Innovate or perish! Events on a slow recovery


Innovate or perish! Events on a slow recovery

Rohit Hangal


The convention business in India makes a slow but sure recovery from virtual events to live ones. Virtual events, that have dominated the meeting eco-system since the virus made it unwelcomed appearance have taken on a hybrid tone, giving the Meeting industry an exciting new feature.


With the virus still dominating headlines, the event industry has created a completely new industry feature, where safety measures and protocol delivery rules supreme, while creating and executing a successful event.


The times we live in are uncertain for sure, where every media headline is bound to affect the status of the event. At times, when creating a calendar of events, the standard note at the end of the collaterals, will insert a disclaimer that the dates might change! It is also times, when the event eco-system has also learnt to take it in its stride, that adaptability and a measure of crisis management handling will ensure the success or failure of the event. The ever-changing protocols and government SOPs with regard to holding events are created to test the patience of clients and organizers alike.


To say events has been hit badly is an understatement, being the first to get affected and the last to recover! The scenario created by the anticipated demands by the industry being brought to a closure by the Union Government was notwithstanding, the fatigue brought in by industry associations flogging the Wishlist on to a slow-death mode! While the tourism ministry continued to maintain an eerie silence about the noise being made by the industry, the track to survival continue to set the WhatsApp groups across India on fire.


Innovation at the time of recovery often comes at a cost of stability. The entire industry has been trying a bit too hard to break the revenue stranglehold. Event venues have gone ahead and created additional revenue streams to manage services such as depots and Covid Centres, facility management services, etc., while specialists event management companies have gone multi-specialists, offering services as varies as organizing virtual events to conferences to wedding planners to even offering birthday party caricatures! Survival, if any is the name of the game.


There never has been a better time to bring in reforms to the fore! The red-tape that has throttled the event industry with Some proactive state governments such as Karnataka have already set standards even with regard to events. This has encouraged hotels to market wedding packages with the upper-limit guest list up to 500 pax. The ability of state governments to give permissions, on ‘what is possible and what is not’ will help in the early recovery of tourism businesses.


The temptation to create a business opportunity is good, but like all enterprises, it needs to follow elements of branding and positioning. Communication is key to amplify your marketing efforts to optimise your brand-equity and create value to market your event services.


As you recover to start hosting events, it is also a great time to invest in positioning your proprietary event or your venue.  What does it take to position your event spaces amid your glowing hotel brand? If your Event Spaces Food & Beverage contribute more than 30% of your turnover, get it a branding strategy! The hotel brands bring with its standards and total recall, but the right unique brand identity for your event space will make it stand out amid hardened competition. In an era when hotel projects are more often part of a multi-use facility with retail, residences and commercial spaces thrown in, event spaces will have to strive its own unique niche.


A day when you will have branded and franchised event spaces is not far. Creating and managing an ‘Event Space brand’ will bring in Event standards, improved guest feedback and enhanced occupancies. Creating unique brand identities and focus for Event spaces will also take on branded hotels especially in the four and five-star segment. It is not far ahead that, with the increased demands with regard to technology, enhanced client requirements, the era of specialized companies managing Event spaces is not far behind! Outsourced Venue Management!


Somehow hotels around the world have always been reluctant a radical shift in branding strategy. But in an era, where competition gets fierce, specialization takes over, it is never too late to reinforce branding standards on individual profit centres such as Event Spaces and Wedding management products for instance.


The advent of up-to-date revenue management strategies has virtually taken over decision making with regard to functioning of sales. Marketing Event Space is still left un-touched by the new era Revenue Managers due to the customization it requires. But with the changing times, hotels have made efforts to create packages out of events, offering services and fixed food layouts.


Where there is an opportunity, there stems a devil! The success of for meeting planners lies quite dominantly on the ability to zero-in on a tailor-made perfect venue! The timing is never been more perfect to look for venues beyond hotels, who have inserted the Revenue management element to make themselves uncompetitive and making meeting planners to scout for alternatives.


There is a bizarre new trend emerging, where hotels now arbitrarily have begun to charge for external vendors. There was one hotel in Vizag, that wanted to charge a premium, if you even got a Master of Ceremonies for your event from a vendor not recommended by the hotel. They wanted to even charge a rate of 25% of the quotation, brought in by the hotel vendor as User Charges. This is a sure step forward to kill the golden goose. Marketing event space is all about being flexible to cater to the specific needs of the client. The hotels, that are willing to customize to the client’s requirement rather than trying to enforce vendors will surely come up on top.


Marketing MICE requires different skill-sets, not necessary aligns with that of the Revenue Managers. Hotels should create a business model, where Event managers, Associations and Professional Conference Organizers (PCOs) are partnered with and considered as part of their distribution strategy. And Yes. Commissions are important! They work in most international markets and will do good in India as well.


Hotels have long got away with not paying any remuneration or commissions to Conference Organizers (PCOs) and Event Management, who facilitate the event. The Food & Beverage component in India forms a big part of the event experience and the PCO has to be incentivized. Most hotels claim that it would be against ‘Hotel Policy’ to incentivize accrued Food & Beverage business; but, without remunerating the via-media, it would be a matter of time for PCOs to look for alternatives! Hotels have off-late preferred to eliminate the agency and go full-hog direct with the client. As a global trend, the Hotel and Airlines industry is probably the only industry, which wants to do away with the channel partner model.


The meeting industry is a vital cog in the wheel for Indian hotels and venues, who aspire to get more from their clients, but should invest in training, create marketing infrastructure and create specialists within to nurture and develop this sunrise sector! The elephant in the room is not going anywhere! The Indian Meeting and Exhibition industry network is a vital cog in the wheel of the Indian MICE-Ecosystem and needs a log of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to a big kick in the rear to push it to new heights!


The world of events is on a stand-still overdrive, almost akin to being ‘all dressed-up’ with nowhere to go mode!





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