Madhya Pradesh: An emerging MICE destination

Speaking at the recently concluded 31st Annual IATO Convention in Indore last month and a few months ago as well at Madhya Pradesh’s largest ever tourism road show in Delhi, the state Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, said that his state is developing a habit of being at the number one position in the country in areas like economic growth and farm production and wants to achieve a similar feat in tourism as well. Just before the CM spoke, Commissioner of MP Tourism and Managing Director of Madhya Tourism State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC), Ashwini Lohani, in his presentation at the Delhi road show identified MICE as a subsector that lies “at the core of tourism.”

 Strong MICE fundamentals

Today Madhya Pradesh is experiencing a silent revolution. Ten years ago the growth rate of India was 9.5 per cent as against MP’s 5.3 per cent. In 2014, while India grew at a rate of 4.7 per cent, MP’s growth rate was 10.2 per cent, GSDP growth of over two and half times, six-fold increase in capital expenditure, consistent revenue surplus budget, all of this achieved in the last 10 years says State’s Chief Secretary Anthony De Sa.

Ten years ago 33 per cent of the budget went to service the debt in interest payment. Today this figure is 7 per cent. MP has recorded the highest agricultural growth in the country in the last four years (Between 2011-2014 @ 18%, 19%, 23% and 21%). State’s tax revenue has recorded a growth of 18 per cent year-on-year in the last five years. Per capita income that was `14,000 in 2003 has grown to `56,000 now.

Today MP has a strong emerging economy with robust financial fundamentals- a population of 77 million, one of the highest economic growth rates in the country, two cities- Bhopal and Indore, with more than two million population and an- other two cities- Gwalior and Jabalpur, with more than one million population.

A power surplus state today, MP boasts of a massive 155,000 kms of road network, 18 entry points into the state, 425 trains transiting and connecting the central Indian state with virtually every nook of the country, 31 weekly flights, including 14 from Bhopal and 12 from Indore as well as flights from Gwalior, Khajuraho and Jabalpur.

Growing MICE Infrastructure

From a ‘bimaru’ (sick) state a few years ago, MP has emerged into one of the most progressive state in the country attracting billions in investment in industrial, agricultural and infrastructure projects. And therefore, as such business events, congresses, conventions, association meetings, conferences and incentive tour are increasingly looking at Madhya Pradesh amidst its growing profile of being an attractive market place.

ICPB (India Convention Promotion Bureau) has identified MP as “fast emerging as a preferred MICE destination” in India because of its modern facilities and improving infrastructure to hold events, among others. The state has witnessed a spurt in the development of large-scale meeting place in past few years in Indore, state’s business capital. Bhopal is expected to also follow suit.

MP currently has about 8000 hotel rooms in the state and is looking at doubling this number in the next five years. According to Lohani 38 of 72 hotel properties of MPSTDC have been upgraded enabling them to host small to medium size conferences. Capital Bhopal is looking at ramping up its meetings infrastructure and can host conferences of upto 400 people at Palash and upto 500 at ITC’s WelcomHeritage managed iconic Noor-Us-Sabah. But that’s the maximum for Bhopal at the moment and therefore MP Tourism is looking at developing at least three state-of-the-art exclusive convention centres in the capital.

Amongst its various cities, MP’s financial capital Indore, with its state-of-the-art Brilliant Convention Centre (BCC), has emerged the most sought-after destination for large-scale events like congresses, global summits, association meetings and convention. BCC with its massive 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space that can seat upto 5,000 people, large pre-function and lawn areas and multiple meeting rooms has been hailed the ‘largest meeting and exhibition place in the whole of central India.’ BCC is also home to a 108 room hotel.

The convention centre has hosted from the President and the Prime Minister of India to top leaders and global businesses heads from scores of countries. According to the information shared by BCC’s Asst. Vice President – Events & Operations, Satish K Sharma, the venue has already attracted several prestigious events to Indore including prestigious medical conferences like PEDICON, AMASICON, OPATHALOGY, GLACOMAFEST, 21st IANCON. It also hosted the Global Investor Meet 2015 organised by Madhya Pradesh Government.

