Prawar Budhathoki in Conversation with Upaul Majumdar
Conferences and meetings are big business, both nationally and internationally, with Shanghai, Singapore, Costa Rica, the Bahamas and more being popular choices for corporate houses the world over. One agenda of Visit Nepal 2020 is to promote MICE here in Nepal. What is MICE? Read on! Upaul Majumdar, General Manager of Soaltee Crowne Plaza Nepal, recently received two awards, one for “Promoting MICE Business from India to Nepal” and “Best MICE Destination Hotel in Nepal” at the 15th Annual International Hospitality & Travel Awards 2019. As someone who has been actively promoting MICE business in Nepal, Upaul Majumdar took some time to explain to us a little about what it means and why Nepal is the perfect destination for it.
1.Please explain what MICE is to those who are not familiar with the concept.
MICE or Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events [also sometimes known as Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions] is a very interesting segment. MICE is a tool used by corporate houses for holding company gatherings, whether formal or informal. These are used to promote company morale and business dealings, as well as a place to relax and let loose from the everyday hectic corporate schedule. They can also be used as a non-cash incentives for employees.
This is mostly used by corporate houses, and they conduct seminars and ceremonies at various resorts and hotels all over the world. It is a very lucrative business in terms of the volume of people that are associated with it.
2.Why do you feel the need to promote MICE here in Nepal?
Nepal is a leisure driven market, which happens during the seasons that coincides with the weather or religious gatherings or just for adventure and fun. And the rest of the time there is not much bulk travel. Since the corporate business is limited here the people who come to do business with them will also be limited. That’s where MICE comes in.
Nepal is unique on its own. The weather is good, the atmosphere, the culture, the adventure, and there are lots of other things apart from just a destination meeting ground for corporates. What we want to do for the companies who come in is not just the hotel and the meeting halls, we want to offer them Nepal. They can go to Chitwan, Pokhara, visit wildlife parks and all other destination to give them a fantastic Nepal experience. We can unconference the conference here in Nepal. That is what we want to promote. We want to offer much much more than just a hotel or a conference room.
3.Are we ready to promote Visit Nepal 2020? Do we have the necessary infrastructure and has the planning been done properly?
When we talk about Visit Nepal 2020, it is not just for that year. It is a start point which will continue to happen even after the year ends. It just helps us to focus all our energy on how we should promote Nepal. So it’s not just promoting certain destinations but the whole of Nepal. Nepal hasn’t had the global presence since the earthquake in 2015. So this Visit Nepal 2020 is the right platform to show Nepal to the world again and I think there are lots of places where one can go and enjoy their time. And there are tourists coming from all over the place already so I think it’ll be a very good year for Nepal and it’ll bring promotion.
4.You are one of the pioneers of MICE and have recently won awards in the field. How do you plan for it and in what ways?
Nepal has done very big conferences in the past. So I feel I don’t think I deserve the tag of pioneer of MICE in Nepal because I think I am a part of the bandwagon where we’ve had good results (laughs). What we did is some focused work in MICE. We went beyond your average hotel offering—the room, the lounge, the restaurant—and that is where the breakthrough came. Three years ago we brainstormed and asked ourselves why would people come to Soaltee Crowne Plaza and we realized that people were not just coming to Soaltee but to Kathmandu or Nepal. So what we did was decide that even if they come for a conference, let’s give them a wholesome experience of Nepal. We used not just the hotel but also local restaurants, took them hiking etc. We worked with Borderlands for outdoor activities, Chandragiri Hills and various other organizations. It’s not just about MICE, yes the conference and meetings are there, but we focused more on giving a full experience. Nepal is much more than just monuments and there are many interesting things. We succeeded in providing them an experiential conference and that is what got recognized.
5.How do you think we can bring clients to conduct MICE here in Nepal and why? Why would corporate houses choose Nepal over other top destinations such as Shanghai, Singapore, Costa Rica etc?
When corporate houses, let’s say top 100 companies in India, are looking for a destination conference, Nepal is not on their agenda. We’ve not had that promotion in the news since the earthquake as I mentioned earlier but I think people know what Nepal is about. The culture, the history, the beauty and all those sorts of things. So marketing is key to bringing in those businesses. And also the marketing was not targeted correctly. It has been done, but by small leisure-based companies and corporate houses are not looking at that. They are looking for availability and the capability of the hotel to do their events. So we at Soaltee worked very hard to provide and assure them about these things. Trainings were conducted and special teams were prepared to accommodate these events. And on top of that we need to think beyond the event and not make them feel bored and monotonous. So I think in order to draw in clients we need to have a plan at hand and accommodate them accordingly.