Amid rapid growth of MICE, Meetings, Incentive trips, Conventions, and Exhibitions, many universities are turning their attention to fostering skills for the MICE industry. But what opportunities does MICE offer for university students. This value-added exhibition industry aims to raise the touristic value of a region by attracting visitors to stimulate its economy. Seoul was ranked the third MICE city after Brussels and Singapore by Union of International Associations (UIA) in 2017 and MICE tourists have increased by 73 percent in the past five years, recording 880,000 visitors just in Seoul only. Given the rapid growth in the industry, universities are launching interdepartmental majors on the MICE sector, with students participating in related activities outside of class as they value the opportunities that MICE can present for their future careers.
MICE on campus
Professor Seo Byoung-ro discusses advantages of MICE courses for students
As employment opportunities have increased in the MICE industry, so too have the opportunities to study the sector at universities. For instance, Konkuk University launched its first MICE-related course in 2016 and has developed Global MICE as an interdepartmental major. Although it is fairly new, it has shown potential through its practical and well-structured programs.
The major has been established to help improve the employment prospects of students from the College of Humanities, according to Professor Seo Byoung-ro, head of the Global MICE major at Konkuk.
“I noticed that students graduating from the humanities department are struggling to find employment,” Seo said. “We thought that students could become more competitive if they learned practical and administrative skills by planning global conventions and meetings, especially at a time when the demands of managing international affairs has increased.”
The main goal of Konkuk’s Global MICE department is to produce human resources with practical skills. Seo explained how these “practical qualities” could be developed through field experience.
“Students are given the chance to go to official meetings and apply what they have learned in class,” Seo said. “There are certain competencies required by the industry, such as adaptability and execution ability. Through such field experiences, students will be able to fulfill those requirements.”
Another benefit of the MICE major is the ability to gain various professional certificates while taking the courses.
“National certifications, such as travel counselor, professional conventional planner, and professional convention organizer, are available for students,” Seo said. “Companies are likely to hire students with these licenses because they seem to be more prepared and experienced.”
Seo also gave examples of MICE-related activities in which university students can participate in. “There are approximately 1,297 international meetings held in Korea each year,” Seo said. “Students can directly participate in these as staff as a form of on-site study. They learn how the programs are structured, how to contact and invite speakers, and more. It will be a great experience to learn how everything is done from beginning to end.”
Seo added that majoring in MICE will boost students’ employment prospects. “By making convention and marketing proposals, naturally students will not only gain experience but also build portfolios of their work,” Seo explained. “This will definitely benefit them when applying for jobs.”
Kyung Hee Convention Society positioning itself as a MICE trend leader
Students interested in the MICE industry have created various university clubs focused on this sector. For example, Ewha Mice Community was formed in 2014, and those who are keen can also join Students of MICE, which is a nationwide university club.
Among those clubs, Kyung Hee Convention Society (KHCS), founded in 2003, has won many awards related to the MICE industry including the Seoul Metropolitan City Mayor Prize of 2018 United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“We try to connect what we learn with practical business and keep up with recent trends,” said Kim Kyu-yeon, the manager of KHCS Content Team. “We hold a special event at least twice a year so that our members can get a glimpse of the MICE industry and how it works. I believe this was the driving force behind winning the prizes.”
KHCS holds talks, incentive tours and workshops to give its members insights into this field. Last year, it started hosting a forum, in which they plan to make it their signature event. This year’s theme is “Hospitality and tourism: trend leader forum,” to be held in August.
When asked about what attracted members of KHCS to the MICE industry, Park So-jeong, the manager of the society’s Content Team, said that it has been her dream since middle school to work in the sector.
“I’ve always wanted to do something international,” Park said. “The MICE industry may sound very broad and ambiguous, but due to its broadness, it covers and deals with many different areas. Therefore, I always had something to learn and could grow from it. I think it’s fascinating that I can make something out of nothing as a content provider. The fact that I can introduce Korea to the world and meet experts from different countries attracted me.”
When asked about the key success factor for a MICE event, Kim Jeong-eun, the vice president of KHCS, replied the most important factor is people.
“No matter how excellent a convention or an exhibition is or how well prepared it is, it cannot succeed if nobody participates,” Kim said. “The MICE industry cannot thrive without people participating.”
“Although our society is under Kyung Hee University, we want to open our events and communicate with others,” commented Ok Ye-jee, the manager of Marketing Team. “We run a MICE Cluster Facebook page on which we share information on the MICE industry and promote KHCS. I want KHCS to be the center of this industry, beyond its current success.”
“I believe that KHCS is a society that is eager to take on challenges,” commented Kim Ye-ji, the 17th President of KHCS. “As students, there aren’t many activities we can do in this field. However, we try to take on various challenges by holding conventions and fairs in different formats. Therefore, I believe KHCS is a society with great potential.”
MICE in industry
STO strives to place Seoul at center of the MICE world
Seoul Tourism Organization (STO), which works under Korean government, manages the MICE industry and promotion related to Seoul. To further investigate how the MICE industry works in our society, Ewha Voice met Kim Hyo-eun, assistant manager of the MICE marketing team of STO. The MICE marketing team is in charge of conventions and exhibitions and wins bids to host international conferences. She commented on the value of the MICE industry for Seoul and advised on how students could be come true “MICEians.”
