Nov 29 , 2020

Ethiopia Convention Bureau, an agency in charge of attracting business and conference tourists to Ethiopia, will hold a national launching event in January with the slogan "Meet in the Land of Origins". The Bureau along with its Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Events (MICE) brand was set up less than half a year ago and aims to make Addis Abeba a MICE destination favourite of Africa by 2030.

Aided by consultants hired from the World Bank throughout its preliminary phase, the Bureau, which has designed a three-year strategic plan with a budget of 3.4 million dollars, crafted its national MICE Vision following a feasibility study and situation analysis in the country. The Bureau has completed staffing up, crafting an incentive and meeting planner guide and manual, and web design.

The Bureau, operating with eight staff members including the director, has prioritised six key targets under the strategic plan. Increasing the number of delegates that come for meetings and conventions, the amount of spending per delegate, and the duration of their stay make up the first three components. Incorporating events to take place during off-season periods to ensure year-round income generation and eventually encouraging them to be held in second-tier cities are also key goals of the initiative.  It also aims to spill over opportunities across the service value chain.

The Convention Bureau, anchored within Tourism Ethiopia, will not organise events or conferences on its own. Rather, it will mainly provide advisory services to organisers along with planning and giving on-site support for events. The sales section, its most vital element, is where it will source new business markets and engage in bids to be handed over to the private sector once secured.

There has been a tentative selection of venues for the launch, according to Alemayehu D. Tinsae, the director of the Bureau, which hopes to involve governmental bodies and a multitude of associations in the country in securing international events.

"We can also provide support to them," said Alemayehu.

Credibility, an issue faced by the private sector, hinders securing international bids and will be solved through the intermediation by the Convention Bureau, according to Alemayehu.

Convention bureaus are helpful for the private sector since they compete internationally as dedicated entities that will pursue bids, according to Yoadan Tilahun, founder & managing director at Flawless Events and president of the Ethiopian Events & Exhibition Organisers Association.

"This was previously done sparingly through various government bureaus," she said. "The international bids are complex, so when the Bureau manages to secure them, then it will be up to us, the organisers, to deliver."

International MICE bids are a matter of showcasing a country's relevance and benefits to a planned event, according to Yoadan.

"The advantage of the Bureau will be that there is a dedicated entity that will follow up and compete on a much larger scale," said Yoadan.

Recognising that there was previously no official track record regarding international events or conferences taking place in the country, the research section under the Bureau will be tasked with documenting and measuring the sector's performance.

The idea of a convention bureau at a national level may be new, but the Addis Abeba Convention Bureau was established nearly a year ago. Kumneger Teketel, a hospitality expert who proposed the concept of MICE to the City Administration at the time, states that the challenges for such an institution are dedication and budgetary restrictions.

"The idea came to fruition after pushing for it for over six years," he said. "A national bureau, however, is a milestone for MICE. This is of utmost importance if we are to promote this section and bridge the gap between public and private industry players."

South Africa, with two convention bureaus, ranks first among African countries as per the rating of the International Convention & Congress Association (ICCA), which ranked Ethiopia 88th after hosting 13 international meetings in 2019.

Due to the pandemic, meetings have shifted onto online platforms, and pundits in the sector comment that the recovery period of business and conference tourism might take longer.

"We're witnessing a hybrid form of meetings where some are taking place online, while others are in person," said Alemayehu. "The pandemic wasn't taken into consideration when we did our study, and this will definitely have an impact. We'll have to revise our strategy."

PUBLISHED ON Nov 29,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1074]

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