MICE lessons?

Over the course of the last few years, the debate on diversification has been consolidating around three main industries or areas: MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Conferences, Exhibitions) events, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and creative industries. MICE events are the ones that have moved faster and where further human and financial investment has been made. The assessment of MICE industry development under public auspices might provide valuable lessons and guidance for the development of the other two. Comparatively, we can say those are still very much in the definition process. The statistical department has since 2009 provided separate data for the MICE sector, and the public commitment to the development of the industry has been clear and often restated. A specific web portal was created for the sector, and various supporting mechanisms are available for organisers and participants in MICE events. Results, however, seem to be below what the level of priority and support granted to the sector, including direct public funding, would lead us to expect. Unfortunately, the portal has no information about the actual use and distribution of financial or other types of support. Also, information on past events is not available, which, to say the least, is surprising. The sole information available relates to events scheduled for the current and future months. Cancelled events are not identified. In other words, information is more limited than would be appropriate for a specialised portal. Regardless, the data available suggests that the results achieved were less than stellar. The figures published by the statistical department only provide a limited amount of information concerning the sector’s financial data. But they raise the suspicion that without public support many activities would not be carried out, and fewer operators would possibly survive. The weight of the sector in the overall economy is negligible. Moreover, last year the sector managed two somewhat ambiguous results. On the one hand, the number of companies increased, which would suggest a growing dynamism; on the other hand, its total contribution to the economy’s gross added value declined. That is, less wealth was created by a larger number of firms. Such a result does not bode well for the future of the industry, and should be the target of a proper enquiry. Was it a fortuitous result? Or the unintended outcome of public policies? More than a lively and competitive industry, are these policies contributing to consolidating a possibly inefficient system, dependent and surviving upon public assistance? Instead of a new driver of economic growth, are public policies helping to create a ‘clientele’, reliant on the public budget for most or a significant part of their undertakings? Should that be the case, the outcome would in fact be antagonistic to the intended one. The dependence of the economy and the public budget upon gambling might even be exacerbated. In the end, the taxes that feed the public purse must come from somewhere.