How important is the MICE market to FRHI Hotels & Resorts and what percentage of business does it account for across the three brands?
The global MICE market is critical to our business. The percentage it accounts for varies across the brands but in total, it accounts for about 30% across the the group, from small high-level incentives and c-level board meetings, to large conferences and product launches. We have 30 people in our Global Sales Offices that are purely dedicated to the MICE market. Raffles does extremely well in the small c-level board meetings and incentive categories, while Fairmont is known for luxury meetings and Swissotel is great for meetings and conferences.
This year's Global Meetings Exchange (GME) in Monte Carlo is the fifth of its kind. It must be a big investment for the company - why do you feel it's important to host these events?
The Global Meetings Exchange is neither a small nor a cheap production, but it's the most important event that we hold each year. We are active at all the trade shows like IMEX in Frankfurt and Las Vegas and IBTM in Barcelona, but GME is the the event that brings all our key customers together in one place.
It enables us to educate them on both the brands and destinations and most importantly strengthens our relationships. When you spend three days together, you really do build lasting partnerships. Our customers value it too, and the feedback we get is that this is something they really get value from. So we will continue to hold GME annually and are already discussing when and where next year's event will be held.
What have you gained from this year's event?
I couldn't think of a better investement than to spend a couple of days with such a high level of people - you can't beat face-to-face time. For me, the opportunity to hear first hand what our customers like and what we could do better is invaluable.
What are the key C&I markets for FRHI?
Key markets for us are UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland, France and in Asia, Hong Kong is a strong outbound market, while Sydney is a big provider of MICE business to our Asian hotels.
Which properties in the pipeline or newly opened are best-suited to meetings and incentives?
The big news for us was taking over the Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona, as it's such a hot destination for MICE business. Our customers have been asking us to open a property in the city, and now we have. It's a hotel in need of renovation and we are going to begin that process very soon.
The Savoy is also a very important property for MICE, as is Le Royal Monceau - Paris Raffles and The Plaza in New York. We have also recently taken over the Grand Del Mar in San Diego and The Claremont in Berkeley.
We're excited about Istanbul as a destination as its very hot right now. We have had a Swissotel there for some time, which has just had a refurb, and just opened a Raffles, with a Fairmont expected to open there next year. The Citystars development in Sharm El Sheikh is also an important development - a Fairmont is due to open there first, and will be joined by a Raffles and a Swissotel and some convention space, around a large man-made lagoon.
What trends are you seeing globally in MICE and business travel?
We are seeing lead-in times get a little longer, and we are also seeing people add a couple of days either side of their business and meetings trips and bringing their families along, because travel experiences with their families are increasingly important. Companies are also struggling with budgets and asking to keep costs down so we need to be quite competitive in terms of rates. But our customers know we offer quality and they are not looking for rock-bottom prices - its more about value.
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