Incentive planners take note: Pacific World, a global destination and event management company, and U.S.-based Access Destination Services released the 2018 Special Destinations Report, revealing the top locales for meetings, incentive, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) travel in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Dallas took the top spot in the U.S., followed by Colorado and Las Vegas. In Europe, Spain garnered the top rating, followed by the U.K. and France. And in Asia, China was rated the best followed by Indonesia and Hong Kong.
The ratings are based on Pacific World’s Destination Index, which draws its results from more than 5,000 international inquiries received worldwide, actual meeting and event takeaway, and feedback from attending delegates around the globe.
Here’s a quick look at some key insights from top experts at Pacific World and Access on what has helped make these locales optimal MICE destinations.
“Between [Hilton's] Statler, and the arrival of Marriott’s first AC Hotel catering to millennials, Dallas has added an additional 600 rooms to the downtown area,” said Patty Phelps, vice president of sales at Access Texas.
Phelps added that the city’s robust pro sports scene is a major lure, and also mentioned the compelling comeback of the Deep Ellum neighborhood.
“After a decade-long decline, this party and clubbing spot east of downtown is returning to former glory with the opening of the Bomb Factory, Canton Hall, and the reopening of Trees,” Phelps said.
Danielle Phippen, a partner at Access Colorado, touts some outdoor experiences among the trending factors in the Rocky Mountain State’s success with MICE groups.
“Axe throwing is one of the most unique and popular activities among groups in Colorado,” Phippen said. “Guests can actually throw axes at targets to test their skills. Totally different, and quite the crowd pleaser.”
She added that “alpine coasters” are another hot item. “Nearly every mountain resort property is getting on board with these thrilling rides that zip down the mountain,” Phippen said.
3. Las Vegas
While Vegas has been a planning paradise for decades, Jennifer Miller, a partner at Access Las Vegas, noted that a dazzling new district and a spectacular in-the-works attraction have Sin City shining even brighter for incentive groups.
“The Park Las Vegas is a new outdoor dining and entertainment district on the Las Vegas Strip nestled between the T-Mobile Arena, Monte Carlo, and New York-New York Resorts,” she said. “The breathtaking 40-foot tall sculpture, Bliss Dance, is on public display as the Park’s centerpiece.”
And breaking ground in 2018 is Paradise Park, a $1.5 billion endeavor that will show off a lagoon for water sports circled by white-sand beaches, a convention venue, and new lodging.
Verónica Vivaldi, business development manager at Pacific World Spain, touts the nation’s compelling historic heritage as a driving force behind its MICE allure—but also hails its emerging lifestyle destinations as a rising factor.
“Second-tier, or new MICE destinations, like Marbella-Puerto Banus, Ibiza, et cetera, now offer big, well-known international events and are also becoming the favorite destinations of V.I.P.s and celebrities,” Vivaldi explained. “These new destinations have helped position Spain as a top country for meetings.”
2. The U.K.
Charlotte Weston, country manager at Pacific World U.K., remarked that a weaker pound now gives visiting groups more spending power while exploring London—and that popular films and TV series can be tied into unforgettable moments for MICE groups.
“As a location backdrop for favorite TV shows and movies, themed experiences are always appealing,” Weston said. “Downton Abbey, Harry Potter, and the recently released Murder on the Orient Express and The Crown are all things we can weave into a creative program.”
Laure Le Pendeven, a senior account manager at Pacific World France, explained that Paris has garnered international buzz lately via its selection as host to prominent global sporting events, with its allure also boosted by going green.
“The city has benefited from a green and sustainable image since hosting the 2015 Climate Change agreement and makes continuous efforts, such as transforming the Seine River banks into pedestrian promenades,” Le Pendeven said.
Violet Wang, Destination Manager Shanghai at Pacific World China, said that an uptick in lodging inventory has given China added magnetism.
“With the growth of Chinese middle-class consumers and relocation of manufacturing, many more mid-scale and budget hotels are opening up in the second- and third-tier cities,” Wang remarked. “Sixty-six top luxury hotels opened in 2017 and 2018, which have helped to drive up the destination experience and provide ample additional event spaces.”
According to Johanna Kremer, business development manager at Pacific World Indonesia, new lodgings in unexpected places—in addition to culturally immersive doings—are enhancing Indonesia’s incentive attractiveness.
“New hotels being built in unique locations are attracting event and incentives planners from the typical destinations,” she said. “Younger generations and return incentive groups are attracted to the more dynamic and ‘hipster’ areas, such as Uluwatu and Canggu. Culturally immersive events where guests experience the traditions and engage with communities in a different way are becoming increasingly popular.”
3. Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s inclusion in the burgeoning Pearl River Delta Region—a massive megacity melding nine separate metropolises—makes it even nicer for MICE, according to Dwirt J. Ang, business development manager at Pacific World Hong Kong. Ang added that crucial infrastructure upgrades are making the locale even friendlier for events.
“Developments like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link will serve to connect the cities,” Ang remarked. “Thus creating an eco-system of intercity, multisession meetings in different locales—simplifying and shortening travel times. This and with existing impressive meeting venues in the five principal cities will definitely interest meeting professionals around the globe.”