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Alliance formed to work for ‘MICE’ aspiration

Boracay vies for business events, conferences

PRE-OMICRON CROWD Tourists packed Boracay’s main beach on Nov. 2 when restrictions were eased prior to resurgence of COVID-19 cases. —Photo by Jack Jarilla

Boracay has always been a world-famous destination for leisure travel. But an alliance composed of different sectors in the tourism industry is now trying to position the paradise island as a prime “MICE” destination.

To those not familiar with the term, MICE is a shorthand for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. And while business events do happen in Boracay, they are mostly the result of individual and fragmented efforts. Most of them tend to be small meetings and conferences, at best.

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The Boracay MICE Alliance aims to change that.

With a collective push from an organized group, the alliance hopes to put Boracay top of mind when tour organizers talk about MICE destinations.

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“Boracay has been ready to become a premiere MICE destination for so long,” says Cleofe Albiso, chair of the newly formed Boracay MICE Alliance. “Boracay is so much more than its beautiful beaches and white sand.”

With many existing and upcoming facilities, the island is ready for business events and corporate groups, especially after “sleeping” and resting for almost two years, no thanks to the lockdown restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the six-month rehabilitation closure just before that.

With its beautiful beaches and famous white sand, Boracay is already popular for leisure tourism, so it wouldn’t be too hard to sell the place as a tropical paradise for business events. All it needs is the right set of incentive packages to attract business events planners and organizers.

Rethinking amid pandemic

MICE events are actually complementary to leisure travel, as the former would, most often than not, also include free time for individuals to explore the island—the many water activities, delicious gastronomic finds and exciting night life.

Another advantage of Boracay as a MICE destination is that participants in business events could bring their families with them. And while they attend to business, their companions can explore the island without them being too far from each other. This means that a push for business events also means good news for leisure tourism.

As to why Boracay was never strongly pushed as a MICE destination in the past, Albiso says that there was just no need for it, as the island was always a popular destination for leisure travel.

“The pandemic served as a good trigger for the tourism industry in Boracay to really band together and be more creative so we could find ways to bring people back to Boracay, thus the push for more MICE events,” says Albiso. “If not for the pandemic, I don’t think the push for MICE in Boracay would be a priority.”

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This was exactly what the MICECONNECT 2021, held in November last year, was all about. Spearheaded by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines, in partnership with the Boracay MICE Alliance, MICECONNECT 2021 gathered buyers and sellers of MICE products and services such as meeting facilities, hotels and resorts, tour and transport operators, event management companies, and destination management companies.

The aim was to gather the stakeholders and form a solid front so Boracay—and the thousands of tourism workers on the island—can stand on its feet once more. The platform also integrated business-to-business (B2B) meetings, product inventory, familiarization trips, and an experiential showcase of the island.

Albiso, who is group general manager at Megaworld Hotels, was also instrumental in promoting Iloilo as a MICE destination. As a former chair of the Iloilo MICE Alliance, she said that it was a natural progression for the region to become a MICE destination. And while Boracay has a different flavor to it, she is confident that the the island paradise would soon follow the footsteps of Iloilo.

Elmar Lina, president of Boracay MICE Alliance, echoes Albiso’s sentiment, saying that Boracay is ready and hungry to welcome guests once more. “There are lots of venues in Boracay that can handle corporate events, even up to 1,500 pax,” said Lina, who is also general manager of Savoy and Belmont hotels in the Boracay Newcoast integrated tourism development.

The Boracay Newcoast is seen to play a huge role in further boosting capacity, with the slated launch of the Boracay Convention Center by mid-2022. Located near the Belmont Hotel Boracay and Savoy Hotel, it’s envisioned to become one of the busiest convention centers in town.

At the moment, the Boracay MICE Alliance, supported by the Department of Tourism and the local government unit of Boracay, is composed of member hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, and other stakeholders. The goal is to get every tourism-related sector involved.

“We put down our brands when we do an alliance effort. We’ll all thrive when the economy recovers. We all know that the only way we can all make it to the other end is if we work together—and that’s what we’re all going to do,” says Albiso.

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