by Matt Alderton | October 13, 2017
Although it continues to be impactful thanks to developments in areas such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), technology won't be the main theme of 2018 for the meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE) industry. Instead, meeting and incentive professionals should expect next year to be all about "engagement," according to destination and event management company Pacific World, which this week published its list of the top MICE trends to watch for in 2018.

"Over the past several months, we've systematically collected data, insights, and feedback from our worldwide network of planners and clients," said Pacific World Global Marketing Manager Patricia Silvio. "We've learned about the most requested destinations as well as the types of engagements that are trending. While many believe in the importance and use of technology for events, we believe it is important to focus on another level of connection. In the last year, we have seen a change in the way our clients approach travel. An incentive is not a nice trip to reward an employee; it is also an opportunity to interact, learn, and experience. We're seeing a new generation of global citizens that are committed to the idea of an open and interconnected world. They are experienced travelers who seek new fulfilling experiences that deliver emotional engagement."

Pacific World believes four trends, in particular, will drive attendee engagement next year:

• Localization: "Experiences that tie guests to the destination are growing in popularity," said Pacific World Global Product Development Manager Tania Pasi. "This trend is also popular with locals -- they enjoy becoming the hosts and helping to design the activities. A great example is found in the middle of a forest south of Seoul.  Guests are invited to cook a meal in an ancient Buddhist Temple and learn about what food sharing means for Asian communities and cultures.  In remote Myanmar, a guided sailboat ride along tranquil waters with local fisherman reveals spectacular cooperative fishing between dolphins and fisherman -- a practice that goes back centuries."

• Cultural Immersion: Attendees crave "immersive, behind-the-scenes experiences with local experts," according to Pacific World, which highlighted experiences like handcrafting authentic Carnival masks with an Italian artist in his Venetian workshop, and sitting with local artisans in Hoi An, Vietnam, for stories about their art traditions and culture.

• Community Impact: "Always popular, we are seeing an increase in the demand especially among U.S. clients, and a change in the experiences themselves to make them truly supportive and meaningful addressing problems of the local communities," Pacific World reported. "Global citizens want to actively participate in the communities they visit -- from sustainable experiences to preserving cultural heritage to immersing into villages to collaborate in their sustainable development.  In Barcelona, guests are invited to a special cooking class led not by professional chefs, but by immigrants who have found a way to share their culture and start a new life.  Or connect through music in Istanbul, Turkey, where bespoke programs bring guests together with displaced children who are hoping to build a future through their music talents."

• Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations: Pacific World said travelers increasingly want to visit remote places, or to experience known destinations in new ways. In Scotland, for example, groups can explore the countryside via new "whiskey trails." And in China, they can experience a secluded Shaolin Temple near Luoyang.

Speaking of destinations: Pacific World also released insights about what destinations will be popular next year. Of requests for Asia, it said, Thailand (18%), China (15%), Indonesia (14%), and Hong Kong (13%) are most popular.

Demand for European destinations, meanwhile, has increased 44 percent over the last year, it said, with demand for Spain -- Barcelona and Madrid, mostly, but also emerging destinations like Malaga and Tenerife -- leading the way.

Finally, it reported, old standbys like London, Paris, Rome, Monaco, and Germany remain popular -- but gaining ground are new destinations like Peru, which it said is "emerging as a sought-after destination."


Up your meetings-industry IQ. Check out the latest edition of 30 Seconds to Smart!