BY DANIEL CHUA
AONIA managing director

Accreditation of MICE service providers will yield benefits that will outweigh the challenges of implementing one.

In this part two of the significance of accreditation of Singapore’s MICE industry, the future benefits of accreditation are presented together with the proposed criteria of accreditation.
While there are challenges to implementing one, an internationally recognised MICE agency accreditation system can develop the local MICE industry to better support both local and overseas clients’ needs.

Future benefits

As the industry matures further with the implementation of accreditation, future scenarios that would augur well for the industry’s continued viability would include:

  1. Pitch fees being paid for the extensive research and efforts made in compiling complex quotations and putting together extensive proposals leading to the success of an event, especially if research from overseas sources must be made with the attendant costs. It is highly inefficient for the industry, overall, that clients can now task a multitude of MICE firms to pitch for free, leading to confusion and needless amounts of communications further down the line with suppliers who are approached by the same MICE agencies and even the clients themselves concurrently;
  2. Time-charges being levied for professional time spent managing projects, with a positive consequence being clients thinking harder before making changes to plans already ‘confirmed’, often with the time cost incurred by the PCO to effect the changes at no additional cost (when it becomes the practice of a mature industry to charge for additional time in catering to some other person’s sudden change of mind);
  3. A greater respect for MICE professionals who currently enjoy a lesser level of prestige than professionals in other related industries, such as PR firms, due to many of the factors related to accreditation as elucidated.
  4. Accreditation can provide MICE firms a further branding opportunity to gain greater industry recognition both locally and internationally. Larger foreign-based firms have done this well, and have been able to charge better rates for their services.
    In the case of foreign firms, they may also have long-term deals cut at HQ level with firms in their home markets, and set up local offices to serve those clients’ needs, with rates already based on home office agreements which tend to be higher than local market rates due to economic and exchange rate factors.

Singapore firms can and must also aspire to go global along with other Singapore-born MNCs, with accreditation being a constructive measure towards that goal.

Accreditation criteria

Accreditation should not be mistaken as a licensing scheme needed to be in business. It must be an aid and never a hindrance in improving standards and the overall efficacy and effectiveness of the industry in all ways, representing an effort and commitment by MICE agencies to maintain and improve their services for the benefit of their clients.
It should be maintained by a neutral and professional body that may hire consultants for the purposes of setting up the system but ultimately manages the system with dedicated staff for greatest effectiveness.
Suggested rationale and criteria are:

  1. To ensure a higher level of implementation capabilities through built-in redundancy and to have a stronger assurance of a system of management, a minimum number of key full-time staff (and certainly not a one person operation or OPO);
  2. To ensure a minimal level of professional expertise, the educational level of key staff or minimum number of MICE projects managed with well-documented case studies serving a minimum number of people;
  3. To ensure maturity and professionalism (in other words, ensure that the firm is not ‘fly by night’), a minimum number of years in business and a physical inspection of the operating premises of the MICE agency which should be conducive to the planning and management of MICE projects (this will exclude many OPOs (One-Person Operation) from being a MICE agency, although it will not prevent clients from still hiring them, caveat emptor);
  4. To gauge financial stability, the paid-up capital and financial statements of the company (which may be managed by a third party accounting firm should privacy be an issue, though this will add to the total costs of accreditation).

Cons and challenges in accreditation

The cons of agency accreditation would be the costs of administering such a programme which would include a small staff to create, disseminate, collect and manage accreditation needs. An initial boost may be provided by government grants, in view of the benefits to the industry.
Agreeing on minimum standards of accreditation may also be difficult, with raising the bar too high eliminating smaller players, and setting it too low allowing in less qualified firms.
The system should also be simple to avoid excessive complexity in administration, e.g., in managing a multiple-tier system.
However, the costs would be low relative to the positive outcomes to be gained.
Importantly, the accrediting office must be seen as impartial, and only accredit firms that have kept to criteria with no exception to avoid the corruption and collapse of the system. This will have the positive effect of having younger firms who are serious about being in and contributing to industry growth strive towards the improvements needed to deserve accreditation.

Conclusion

Accreditation can provide MICE firms a further branding opportunity to gain greater industry recognition both locally and internationally. Larger foreign-based firms have done this well, and have been able to charge better rates for their services.

In terms of possessing competitive advantage, Singapore has the unique opportunity in the region to develop a stronger local MICE industry able to support both local and overseas clients’ needs through a well-established system of accreditation. As much as foreign players are welcomed here, their ultimate interest lies in the strength and development of their headquarters from tapping into overseas markets, hence the call for Singapore’s need to nurture a strong
MICE industry.
An internationally recognised MICE agency accreditation system will become a necessity in an increasingly globalised world to ensure higher international standards for what is most definitely a global industry, with travel being a key part of the MICE equation. This will facilitate professional collaborations, allowing potential partners based in different countries to be better aware of each other’s capability and credibility.
Change will not happen overnight for the Singapore MICE industry – accreditation will not mean that clients will work only with these firms and at rates that such firms deserve. However, all else being considered, being accredited will be a small step forward for the MICE firm that will translate into that great leap forward for the MICE industry as a whole.
Ultimately, there will be greater discipline and professionalism practiced in the MICE industry that will benefit its workers and the clients they serve in a continuum of successful (despite all challenges) MICE projects.

Daniel Chua is the managing director of AONIA Pte Ltd, which operates a specialist MICE department. Daniel has been involved in the MICE business since 1999 as a talent, executive, manager, account director, creative director and projects director for projects encompassing the MICE spectrum for MNC, SME, Government & NGO clients in Singapore and ASEAN. His understanding of the system and importance of accreditation stems from his experience in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) managing agency accreditation for the South-Asia region.

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