Fairs and Congresses, at cruising speed (but under three threats)

Fairs and Congresses, at cruising speed (but under three threats)

This Wednesday begins the first joint industry congress of Fairs and Congresses of Spain, the segments of MICE that are already operating at “cruising speed”, but which see three “significant threats on the horizon”: the inflationthe mobility and the deficit of hand work. That’s what the general manager of the Palace of Fairs and Congresses of Malaga (FYCMA), Yolanda Aguilarin an interview with HOSTELTUR.

How was last year for FYCMA?
The year 2021 marked the recovery. Our campus was the last to close due to the pandemic and the first to open. We were only inactive during the months of confinement. Since April, activity has increased. In total, we organized 147 events with over 130,000 attendees and over 1,300 exhibitors. Not yet close to 2019 figures, but with a last quarter very comparable to the last quarter of 2019.

And this first half of 2022?
It will be the best billing and activity in the history of FYCMA In terms of participants, we cannot say yet. It was an exceptionally good semester.

Will it surpass 2019 numbers?
I am convinced that it will be better than 2019, which was our peak year, when 163 events were organized and more than 200,000 participants. But more than the number of events, what matters most is their quality, both in terms of the type of event and its international level.

Did it go better than expected?
The associative feeling is that we are all at cruising speed, both at Trade Shows and at Congresses. However, neither the Corporate trip nor the Incentive trip have been recovered. In the MICE segments, Fairs and Congresses are already recovered, but with significant threats on the horizon.

This first half was “exceptionally good”.

What threats?
I’m talking about inflation, price, supply and mobility.

Why mobility?
In cities like Malaga, MICE suffers from the lack of tickets to travel from Madrid, for example. The AVE has great difficulty meeting the demand from businesses.

Are you missing places?
There is a shortage of seats, but also the tickets are expensive. Before the pandemic, we had between 12 and 14 frequencies a day and we stayed at nine. Also they stopped doing the last frequency of the day so if you are going to Madrid for a date you have to stay overnight. And it is difficult to find tickets and with rather high prices. This is something that has been going on for months.

Business slows down due to transportation issues?
It is happening. We have an obvious risk of affecting the MICE sector, but the sun and the beach are also suffering, as the difficulty in finding tickets is a reality. That is why it is an issue that the Provincial Council of Malaga deals with, since it concerns the capital and the entire Costa del Sol.

Bobbin lace

Is connectivity the most serious issue for MICE right now?
No. For us, in particular, the most important problem we face is inflation. For Malaga, and I think in general it’s a common problem for everyone. Only electricity prices are multiplied by four. And not only electricity, but also transport, for the price of fuel. It is complex to deduce from this that there are tariffs, because this considerably modifies the prices. Added to this is an even more complex factor and that is that in our case these services are subject to a public call for tenders. And each time these prices have to be adjusted, we have to organize a new tender. Remember that events are budgeted a year in advance.

How much does it cost to organize an event?
We don’t have the exact number yet. And this is also one of the questions that will be addressed at this first AFE-PACE congress.

Are there no price inflation adjustment clauses?
We are a public company and the tariffs are approved by the board of directors and the tariffs are not flexible and are prohibited in public contracts. You would be required to launch a new public tender. This is a complex and difficult subject to deal with. Those of us who are subject to public procurement law complicate our existence, because we have to do bobbin lace to access everything and that the end customer is not harmed.

Learn more about the takeover of MICE:
Spanish fairs expect to recover pre-pandemic figures this year
Convention center activity nears pre-pandemic levels
Raúl Calleja: “We have to make MICE sexy to attract talent”

And does MICE also suffer from labor issues like other sectors?
Yes, both scarcity and price increase. Labor is not available on the market, for example for setting up stands or for catering. And the price increase has to do with the latest labor reform, which requires paying a temporary ceiling of 45 euros per contract, whether it is a four-hour or three-month contract. It is a request which in the cultural sector has been nuanced, and which we, in our first joint congress, want to ask of the central government.

Does this labor shortage jeopardize the celebration of events?
This is a problem that fundamentally affects our suppliers, the value chain, but not the professionals on the premises. At this time, supply and labor shortages are not jeopardizing holding an event, but they are hampering the process.

You said this year 2022 will be better than 2019. Will 2023 be better than this year?
2023 is already at a very high level of employment, but it is early to say that it will be better than 2022, because there are many unknowns about the behavior of the economy. Our activity is strongly impacted by the economic curve.

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