Gujarat based hospitality major The Grand Bhagwati’s (TGB) has added another meeting venue to Indore’s growing profile in this area. According to TGB’s Mansi Sadhu, TGB Palace, Indore, is till date the company’s most ambitious project with massive meetings and conferencing facility which also good for large banquettes and grand weddings. Its two halls can seat 1200 and 1500 people at a time and outdoor area can host 2500 people at a time. It will also have 115-key luxury hotel property that is expected to open door soon. TGB Palace, Indore was also the venue of 31st Annual IATO Convention last month.

MP @ incentives MP is incentives’ haven. Blessed with abundant natural beauty and a rich history and heritage, MP is home to three World Heritage Sites, nine National Parks and 25 sanctuaries. The state offers a wide range of destinations for incentives tour, from hill station of Panchmarhi and Orccha to wild lives’ of Kanha, Pench and Bandavgarh to forts and temples at Gwalior, Burhanpur and Khajuraho.

In conclusion Madhya Pradesh has definitely begun to scratch at the surface in realising the immense potential of Business tourism, popularly or broadly known in India as MICE tourism. However in the absence of a strong local or national body as well as the lack of knowledge resource in this area can squarely jeopardise this opportunity.

Tourism is one sector that is now being overwhelmingly recognised as a private sector driven area and therefore it would be novel for the private sector in the state, particularly those in Indore, to join hands and take the lead in boosting states profile as a MICE destination.

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Strong player in MICE market

Heading sales and marketing of one of Indore’s landmark hotel properties with large meeting space, 214- key Radisson Blu Indore’s Executive Assistant Manager, Ramendra Pratap Singh says that the recently concluded Global Investor Summit and several national and international level medical conferences have established Indore and MP as a strong player in the MICE market. With 30,000 Sq ft of meeting space, state of the art meeting facilities, 200 rooms & suites and great F&B capabilities to roll out regional as well as global cuisine and hallmark ‘Yes I Can!’ service we have positioned our self well in MICE segment, he says.

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Indore best suited for large-scale events, Bhopal will follow suit Madhya Pradesh has unlimited opportunity to grow tourism in the state and MICE tourism will be at the core of the growth that we envisage for the state.

We already have two convention centres in Indore. Now we require convention centres in Bhopal, Gwalior and Jabalpur. Bhopal is well equipped to host small to medium size conferences of upto 400 people. We are working on a blueprint for three convention centres in Bhopal, a 500, 1000 and 2000 capacity each. We expect things to move further within the next one year

MPSTDC (Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corpo- ration) has also taken conscious steps in this direction and has de- veloped conference facilities at as many as 38 of its 72 hotel properties for conferences of up to a size of 400 pax.

Although Indore is best suited for large-scale events like congresses, association meetings, and conventions, destinations such as Panchmarhi, Maheshwar, Orccha, Khajuraho, Jabalpur, Gwalior as well as many of the wildlife destinations like Bandavgarh and Pench among others are fully geared for small-sized conferences and incentives tours.

In order to attract investment in the development of new convention centres in the state, the government is offering capital subsidy that can go upto 10 crores. MP Tourism is also coming up with land parcels which will be offered on long term lease to parties interested in building convention centres and hotel, he informed.

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Suppliers’ worry

MP is not in the same league as Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, nevertheless, there is demand of MP for meetings and conferences and it is growing. We have operated about 30 odd conference groups in the last six years to MP.

Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur and Gwalior are all well placed to handle meeting and conferences. Even leisure destinations like Khajuraho are suitably placed to handle small to medium size meetings and conferences. Panchmarhi and Orccha make for great destinations for small meetings and incentives tours.

However, limited hotel infrastructure and connectivity to far-flung areas are issues. Destinations like Bandavgarh and Panchmarhi despite being very attractive for small sized conference and incentive tours suffer because of limited hotel supply as well as connectivity problem.

Also MPSTDC has significant hotel infrastructure all over the state and we are often required to use them. Quite curiously, in such a situation we sometimes see ourselves pitted against the corporation. This is not fair. There needs to be a mechanism that safeguards business interests of suppliers like us.

As told by Yogendra Verma, B2B Hospitality & Conference Management Services.

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