Spanish and Portuguese MICE Tourists' Profile

Spanish and Portuguese MICE Tourists' Profile

Noelia Araújo Vila (University of Vigo, Spain), Lucília Cardoso (CITUR – Centre for Tourism Research, Development and Innovation, Portugal), Arthur Filipe de Araújo (Lusófona do Porto University, Portugal) and Francisco Dias (CITUR – Centre for Tourism Research, Development and Innovation, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3142-6.ch002


Professional and academic congresses play a relevant role on what came to be known as meetings tourism or business tourism. This market has grown significantly in the last years and is expected to maintain, or even increase, such growth rates in the short range. Moreover, congress tourists consume complementary activities, as well as accommodations services, within the destination, which make them a very profitable segment. For these reasons, many cities are including this market in their promotional strategies. To illustrate this scenario, the chapter presents an analysis of Portuguese and Spanish congress tourists' profile. Results corroborate that congress attendees do some sightseeing, visit local cultural attractions, and taste local cuisine while in the destination. In other words, their consumption goes beyond the participation in the congress per se, and consequently, their average daily expenditure is significantly higher than that of the average tourist.
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The MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) segment has been one of the fastest growing tourism trends in the last decade (Chiang et al., 2012). The term includes all kinds of business events, and in a broader sense, also cultural, sports, academic or corporate summits, symposia, conventions, congresses and workshops (Lau, 2009). Conferences and congresses are understood as events that gather people to discuss and interchange information about a certain subject, potentially aiming to generate knowledge and find a solution to a certain challenge. Other specific goals might include motivating and inspiring participants, releasing new products and communicating the latest research findings on a particular subject (Rogers, 2008).

Conferences have become one of the main boosters of tourism worldwide. Consequently, they have attracted significant amounts of investments, which ultimately create jobs and generate income to the host communities. Therefore, conferences are important business opportunities that greatly benefit the whole economy, not least because, as event participants also tend to engage in leisure activities while in the destination, their average daily expense is significantly higher than that of the average tourist. Moreover, they help reduce seasonality and regenerate destinations, spread knowledge and facilitate creativity and innovation (UNWTO, 2014). Big events also entail an effective use of resources and standardized services. Therefore, they boost many local businesses, which benefit from scale economies. Events also benefit the host place in the long run, as they tend to improve destination image (Lau, 2009). Moreover, conferences are usually a starting point for stablishing auspicious relationships among attendees, as many new ideas for joint projects are discussed. Consequently, some of positive impacts of conferences are projected in the future, and cannot be measured as its outcomes, although they really are.

Due to the mentioned positive outcomes, destinations worldwide have invested 1.14€ billion in the MICE segment in 2018, 28% of which coming from Europe (Global Business Travel Association - GBTA, 2019). In the last years, many places have invested in adequate facilities and services to cater for this segment. These destinations normally aim to integrate business tourism with elements of leisure travel, which is attained through MICE facilities’ partnerships with hospitality, entertainment and transportation providers (Wan, 2011).

The latest trends within the MICE segment are consequences of the increasingly significant role played by technology in providing attractive experiences. In this vein, the demand for unconventional venues and activities, such as tree houses, rooftops and museums, must increase, especially in Europe. Accordingly, new collaborative event formats, which directly involve participants in the creation of their own experience, must also be developed (CWT Meetings & Events, 2019). Destinations and businesses willing to thrive in this segment must be in tune with these trends. Namely, they should increase security, provide personalised experiences that reinforce human relations, and use new technologies to provide immersive experiences (Hosteltur, 2019).

Regarding the event tourists, Swarbrooke and Horner (2001) define them as people who attend any type of events, including entrepreneurs, professionals, scholars, members of a certain group and people associated with governance. According to ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association, 2019), these visitors spend 53% more than leisure travellers in the visited places. In absolute numbers, according to the MICE Travel Report, carried out by IBTM Americas, this translates into a daily expenditure of U$239.90 in the context of the United States.

Key Terms in this Chapter

MICE: Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions. It includes trips where the primary objective is to attend an event.

Commercial Fair or Exposition: An event in which products, services, or even tourist destinations are exhibited, promoted, and traded.

Leisure Trip: A trip where the main goal is to rest or engage in leisure activities.

Incentive Trips: Trips, with all expenses covered, offered to employees as a form of acknowledging and rewarding his/her work performance. It is a commonly used management tool that aims to encourage dedication among an organisation’s members.

Convention: An association meeting (of a political party, for example) aiming to deliberate programs, make decisions, or solve problems.

Corporate Meeting: A gathering of a certain number of people with common interests regarding an organisation, which might include employees, clients, suppliers, partners, or other stakeholders.

Congress: A type of conference that typically takes place with a regular frequency and gathers members of a professional or academic area with the goal of discussing previously stablished issues.

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