MICE, Meera and…..Making it Meaningful!

M-I-C-E: In the travel business, the acronym stands for
Meetings – Incentives – Conferences – Events

For Thomas Cook India it symbolises much more.

It stands for Masterful-Innovation-Creativity-Excellence.

Or you can choose Memories of Imaginative Celebrations and Explorations…..

Knowing Thomas Cook will Make It Completely Enjoyable….

Turning it into a Most Incomparable Creative Experience!

How do we do this? How do we convince customers to choose Thomas Cook for their MICE events? How are we different from others? How do we stand out in the industry?

MEERAWho better to ask than Meera Charnalia, Sr. Vice President & Head-MICE. We tracked her down in between her busy schedule and numerous meetings, to give us some answers!

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see,” said artist Edgar Degas.

 “In Thomas Cook, for us MICE is redefined as an Art,” says Meera, with passion.  “It is the Art of travel, the Art of caring, the Art of cuisine, the Art of celebrating and entertainment.”

She went on to explain that MICE was a project based business. For Thomas Cook India, each event meant starting out with a fresh canvas, each one different, each one complete in itself, customised to the needs of the particular client. We pay attention to the smallest detail, “from warm personal touches to grand orchestrated banquets.”

We provide a 360—degree solutions approach, whether it is a group of 10 or 1500, it is with the same attention and excellence.

2018 was a good year, with some important and successful events.

A few highlights :       

Group to Iceland:

350 passengers visited “Iceland” last year, where they had an itinerary that ensured wow experiences during their entire stay. Highlights included visiting the glaciers sitting in monster trucks, where at one of the highest points of Iceland we organized an exclusive buffet in tents for the group. Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar was a surprise element, where he created magical ART using his culinary skills! There was also a trip to the Blue Lagoon (a geothermal spa), located in a lava field near Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. These warm water bodies are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help people suffering from skin diseases. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C (99–102 °F). The lagoon is man-made which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power and is renewed every two days. The one the group visited was the largest in the world. Another interesting visit was to a lava tunnel, naturally formed by flowing lava which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. Tubes can drain lava from a volcano during an eruption, or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased, and the rock has cooled and eventually left a long cave. Our travellers found it a most interesting experience.

Other important MICE events in 2018 included:

 A group who visited Austria, with an excursion to the quaint town of Schneeberg am Puchberg, where we served Indian cuisine. The Gala Dinner for our clients was planned at the mesmerizing Hofburg Palace in Vienna.

600 passengers to Munich, had an unusual welcome waiting for them outside their hotel.  The team had arranged for a DJ console, offering beverages and playing great music as the guests checked-in…  creating a party environment to make the procedure pleasurable!

Similarly, we planned and executed creative ways to transfer the guests from the hotel to different gala dinner venues exclusively by city trams and local vintage cars, in Prague.

Another group that went to Tromso, was taken to a UNESCO world heritage site in the Norwegian Fjords, where they did whale watching and were lucky enough to experience the breathtaking Northern lights phenomenon. Reindeer sledging was also very popular!

We hosted a cocktail dinner for the top management of a corporate, where we invited Andre Agassi, celebrity tennis player, to interact with the entire group, much to their delight and surprise!

The biggest highlight/achievement of 2018 was the group of 1850 pax to Malaysia. It was a herculean task, which required meticulous planning and organizing, but we are happy to report that everything went smoothly, and the guests were very happy with the arrangements, and had a wonderful time.

A big responsibility, indeed!

What particular challenges did she and her team face…. we asked Meera.. She said MICE was a high volume business, with plenty of competition. Numerous event companies, ticketing agents etc. were vying for a piece of the pie, consequently diluting the market share. The challenge was to convince clients to choose Thomas Cook, even though our pricing might be higher than the pop-up shops. We have to prove that we never compromise on quality, and always promise a smooth and perfect MICE holiday.

Other factors have also influenced the market, such as guidelines from certain institutions – e.g. the pharmaceutical companies, who decreed that doctors could no longer be incentivised with a holiday. The impact of this was felt with a dip in the MICE market!

Another challenge was the dependency on other providers, such as Consulates, airlines, hospitality agents. Connecting with numerous passengers, pan-India, for each group, ensuring all the documentation was synchronised and completed correctly, can be daunting and tedious.

Despite the demanding scenario, Meera confidently says our MICE team is ready to tackle it all with enthusiasm and energy! People choose Thomas Cook because we give excellent end-to-end solutions. 

“The corporates put everything into our hands,” reiterates Meera, “They totally rely on us to look after their partners, dealers, staff — we call them the ‘baratis’! They need to be specially taken care of and pampered in the same way!”

We have expert Tour Managers, and special in-house Chefs; we have an extensive countrywide network; we have experience in managing flight charters for luxury groups. Our association with numerous Tourism Boards adds great value to enhance the travel experience.

“But all this would not be possible without the involvement and backing of so many other teams, besides our own MICE staff. We have the best teams in the industry!” says Meera emphatically.

The Back Office team provides critical coordination, working closely with the Visa Processing Unit, and the expert Airline Management Team. Their professionalism and quality control ensures meticulous execution.

“Everyone believes ‘God is in the details’ and we are very proud of that,” says Meera. “All 150 people are an integral part of the great success story.”

What is the way ahead? Keeping up with the digital age; embracing new technology; enhancement of processes, becoming even more user-friendly.

“The future is bright,” feels Meera. “The business has taken a quantum leap.”

Starting in 2007 with a humble 14 crores, it has soared to 600 crores, and over-achieved its targets.  The goal is to confidently head towards 1000 crores soon!  The Usain Bolt inspirational flyer on every MICE employee’s desk, says it all: