‘Purpose-built venue vital to boost MICE tourism’
The contribution of MICE (Meeting Incentives, Conference and
Exhibition) tourism sector to the economy has doubled with the
improvement in infrastructure and the promotion of destination for
events, said Lanka Exhibitions and Conference Services Ltd, Chairman
He said that the industry cannot sustain the growth momentum due to
the absence of a purpose-built venue for exhibitions which is essential
to attract more exhibitors and visitors to the country. Lack of space
for large international exhibitions is a major obstacle to spur growth
in the MICE tourism sector which has immense potential to develop into a
vibrant tourism industry.
The MICE sector accounts for around 30-40 of the revenue of the
tourism industry. The revenue from the sector will be higher this year
with a series of events lined up. The beautification of city roads and
the increase in hotel rooms and facilities for conferences will
stimulate growth of the MICE sector.
“The space crunch for mega exhibitions is a stumbling block to
develop the MICE sector. The BMICH, the venue for conferences could
accommodate only around 1,400 delegates and there isn't adequate space
for large-scale exhibitions. A 500,000 sq ft area could house around
1,000 booths which will help attract a larger number of exhibitors and
visitors,” Dharmadasa said.
He said that LECS has called upon the authorities to set up a
purpose-built venue for exhibitions either in Colombo or in the regions.
Hambantota and Kandy are suitable locations for conferences.
The MICE sector has reached saturation with venues having capacity to
host 250 stalls. A purpose-built exhibition centre will help attract
more visitors and achieve the 2.5 million visitor target set for 2016.
Sri Lanka's capacity to host international exhibitions is low
compared to many countries in the region which could host over 30,000
visitors a month.
He also said MICE sector tourists prefer venues away from the city
which offer a wide range of experiences such as nature, clean beaches
and safaris. There is a growing trend in the preference for venues in
the regions which has diverse exposure.
The crocodile conference was held in Negombo last year. Facilities at
hotels for conferences and meetings have been increased to attract more
visitors. The North and the East are preferred destinations as tourists
are keen to explore the regions which were barred for travellers for
However, the demand for many locations will decline within the next
three to four years with more agents and showrooms promoting products
We need to promote the venue for international events with more
capacity for exhibitions.
The Convention Centre is a good location but limited parking
facilities is a drawback to promote the venue. The port city will be a
shot in the arm for MICE tourism with cruise liners bringing tourists
for events. MICE tourism comprises workshops, seminars, brainstorming
and training sessions, leisure and motivational trips and exhibitions.
The Sri Lanka Convention Bureau which acts as a catalyst for the MICE
sector has launched a five-pronged program such as creating an
environment for tourism, attracting new markets, ensuring that departing
tourists are happy, improving domestic tourism and creating a positive
image of the country.
The Convention Bureau is bidding for the Asian Youth Games to be
hosted in Sri Lanka in 2017 and the Hydro Asia Conference and exhibition