MICE tourism: Revealing Vietnam’s Lucrative “Golden Market”

Experts in the field have observed a significant shift in Vietnam's MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) tourism sector, both in terms of quality and quantity.

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The number of MICE tourists has seen an increase during the first quarter of this year, according to local insiders.

 Duong Lam ancient village in Hanoi’s Son Tay Town is a favorite destination for foreign visitors to Vietnam. Photo: Bao Chung

Between January and March, Ben Thanh Tourist is estimated to have conducted MICE tours for over 8,000 domestic tourists within the two major cities of Hanoi and Cantho, as well as other provinces such as Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Phan Thiet, Bac Lieu, and Ben Tre.

Ben Thanh’s inbound MICE services have also experienced growth. Tran Phuong Linh, the Director of Marketing and Information Technology at Ben Thanh Tourist, shared that the company organized MICE tours for foreign guests from Thailand, South Korea, Japan, China, and other countries. The group sizes ranged from 200 to 400 guests.

“During the first quarter of this year, we recorded a growth of about 15% in MICE arrivals compared to the same period last year,” Linh said. She added, “Our MICE tourism market has performed strongly and exceeded the projected targets.”

MICE guests make up a significant portion of Vietluxtour Company’s customer base. In the first quarter of this year, the company saw a 35% year-on-year increase in guest numbers and revenues, thanks to thousands of new guests registering.

Tran The Dung, CEO of Vietluxtour, stated that out of the total number of domestic MICE tourists in the first quarter of 2024, 60% traveled by car and train, mostly on routes from Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet, Vung Tau, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Tuy Hoa, and from Hanoi to Ha Long, Sapa, Ninh Binh, and Sam Son. The average cost of a domestic MICE tour per guest is VND6 million (US$242.2).

Enhancing Quality

According to travel companies, MICE demand has significantly changed since Covid-19. Customers and companies are now interested in integrating and updating technological features in MICE products. In response, companies are focusing on improving their planning and tour design strategies.

Vietluxtour Company plans to strengthen customer care activities and optimize product quality to retain existing customers. The company also aims to increase its marketing activities, particularly online marketing, to reach potential MICE clients in the real estate, banking, and textile industries, which are expected to thrive this year.

The company will also increase its trade promotion activities through participation in trade shows and marketing efforts targeting potential source markets, especially in Asian countries.

Linh from Ben Thanh Tourist emphasized the need for high-quality service standards in MICE tourism due to the large number of guests and the combination of various activities within a single program, such as sightseeing, teambuilding, conferences, and gala dinners.

She stressed that companies must be well-prepared, particularly in selecting suppliers, infrastructure, and venues. Building a team of experienced and professional staff to meet customer needs is also crucial.

Exploring the Gold Market

  Australian tour operators visit One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi. Photos: Le Nam/ The Hanoi Times

According to the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism, MICE tourism has become a significant market that attracts interest and investment from countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and China. MICE tourism generates six times more revenue than conventional tourism and is considered a target segment within the tourism development strategy in Vietnam.

Local insiders believe that Vietnam, as a newcomer to the market, can learn from the experiences of other countries to professionalize and succeed in the segment. This can be achieved by capitalizing on natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and a rapidly developing hotel and resort system.

In early March, two Vietnamese cities received recognition at the 4th World MICE Awards held in Germany. Ho Chi Minh City was awarded Asia’s Best MICE Destination, while Hoi An was awarded Asia’s Best Corporate Retreat Destination.

Other Vietnamese representatives, including Vietnam Airlines as Asia’s Best MICE Airline and Vietravel as Asia’s Best MICE Organizer, also received awards at the event. This confirms Vietnam’s reputation in MICE tourism and its international impression.

Bui Thi Ngoc Hieu, Deputy Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, stated that winning the “Asia’s Best MICE Destination” award for the fourth consecutive year is further evidence of Vietnam’s and the city’s ability to organize events and meetings effectively.

Tran Doan The Duy, CEO of Vietravel Company, sees this prestigious award as motivation for Vietnamese travel companies to invest in and strengthen their presence in the MICE market.

Vu The Binh, Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, remarked that many destinations are targeting MICE tourism; however, their services, including accommodation, event organization, and tourism products, are not sufficiently appealing. As a result, they face challenges in attracting long-term MICE guests and hosting regular events.

Binh recommends comprehensive planning for the development of MICE tourism to make it a lucrative industry. This includes encouraging investment through policies and building a network of high-quality accommodation, entertainment, and shopping services to cater to large and affluent visitor groups.

Hanoi’s tourism industry considers MICE tourism as one of its strengths, given its numerous advantages and potentials, such as luxury accommodation options both in the city center and on the outskirts. The city is also known for attractive tourism modalities, including cultural and golf tourism.

Dang Huong Giang, the director of the Hanoi Tourism Department, highlighted that the city regularly hosts national and international events, offering opportunities for the growth of MICE tourism.

“To make MICE tourism a strength of Hanoi’s tourism industry, accommodation facilities need to work closely with travel agents to promote their services and develop suitable and high-quality products to attract large MICE groups from different countries,” she emphasized.

As part of its plan, Hanoi will prioritize MICE tourism and upgrade facilities and human resources to enhance service quality. The city aims to make tourism a leading economic sector by 2025.

By 2030, Hanoi aims to attract about 48-49 million tourists, including 13-14 million international visitors, generating revenues of VND270-300 trillion (US$10.9-12.1 billion).