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Some event planners still find it difficult to include trend destinations in their portfolios. At the same time, cities, regions and entire countries are fighting for the attention of the MICE industry. In our interview with PRO SKY Marketing Campaign Manager, Linda Katharina Klein, maximice founder Markus Lüthge speaks to us about launching into the unknown, improving the profile of event agencies and creating new trending destinations.
Mr Lüthge*, it is imperative to know what is currently trending in the MICE industry. Being able to surprise is essential. But how can we find these trending destinations? It's mainly by understanding customers and participants. What is a match for the customer, the product and the goal of the event?
"A trending destination may not appear immediately on the radar. It requires courage to jump in at the deep end, and courage to think differently. Everyone wants that certain thrill that the trending destinations awaken in us. Only a few of us trust ourselves enough to lead the way. It doesn't take all that much actually to recognise this. We need to listen, understand, open up, break away from our daily routines and think differently. This is the way to discover trending destinations."
Many still find it difficult to dare something new. Why can‘t that be an excuse?
"Customers are reluctant to be first movers – the very first in a destination. Nevertheless, it is a must to have been there before anyone else, to be among the top ten, to build confidence fast and to acquire MICE know-how on this destination as quickly as possible. Many agencies already offer more than just the standard destinations yet the customer is still reluctant to take a risk."
What turns a destination into a MICE destination for you, then?
"The same attributes that have always been relevant: accessibility and safety. Good connections, however, are even more important. The hotels, locations and fringe events on offer come just after that. Some MICE events last only two days. Then the airport needs to have good transport links and the connection must be easily available. Or you know how to charter an aircraft. This is how completely new MICE destinations can be created. Services such as PRO SKY that offer these destinations will become increasingly important."
And, as an agency or organiser, how do I recognise whether my destination meets the needs of MICE groups?
"It is important to ask its contacts: convention bureaus, contact partners at hotels. I contact PRO SKY with any questions about accessibility and usually contact the DMCs on site about activities. Information is already available in many places. This makes it all
the more important to have offerings that filter and promote these special places appropriately."
We are pleased to hear this, particularly because this year we are focussing on this kind of preparation. When we recommend a trending destination, we want to make specific suggestions about what MICE groups can expect there. However, local partners are needed to put this into action. How important is it to build an appropriate network with this in mind?
"The right network is extremely important! The further the destination is from the native country, the more important is it to have a local contact who opens all the doors for you. It is important for me that the local partners treasure their destination and are able to point out the special places. I can get almost anywhere with a catamaran – why here exactly? Winter Olympics, Jeep safari – all classic, but in my eyes nothing special or authentic in a destination. The right choice of local partners and service providers is extremely important. Plus the airline partner. Thanks to PRO SKY, I don't need to do a lot of research on this. Building a relationship with the right DMC takes considerably longer."
To what extent does the PRO SKY Destination Report provide support in this regard?
"What I value very much is that there is a lot of background information – information about the appeal of a city or a country, information about the activities. It is targeted and provides important support. This helps me to know immediately where I can start to look for DMCs that offer these activities. The important thing for me is that the trending destinations presented in the Destination Report are suitably prepared and meet my expectations. What I would like to see is even more specific information about the best local MICE activities. In my view, it is important here to create authentic experiences and to emphasise the destination's uniqueness. It's great to know that this now exists."
Looking at it another way: what can cities and regions do to become a MICE destination?
"As already stated, accessibility and safety are basic requirements. A suitable infrastructure of hotels and service providers is also important. In my mind, destinations need to improve their profile, specialise and stop trying to be everybody's darling."
And how can this be done successfully?
"Three questions need to be answered: What do we do really well? What is suited to us and our region? And ultimately: How can we reach out to a uniquely target group? This is the only way to stand out from the multitude of offers. However, it is necessary to take responsibility and determine what a destination can withstand. Take Venice, Dubrovnik or Barcelona – these cities are completely
overrun. Sustainable plans are needed. And courage to make your mark."
But even if these factors are met, MICE destinations change a little every year. Why?
"This is because the participants are often the same ones. This is why companies and agencies rely on new attractions. The point is to discover something new and do something new. MICE destinations always need to reinvent themselves and continue developing."
Without having the PRO SKY 2019 Destination Report results – what are your trending destinations for the year?
"I have the feeling that Eastern Europe and Northern Europe are becoming popular again. Scandinavia in particular. Or at least that's my hope. Your flights to Swedish Lapland for example are simply the best. And I think there is increased interest in Warsaw. Somehow Southern Europe is always relevant but it is simply overrun and there is precious little that's new to explore. Therefore, my tip: Eastern Europe and Northern Europe."
Mr Lüthge, we think you will like the results of our survey. Thank you for this conversation!
*Markus Lüthge is a trained hotel expert, graduate marketing specialist and founder of maximice, the innovative MICE network in the German speaking region for national and international hotels and destinations.
Do as Markus does: Read THE PRO SKY DESTINATION REPORT
There are lots of destination to discover. But which are the ones of particular importance when it comes to group travel? For the eighth edition of our PRO SKY Destination Report, we determined the current and future trend destinations together with event professionals. Have a look at the results and find out which of this year's trend destinations could be the best fit for your indivudual needs.