MICE Antofagasta Tourism Project: adjusting the implementation to the pandemic context
The focus of the project is the strengthening of capacities to offer in the Antofagasta region business tourism services or “MICE” (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions).
Francisco Javier Meneses, Director of Strategic Development of Eurochile
In January 2020, the Eurochile Business Foundation was awarded the “Internationalization of MICE Tourism” project in the framework of CORFO Nodos line. The focus of the project is the strengthening of capacities to offer, in the Antofagasta region business tourism services or “MICE” (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions). It is a “supervised” instrument, and in this case the agent that presented the tender and must supervise the work of Eurochile is Gedes Limitada.
In this context, the work plan establishes a series of activities that aim to generate knowledge and skills in tourism companies in the Antofagasta region. A diagnosis of the offer and demand of MICE Tourism services is prepared, a plan of seminars and training workshops is designed, a business and marketing plan is drawn up, a dissemination plan is generated and it is put into practice, participation in an international fair and a business conference is planned.
It was planned that the execution of activities with the companies of Antofagasta would begin in March 2020, with a program that included European experts in this type of tourism participating in evaluations, training and consultancies. Regular meetings were considered in the main cities of the region with the beneficiary companies, business leaders and authorities of the region. Opening and closing seminars were scheduled with a hundred participants in a hotel in Antofagasta. Meetings and workshops were planned to strengthen joint work. The participation of four regional companies was planned in the FIEXPO 2020, an international specialised fair that would be held in June in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
Just on the date the project was beginning it execution, a state of emergency was declared throughout the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On that date, national and international trips were suspended, face-to-face meetings were prohibited, and offices were closed for several months. In parallel, there was a demand crisis on the tourism sector, including the companies participating in the project.
The previous situation made it impossible for professionals to travel from Spain and from Santiago to Antofagasta to carry out training and diagnoses. Nor would face-to-face seminars and meetings be possible. No physical promotional material could be delivered. Meetings had to be canceled to identify the business plan. There was option of filming or taking images of the region for dissemination materials. Finally, the cancellation of the FIEXPO Fair in Cartagena de Indias was likely, which was later confirmed.
Faced with this situation, the methodology of the project had to be completely adjusted. It was decided that the limitations imposed by the pandemic could be overcome since the products sought by the program are mainly intangible: design of a future management structure for MICE tourism; diagnostics, knowledge, skills development; generation of promotional material; business plans; marketing and dissemination strategies; participation in international networks; transfer of European experiences and generation of mutual trust for collaborative work. With a deep redesign and the collaboration of all the participants (CORFO and other public entities, Gedes Ltda, the beneficiary companies and Eurochile) it has been possible to execute the project in a way that only a year ago would have seemed utopian. This has required additional investments in equipment, software licenses for meetings and seminars, training and IT consulting for the teams involved, but it is an effort that sooner or later everyone will end up making.
To start the training plan, an opening webinar was held with 160 registered people and with exhibitions from Spain, Santiago and Antofagasta. The European expert in meeting and event tourism MICE, Raúl García, had bilateral online interviews with business leaders, tourism entrepreneurs in the region, beneficiaries of the node and regional authorities of CORFO and SERNATUR. The expert conducted two workshops, which the main theme was the European experience facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Workshops that were originally intended for a small group of beneficiaries could be expanded to more people thanks to online technology.
Regular meetings have been held between the Eurochile and the beneficiaries, without a doubt more often than planned face-to-face meetings. The management structure and the training, business, marketing and dissemination plans were agreed upon.
All the planned workshops were held, always with a number of participants several times higher than originally scheduled.
The Spanish expert in congresses and events, Carlota Herrera, who during 2020 also worked with the companies participating in the project, managed to make visits to the beneficiaries, conducting interviews and observing the facilities through cameras and online conversation.
All the experts have developed and sent their contributions and reports by email, and have received their feedback in an agile way.
Even FIEXPO 2020 was organised virtually. A virtual stand was hired, and in that space visits were received and meetings were held with participants from all over the world. It was also possible to participate in a virtual brokerage event organised within the framework of FIEXPO, generating valuable contacts for the project companies.
The project promotions have been made virtually, publishing the videos of the seminars, the news and opinion columns on the Eurochile website. Additionally, all the material has been disseminated through the social networks of Eurochile and of the public and private entities associated with the project. In the final phase of the project, the brochure, the logo and the promotional video are in the process of being prepared. All the content, the work with journalists and designers, in addition to the review and editing of the communication pieces, has been done online. Likewise, the products will be disseminated through social networks and web pages, ensuring a much greater coverage than printed material.
In summary, the execution of the MICE Node project has been a valuable experience on how a project that generates intangible services can be executed in a good way in a context as adverse as the one experienced in 2020. This has been possible thanks to the technologies and communications, to the adaptability of all the professionals involved and especially to the will of the beneficiary entrepreneurs, who have remained involved in the project despite the difficult times their businesses are going through.