Q. MICE events can raise an area’s attractiveness as a tourist destination. How does STO promote Seoul through such exhibitions and conventions?
Through MICE participants who have approximately twice the consumption volume of general tourists, we achieve an economic ripple effect that ultimately contributes to the improvement of the lives of citizens. For this, STO supports advertising and the hosting of MICE events. Also, STO promotes Seoul through networking between domestic and foreign organizations related to the MICE industry.
Q. What is STO’s key current focus for MICE work?
I believe that our core work related to MICE is bidding for international conferences. Recently, we successfully bid for the International Congress on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 2023, which will host 1,500 people. We predict that this will bring broader economic benefits in the long-run.
Q. What is STO doing to create added value through the development of linked businesses?
We offer assistance in MICE bidding and opening, international advertisements and promotions, supporting tourism, private-public cooperation, and MICE professional training programs.
Q. How much has the global competitiveness of Seoul and its value as a tourist attraction increase through the MICE business?
Partly as a result of such efforts on MICE, Seoul’s competitiveness as a global tourist destination has been demonstrated through awards such as Best International Business Meeting Destination (2012-2017) by Business Traveler Awards, Best MICE City (2015~2017) by Global Traveler Awards, and third place in World’s Top Convention City by UIA.
Q. Interest in the MICE industry is growing in universities, with Ewha MICE Community hosting Ewha Handmade Fair every year. What do you think about this?
I think you’ll be able to achieve a better economic effect if you add a more global feeling, such as recruiting foreign participants. However, I know this is difficult. Along with the increasing attention in universities, Seoul Metropolitan City has prepared a MICE training program. If you continue to pursue active participation, then you will be able to truly become a MICEian.
Q. MICE is a high added value business, but there is a huge risk of damage if an event fails. How does STO deal with this?
We analyze the failures with the organization. Then, we actively put the lessons learned into action in the next project to make sure that attraction succeeds. We don’t give up after one failure but keep on challenging ourselves.
Q. What future plans does STO have?
STO’s goal is to become the leading MICE World City and we are planning to build a support center in July that would overall support our business.
Q. Lastly, any last words for our students?
MICE professionals work with the minds of civilian diplomats. Given that the basis of our business is people, we are ready to meet you all with open minds. If you are reading this newspaper right now, don’t hesitate to challenge yourself in MICE!
Channel Coex holds Paint Tomorrow C-Festival
Channel Coex held Paint Tomorrow C-Festival from May 2 to 5 in Coex to present Korea’s future trends as a festival experience. Coex in Seoul’s Gangnam area is a flagship MICE venue located in the Coex MICE Cluster, an area starting from Bongeunsa Temple to Samseong Station. Together with the Coex MICE Cluster Committee, Channel Coex held Paint Tomorrow C-Festival, which consisted of three main parts, Insight Concert 360° Seoul, Stage C and Market C.
Insight Concert 360° Seoul was a festival-themed conference, which aimed to enlighten the audience through lectures and exhibitions. Representatives and CEOs from different companies, celebrities, university professors and social influencers gathered together to inspire.
Stage C featured a Main Stage as well as fairs such as Very Goods 2019, Get it Beauty Con as well as the Baeksang Arts Awards, which was live on a popular Korean broadcaster JTBC on May 1. Professionals from different fields such as make-up artists and designers filled Stage C while the Main Stage gave artists an opportunity to showcase their contents and performances. Very Goods, Korea’s largest brand goods fair, and Get it Beauty Con gave the audience an opportunity to approach all goods offered at a more affordable price.
Filled with various booths offering customers menus from ice cream to steak, Market C consisted of Eat the Seoul 2019 Spring, C-Fe Craft Beer Festival, Coex K-Pop Square Outdoor Cinema and Inter-Continental Wine Bazaar with the C-Festival.
“I came for Eat the Seoul 2019 Spring festival. Only after I arrived did I know that there were so many different festivals going on,” said Song Soo-hyun, a festival attendee. “There are a lot of foreigners here, but I feel like there would have been more if the festival had offered more K-pop stars from Korean entertainment that foreigners are interested in.”
“Four of my classmates are exhibiting in the festivals here,” said Femke Janssen, an art student from the Netherlands who attended the festival. “I was very impressed by the wide variety of art that the festival provides.”
“I came to see the work of young South Korean artists, but I didn’t know that there was a food festival, fashion festival and much more,” Janssen further commented. “I can’t tell whether it would be interesting to other tourists though.”
Other attendees were interested only in specific parts of the event. For example, attendee Emily Marysia Thomas said she had been attracted by Seoul Fashion Festival 2019 but was not interested in browsing the rest of the C-Festival.
Paint Tomorrow C-Festival definitely succeeded in catching the attention of a wide range of people, offering consumers with multiple festivals and events to cater different interests. There were many customers who came to enjoy individual festivals.
Although some stayed around to enjoy the C-Festival 2019 itself, others went home after fulfilling their original goals. Some people commented that more promotion would be necessary to further expand the festivals to a broader audience.