Calling dentists, physicists, travel agents and engineers. Chennai will soon join the list of cities that are preferred MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) destinations globally. Helping the process will be the city’s latest hotel property, the Grand Chola, a luxury hotel from the ITC group that is ready for launch.

A growing segment of all forms of tourism, MICE has contributed to the transformation of economies of several cities across the world. Providing an edge to Chennai would be its sea port, as goods for large exhibitions can easily be shipped here.

The MICE segment is considered most lucrative as it returns the highest value per visitor per day. The scope for growth in India is immense as the country now accounts for only one per cent of the worldwide MICE industry. “We want to bring international customers… want to sell Destination Tamil Nadu,” says Philippe H. Charraudeau, vice-president and general manager, ITC Grand Chola.

To get a sense of the size of the potential market, consider this: In the first quarter of 2012, Macau, a long established international convention centre, attracted 261 global events with 1,61,781 participants.

“With 600 rooms and a built-up area of 1.5 million square feet, the ITC Grand Chola, inspired by the architectural splendour of the Chola dynasty, will be an iconic destination in Chennai. The pillar-less convention ballroom spread over 30,000 square feet promises to make Chennai an important international convention destination in India, enhancing the potential for high quality tourism inflow into the State,” Mr. Charraudeau says.

The hotel will have one lakh square feet of banqueting and convention facilities. The investments would continue and in the second phase of development, a luxury retail mall would be added.

The Rs. 1,200 crore project, on eight acres, would provide direct employment to 1,500 persons. By 2018, ITC estimates there would be positive returns on investment for all stakeholders, the annual inflow of delegates to the city is estimated to increase by 60,000 and approximately 39,000 jobs would be generated on a cumulative basis.

Trade and industry would benefit as such a facility would help host international conventions and attract global business heads. “It is heartening to know that Chennai will now have a landmark property like the ITC Grand Chola which could enhance the profile of the city, not only as a tourist destination but also as an international convention destination,” says T.T. Srinivasaraghavan, president, Madras Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

V. Prakash, area sales and marketing manager of ITC Hotels-Chennai, says, international associations invariably alternate between the preferred MICE destinations of Singapore, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Las Vegas and Macau. Their Indian chapters can now make a strong bid for such events with ITC Grand Chola.

Underscoring the need for a convention promotion bureau in Tamil Nadu, he says the professional expertise and the convenience of single window coordination that it can offer is very important for convention organisers.

Since the dynamics of organising conventions are different as compared to those of organising tours, government backing for a bureau is critical as such support would lend credibility. Sixty-five of the top 66 convention destinations have a convention promotion bureau.

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