Power Panel: Should your TMC be booking your MICE?

As an increasing number of corporates begin to consolidate their travel and meetings spend into one portfolio, it makes sense that they have responded by launching specialist divisions and, in some instances, even separate companies, that focus specifically on MICE.

Cost savings are undoubtedly the main driver behind this move and this trend is already deeply entrenched in Europe and North America. A recent survey by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Cvent, polled 124 North American event planners and travel managers and found that the consolidation of travel, meetings and event programmes had grown 62% between 2015 and 2017, and by 2019, two-thirds of programmes would be fully consolidated if trends continued.

But to what extent has this trend taken hold in South Africa? We spoke to experts to find out.


The MICE expert’s perspective


Helen Brewer, director of the MICE Academy, says a major reason why SA corporates may be tempted to use their TMC is that the current situation of MICE handling by a PCO, or internally, is “usually a messy one with no clear communication or standard direction”.

She says this status quo can be seen clearly by the corporate proposals, or RFPs, she’s seen, which have shown a very limited understanding by corporates of how the MICE process operates. “From the very outset, the outcomes of the MICE undertaking are usually doomed,” says Brewer. “In this environment, while outsourcing to the corporate TMC is indeed possible, without clear guidance of due process there is a real possibility of the TMC being overwhelmed with the additional responsibility.”

To ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s crucial for corporates to ask their TMCs the right questions to ascertain whether they are up to the task. “The corporate should ask the TMC for an existing track record within various MICE subject matters, coupled with Continual Professional Development (CPD) programme credits and a scorecard provided by an independent source,” she says.

“For a successful MICE outcome between the corporate and the TMC, the bottom-line is to ensure there is two-way communication of the basic MICE elements in order to move forward confidently and successfully as a partnership in understanding the end goal.”


The association’s perspective

One of the main reasons corporate buyers are turning to TMCs to handle their MICE bookings is because it enables them to report holistically on their travel spend and ensure the TMC uses their corporate deals where applicable to achieve additional savings. This is according to Marcelle Ross, director: Operations for the GBTA SA, who adds: “Duty of care is critical, especially when booking MICE, so it makes sense that the same rules are applied, and this is easier when managed under one account.” 

However, she says, corporates may wish to separate the two portfolios and not have all their eggs in one basket. But, these days, adds Ross, many TMCs have a separate MICE department and if a corporate doesn’t have a large travel portfolio they tend to lump the two together. “At the end of the day, it boils down to people and systems that ensure a MICE programme is well managed. It’s the depth of the team’s experience that is most important,” says Ross.


The TMC’s perspective

Corporates do stand to benefit from using their TMC to handle all their group bookings – whether it be for business travel or for meeting and conferences though, says Mary Shilleto, ceo of Thompsons Travel. “TMCs are familiar with the culture of the corporate. We already know the travellers’ idiosyncrasies and which destinations and properties would suit their type of business.”

The same buying power that benefits corporates when it comes to negotiating room rates and airfares also comes into play with MICE bookings, and Shilleto says this is one of the main reasons corporates should use their TMC rather than try and handle things themselves. “At times, corporates try to manage their own groups to try and save money by going direct to properties or airlines, but group bookings can be laborious and intricate because of name changes and breakaways, so you need experts to manage the process,” she adds.

“We have been fortunate enough to grow this division in our business due to offering all these key requirements as specialised project managers to ensure a smooth process,” says Shilleto.

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