What are MICE and how did it emerge?
The term MICE represents a sector of tourism, which includes business events and activities. It is a service-related industry combining trade, transportation, finance, and travel. When we look back into its global history, meetings in ancient times were discussions of communal interests. Cities acted as focal points for instance, Rome had its Roman Forum and Comitium and in Latin, conferentia means “to bring together” while auditorius means “a place to listen.” The first organised travel happened within the framework of a congress visit in 1841 when Thomas Cook arranged transportation for 570 participants of the annual Congress of the Anti-Alcoholics Association. The conventions industry began in the 1950s because of an expansion in government organisations, a growth in multinational corporations and agencies, developments in association interests, professional and pressure groups, changes in sales techniques, including the use of product launches and sales promotion meetings, need for in-company management training, continuing professional development and attendance at scheduled meetings. In 1902, the first formal incentive travel program was set up by the National Cash Register (NCR), a U.S. company. By the 1960s, long-distance incentive trips overseas came into view.
Tourism is generally being touted as a veritable alternative to oil and gas, with respect to economic prosperity. How would you describe the potentialities of MICE as an auxiliary to the attainment of sustainable economic growth and development by African countries in a world currently ravaged by economic recession?
MICE have a lot of potentialities in relation to being a big direct foreign currency engine. Its capacity, in this regard, competes favourably with that of any international commodity. Very gigantic income is actually derivable from its international participants’ daily expenditures on accommodations, food and beverage, souvenirs and the likes. It is also capable of resulting in the development of better infrastructure, mainly in transportation, accommodation and air services; in stimulating investment, from domestic and oversee investors; in creating employment and income; in increasing awareness of the host country’s credibility, reputation and reliability to local, national, regional and international level. It can also support the development of local and national industries; help the expansion of export markets, thereby boosting the economic growth of the country. Most of all, MICE revenue can be measurable, controllable and also has unseasonal business model. In the mean time, I strongly believe that most of African countries including Ethiopia should establish National Convention and Visitors bureau as soon as possible to boost the MICE industry.
Ethiopia, a non-oil economy, has been rated by the World Bank as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Has tourism played any role in this feat?
It is known that Ethiopia adopted and utilised the combined potentialities of an agricultural-led industrialisation economic policy and the tourism industry to get to its present stage of hope. As a result, tourism is becoming a strong pillar of the country’s economy. Currently, it (tourism) has high potentials for the economic and social progresses. It generates valuable foreign currency exchange and high revenues through taxation. It is also a major source of employment. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), total export earnings generated by international tourism in 2013 reached US$1.4 trillion, a feat that surpassed the incomes earned from the exports of petroleum, vehicles, telecommunication equipment, textile and other goods. Furthermore, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), there will be over 1.6 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2020. In this regard, Ethiopia continues benefiting from the sector.
Nigeria, the largest population in Africa, is followed by your country, Ethiopia, on the African population rank scale. Unlike Ethiopia, the West African Country is an oil-rich giant, but it is currently being propelled by unfavourable economic conditions to move away from its prolonged oil and gas dependence. What do you think Nigeria can learn from the Ethiopian long-drawn battle against widespread poverty and famine that is obviously at the verge of being won by the East African Country?
Ethiopia is working with the service sector side by side with the industrialisation. Also, the service related industry is becoming an alternative source in association with tourism due to employment opportunities and light investments in especially the hospitality industry chain of connection and value, with regard to others. All in all, the travelling industry is big opportunity for all African nations, which Nigeria, as the most populated African country can strategically explore for sustainable economic growth and development.
You are currently in Ghana for the first-ever MICE West Africa Expo. How would you describe the three-day event?
The most important part of any event is starting by itself. I have got new experience with my beloved African professionals and got a chance to meet the government and individual industry players. Hopefully, it will grow up step by step.
In the course of this epochal event, you signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ghanaian Government. What was it about?
In collaboration with the Ghanaian Tourism authorities, we have made a deal to organise the first Hotel and Restaurant Show – West Africa (Hospitality Investment Tradeshow) in Accra Ghana. Optimistically, it will happen come September 2018 and immediately after the deal, we have started networking with our partners in the globe.