By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo and Maya M. Padillo, Correspondents
A ROADMAP for the meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) sector was launched in January 2018, providing a program for its development as a major contributor to the tourism industry.
Under the plan, MICE — listed in the National Tourism Development Plan as one of the Department of Tourism’s (DoT) priority products — is eyed to generate P24.4 billion by 2030, almost five times the P4.6 billion recorded in 2016.
Two cities, Iloilo in the Visayas and Davao in Mindanao, are aiming to be major players in the sector with their respective public-private alliances ramping up initiatives to become known as MICE hubs.
The two are vying to host next year’s Philippine MICE Conference (MICECON), which was held last year in Bacolod City and is on this week at the capital.
MICECON, organized by the DoT’s Tourism Promotions Board, is the biggest gathering of stakeholders with discussions on industry trends as well as marketing and sales opportunities. The 2020 host is expected to be announced Oct. 23.
Earlier this month, Iloilo formally launched its “Meet you in Iloilo” campaign, a P50-million program specifically targeted to promote the city as a MICE destination.
“Iloilo is primed to be the next convention center or MICE destination in the (Western Visayas) region. Iloilo has proven itself an ideal site or city for MICE growth, given the city’s seamless infrastructure, ranging from its gateways both airports and seaports to wide highways and modern business parks,” DoT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said during the launching ceremony.
“Iloilo has already successfully hosted both Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) events within the last four years as well as other local and regional medium to large-scale conventions,” she noted.
City Tourism Officer Junel Ann T. Divinagracia said MICE participants accounted for more than 50% of the 1.24 million total visitor arrivals in 2018.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon, one of the main movers in the development of the Iloilo Convention Center, said his hometown is ready to become a tourism and convention center outside the capital.
“We have been doing preparations for years and now this is a celebration of the efforts of both the public and the private sectors to really put Iloilo where it deserves to be. You spread out tourism not only in Manila but also outside, the provinces because we need to generate employment,” Mr. Drilon said at the launch.
The Meet you in Iloilo campaign will be under the care of the Iloilo MICE Alliance Core Group, composed of representatives from various tourism sectors.
“One thing we can assure you, when you put your meetings and incentives here in Iloilo City, we will come in and prepare and collaborate with you to provide you with seamless service,” said Cleofe C. Albiso, general manager of Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo and chairman of the MICE group.
Ms. Romulo-Puyat vowed support to the program, saying: “The DoT will see this campaign and program through supporting the leadership of the Iloilo MICE Alliance.”
In Davao, a MICE program with the slogan “Let’s Meet in Davao” was introduced by the DoT back in 2011, and the current Davao MICE Board is working to revive and strengthen this campaign.
Win or lose in the 2020 MICECON bid, City Tourism Operations Officer Generose D. Tecson said they are working closely with the MICE Board to grow the sector.
She said the city government is putting in P30 million into the program, which does not include the funding from the private sector and the DoT.
“We are going to strengthen our incentives that we are offering to those organizers who will hold their conventions here in Davao… there should (also) be an incentive for various sectors of the tourism industry, especially the accommodation sector,” Ms. Tecson said in an interview.
Ken V. Kapulong, general manager of Seda Abreeza and co-chair of the Davao MICE executive committee, said while they are facing very tight competition from Iloilo City and Clark, he believes Davao is has the overall capacity and capability to host big events.
“I think our best gauge is the preparedness and the capacity of the city,” he said, noting that MICE destinations is not just about convention facilities and accommodations, but also the auxiliary services as well as leisure activities and tourism sites that are on offer.
“We are optimistic because we’ve gone to other conventions in other parts of the country and we can say that we are very much at par if not some of our activities are better than how they are presented in other places,” Ms. Tecson said.