Dubrovnik could be next MICE star
Dubrovnik could be next MICE star
19 JUNE 2015 6:15 AM
The Croatian city hasn’t been on the MICE industry’s radar due to the lack of a large congress center, but that might change as the regional administration finds viable solutions for developing such a project.
REPORT FROM CROATIA—Dubrovnik, Croatia, is not only the “Pearl of the Adriatic” but also a hometown of “Game of Thrones” since 2011, when the HBO crew first came to the city.
Being a unique historic city recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik attracts numerous visitors, especially in the period from June to September (high season), while the shoulder season (spring and autumn) is the best time to visit Dubrovnik if looking for a more private experience of the city.
So far, Dubrovnik has been out of the global meetings-incentives-conventions-and-exhibitions industry’s focus due to the fact that there is no professionally dedicated large capacity congress center, neither within the city perimeter nor in the wider region. 
MICE capacities are solely situated within major hotels in the city: Hilton Imperial; Rixos Dubrovnik, Valamar Lacroma; Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel; Importanne Resort; Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik; and Dubrovnik Palace. In the vicinity of Dubrovnik, there are also the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa and the Dubrovnik Sun Gardens in Orašac, Croatia hotel in Cavtat together with several smaller hotels with MICE capacities.
According to Horwath HTL, statistical data from Dubrovnik Tourism Office shows Dubrovnik is hosting yearly between 150 and 250 congresses and conferences, 60 to 120 business meetings and 30 to 75 incentives. The number of large congresses and conferences is rather limited due to the fact there is no single hall able to accommodate more than 1,200 delegates at the same time. Incentives are growing in their importance, recording average 20% yearly growth over last six years. It is noted that average length of stay for MICE guests in Dubrovnik is rising, related to the improving attractiveness and image of the city.
On average, Dubrovnik hosts MICE events of between 250 and 500 delegates, while more frequent requests for bigger capacities are reported. On average there are up to 10 events with more than 600 delegates per hotel property per year. 
Future development
Dubrovnik Airport is undergoing a multimillion-dollar investment in upgrades and enlargement of the terminal building and equipment with expected completion by 2019. This is a priority investment of European Structural Funds. This would further increase the air accessibility and attractiveness of Dubrovnik Region in general. 
New accommodation capacities are on the way, including luxury Golf Park Dubrovnik Resort and the new Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel. There are also several state-owned complexes, expected to be soon put on the market for resorts development, potentially bringing an additional 3,000 to 4,000 hotel keys in upscale and luxury segment.  
What’s next?
Considering the ever-growing positive image of Dubrovnik, improving accommodation structure, developing airport infrastructure and rising interest of global hotel brands for entering Dubrovnik, the MICE sector is covering all major key success factors of this specific tourism product. In order to further improve its competitive position, Dubrovnik is at the moment improving air access (flight schedules and destinations) and is seriously considering development of a multifunctional congress center.
As MICE capacities are obviously reaching their commercialization potential, a professionally developed congress center is a necessity for future sustainable tourism development. The regional administration is keen on finding viable solutions for developing such a demanding project, with all scenarios possible (public, private or PPP investment). Assuming the financial construction of the project will be closed, Dubrovnik could in the midterm independently and strongly step into the global MICE arena, competing for hosting most demanding global events targeting the Mediterranean.
A look at the global MICE industry
The global meetings-incentives-conventions-and-exhibitions industry is an extremely dynamic tourism sector, especially in well-developed city destinations. It is tremendously under the impact of global economic and political trends. 
Due to its complexity, there are no unified global statistics on the whole sector. However, the International Congress and Convention Association is providing the most complete one at the moment, but focusing on association meetings only. In last 50 years ICCA has recorded strong growth trend in the MICE industry, from 1,800 events held from 1963 to 1967, up to 54,900 events held from 2008 to 2012. The number of events grew exponentially over last 50 years, on average 10% per year.
From the historic perspective, Europe is considered to be the stronghold of the MICE industry and still today it hosts more than 50% of all association meetings. In recent decades, the Asia and Middle East regions are strongly developing MICE capacities. Such supply-based expansion strategy is further building its global share in MICE events, resulting with 18% share in total events.
The global MICE industry is a competitive tourism sector. Besides new congress-center construction, existing venues are being further enlarged and modernized, all with aim of attracting more conference organizers and thus higher volumes of delegates. Nevertheless, the average size of events is actually decreasing—from 1,253 delegates in 1960s down to average 424 delegates in 2012. Still, more than 8% of total association meetings today are larger than 1,000 delegates.
Siniša Topalovic is partner with Horwath HTL Croatia. For more information on Dubrovnik and Croatian tourism and hospitality opportunities contact stopalovic@horwathhtl.com or +385 1 4877 200. Horwath HTL is global leader in tourism and hospitality consulting with more than 40 offices worldwide.
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