Conference or Convention Tourism is a sub sector of Tourism that holds great potentials for Cross River State. Also known as MICE, an acronym for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition, it is a type of tourism in which large groups, usually planned well in advance, are brought together for a particular purpose.
One of the most attractive and lucrative segments of the meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition (MICE) industry is the meeting and convention sub sector.
Many enterprises, corporations, organizations and associations of various sorts hold one or more events, meetings, conferences, conventions, exhibitions and other related activities every year.
Today, these functions are organized almost anywhere in the world. Over the past decades, the growth of the meeting and convention sector has generated a significant contribution to the local and national economies of host destinations.
Moreover, it also enhances the growth of the overall travel and tourism sectors. This results in an intensified competition among host destinations that are keen to attract more meetings and conventions.
The Construction of the Calabar International Convention Centre CICC has positioned Cross River State as the leading Convention Tourism Destination in Nigeria.
Calabar International Convention Centre is a state-of-the-art,
purpose-built, multifunctional convention centre. It is designed to host events of varying formation for national and global audiences comprising corporate, government and international associations.
Calabar International Convention Centre has a total floor space of about 35,000 sqm and a total capacity of approximately 5,000 delegates. The flexibility of the venue offers the freedom to design an event in different concepts the brings satisfaction and yet remains functional.
The Calabar International Convention Centre which is the first of its kind West of Africa is linked to the renowned Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort by a mono rail which is also the first in the region.
Located within the Tinapa Business Resort is a four star hotel the Tinapa lakeside hotel which has more than 200 rooms.
The convention Centre has played host to a number of world class events over the past two years yet in terms of numbers, the frequency of events has not been impressive.
Compared to other international conventions in other regions in Africa, it is clear that more needs to be done to drive meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions to the destination.
One solution may be to engage a Destination Marketing Organization for the purpose of marketing the Calabar International Convention Centre (Calabar) as a world class Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions destination.
Destination marketing organization (DMO) is an organization that promotes a town, city, region, or country in order to increase the number of visitors. It promotes the development and marketing of a destination, focusing on convention sales, tourism marketing and services.
Other factors that are important for the success of a convention tourism destination are air accessibility, ground transfers, standard hotel facilities etc. All of these are adequate in the Cross River State though there is room for improvement.
I am aware that the management has created a MICE Brand and Campaign for the Calabar International Convention Centre and along with this, a strategy to launch and sustain a strong online and offline campaign to promote Calabar as a MICE destination.
For greater results however, there is need for the management of CICC to make effort to bid for/ host high impact internation events, connect with international M.I.C.E. organizations and continue its international promotional activities.
In addition to these, Calabar International Convention Centre must sustain its high-profile participation in major M.I.C.E. trade shows and the building of capacity of its managerial and operational staff.
Having said these, it is best global practice for the centre to be run through the public private partnership model to ensure a sustainable management of the facility and the success of the initiative. It is a win win formula as government partners strong private sector players in the sector for desired outcomes.
Post convention tours must also be well organized and packaged ahead of planned meetings and conventions and appropriate information made available to delegates in time to decide and plan for them.
Finally, management must work to develop and market competitive products and services, improve market access and connectivity.
MICE is the new tourism paradigm. Let’s make it work.
Emmanuel Etim is SSA to Governor of Cross River State Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade.