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Mice Asia Net : July 2008
“There has been some fall in delegate numbers for international conferences planned from long haul destinations (which could be due to) rising oil prices which in turn raise air ticket prices,” Ms Yeo said. Mr Kinnane adds that as a result of rising fuel surcharges imposed on long-haul travellers, he would be more inclined to concentrate on short-haul markets into China (and domestic China business) and Macau, and make better use of materials he uses to decorate his events. “We will also look a lot more closely at the re-use of goods we use such as production and décor items or just using stock items rather than customising lavish sets to contain margins and profit, if the client is happy with this to contain their costs,” he said. Pacific World’s Mr Guy says containing costs for both clients and his own business will force savvy MICE industry leaders to once again look at the way they conduct their business. Asia has been through many crises in the past 11 years - from the 1997 currency crunch, SARS, bird flu, terrorist attacks and many natural disaster tragedies the MICE industry has been able to adapt to these serious issues to keep moving forward. Rising oil costs will be another of these challenges that the industry will have to evolve with. “To me, higher prices for petroleum products are and will likely remain a ‘fact of life’ in the future,” Mr Guy adds. “We believe that it is very important to both continue to travel and plan responsibly to, where ever possible, reduce or minimise impact on the environment. I believe that this will move from ‘nice to have’ to ‘essential to have’ elements in meetings and events programme design in future. “We are a transport operator providing vans and coaches directly as part of programmes for our meeting and event planner customers. Our project managers are looking at ways to reduce the use of ground transport via using shuttle services as opposed to keeping coaches on standby.” Exotissimo Travel Group’s Mr Keith agrees that ground transportation costs are increasing and having an impact on his business. Like Offsite Connections, Exotissimo Travel Group will also target its short-haul markets as more regional companies look to keep flight distances and times to a minimum. “Costs are increasing across the board, particularly transportation costs. This is certainly a big concern for Exotissimo and we are very worried about the impact on 2009 and beyond,” Mr Keith adds. “Oil prices and inflation in Asia are the most serious problems we are facing in the medium- and long-term. In order to counter the oil price factor it is important to focus on short haul markets rather than traditional long-haul markets. “Inflation in Indochina has so far been countered by the weak dollar and has not yet reached worrying heights in Thailand. However, it is clear that our destinations are becoming more expensive so it becomes our job as destination management companies to position our countries as high-quality and high-value destinations – which they certainly can be.” The KLCC’s Mr Brokenshire finishes by saying the corporate world will still have to meet for face-to-face events, but once again like past crises in Asia, the MICE industry has the talent to change and adapt and no doubt it will have to once more with the oil issue as well. “Challenges faced in the past few years, such as the September 11 incident, the Bali bombings and SARS epidemic have shown that the MICE industry is extremely resilient,” he says. “In fact, what resulted from this are savvier companies reviewing what meetings need to be attended and who needs to attend such meetings. “The underlying factor remains, there is a need to attend meetings as the networking opportunities are too great to miss out. We believe this will keep numbers at meetings at an encouraging level.” So while the industry is preparing for increasing oil prices having a detrimental affect on the business, there seems to be little immediate effect on delegate numbers this year. However, it has been flagged as an issue of concern and those in the industry with the foresight to make plans to deal with the challenge should continue to prosper. miceAsia.net 5