted the GMs Conclave, which discussed trends, drivers and opportunities in the Goa hospitality industry for the MICE segment. The panel discussion was titled, ‘Goa as a MICE market’. The esteemed panelists included Gaurav Apte, GM, Goa Marriott Resort & Spa; Pracilo D’silva, GM, Resort Rio; Ranju Singh, Complex GM, Novotel Goa Shrem & Novotel Goa Resort and Spa; Shridhar Nair, GM, The Leela Goa; Hasanullah, GM, Lemon Tree Beach Amarante Goa; Cajetan Araujo, GM, W Goa; Rajendran Menon, GM, The Zuri White Sands Goa Resort & Casino; Rajeev Kumar, GM, The Fern Kadamba; Rajesh Malliya, GM, Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa; Victor Soares, Sr GM, Radisson Blu Resort Goa Cavelossim Beach and Gagan Sharma, GM, Lemon Tree Hotel Candolim, Goa.
Starting the panel discussion, Nair remarked, “It is true that Goa has seen a tremendous growth in MICE segment since the past 8-10 years. MICE has been 35 per cent for us and we are expecting it to cross the 42 per cent mark in our business. We now have plans to expand the MICE facilities to cater to the whole segment. Goa gets about seven to eight per cent of business and we are expecting it to grow at 11-12 per cent. We want go increase the share of MICE.”
Apte remarked that they have upped their focus on the MICE market. “At Goa Marriott Resort and Spa, India’s first Marriott hotel, we were making 25 per cent from MICE market last year, and have taken efforts to achieve 38-39 per cent of business from MICE segment this year. It is no more true that MICE is price conscious,” he said.
Sounding similar views of witnessing boost in business by MICE markets over the past five years, Menon said that his hotel used to receive 20 per cent of the business from MICE, which has now gone up to 40-44 per cent. He further added, “Previously, MICE was only seen as an off-season segment in Goa but that is not the case now.” Another five years down the line, weddings and MICE as a segment will account for the majority business segment for the hotel, he remarked.
He further added the result of the general elections 2019 will have an impact on the hospitality industry in Goa. Speaking about the importance of MICE to Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa, Malliya said, “Earlier we had a share of only 12-15 per cent of the MICE market, but with the rebranding and putting in new facilities for MICE in the hotel, in just three months since the opening of India’s second Hyatt Centric property, the brand’s MICE business is predicted to be around 28 per cent. MICE plays an important role for us.”
D’silva said, “With the decreasing charter business and increasing discounts offered by OTAs, MICE is the segment that needs to be
focussed upon in Goa.”  “Ours being a business hotel, 70 per cent of the business comes from MICE,” informed Kumar.

Infra still remains farfetched
Hasanullah remarked that the whole of Goa market still lacks the infrastructure required to to host MICE segments. “South Goa has a lot of potential for this segment considering the supply and amenities of services provided to the guests,” he said.
Nair mentioned that as compared to the global MICE destinations, Goa still has a long way to go in which a dedicated international airport, better transport connectivity, and also a large convention centre, have important roles to play. A Public Private Partnership (PPP) to build a convention centre would go a long way in Goa. The government is cognizant about the shortcoming, but some involvement from the private sector as well is required.
Apte added to his point stating that a sharing airport with defence forces accounts for no peak hour morning flights to Goa which becomes difficult for hotels to set the check-in and check-out timing for the guests. Hence, a dedicated airport is needed. He also questioned that with road connectivity being so expensive and despite the Goa Miles app coming in, is it effective enough for the guests? Having one more airport will definitely ease out the pressure.
For Singh, power supply is also an important aspect to look at because the Goa market has long durations of load-shedding due to which they have to bear the costs of maintaining a generator that runs for 5-6 hours. Hence, power and road connectivity is critical, he reiterated.

Essence of Goa needs to be preserved
Suggesting ways to promote Goa as a MICE destination, all the GMs hailed that there should be a right balance between infrastructural development and preserving the heritage of the destination, because outright modernisation would put the age-old essence of Goa at risk of disappearing.
Soares feels that MICE is all good from the business perspective, but it must be done whilst retaining the age-old charm of Goa.
Agreeing with him, Araujo remarked, “We have to be mindful about promoting the state. We need to able to sustain what Goa was, is and should be. We need to know that if it loses its charm, it will be like another Tier-II destination.”
Nair also voiced similar views, “With all the infrastructural development, we should not forget that Goa must retain its heritage charm.” “With so much of cultural heritage and 52 beaches in Goa, I think we need to preserve its essence,” added Apte.
Infrastructure is working but modernisation is something that will kill the essence of the destination, concluded Singh.

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