MICE Conversations - Sergio Maccanti, Gran Canaria Convention Bureau - The Dublin MICE MeetUp
- So, hello and welcome to another MICE conversation session. Today, I'm talking to Sergio Maccanti from the Gran Canaria Convention Bureau, which you can see from the nice branding that Sergio has on the background. Sergio, great to see you again, it's been a few months, but you're looking well and I hear life in Gran Canaria is very good at the moment. The weather is beautiful and the scenery is beautiful.
- Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity, for giving us this opportunity to tell the MICE world we are here, we are waiting for you, Michael and your team, and also meeting planners from Ireland, UK, everywhere in the world as we have been missing you for too long now. - Sergio, I wonder on a personal note, I wonder if you could just tell people, watching this what life has been like in the Canaries and obviously in particular in Gran Canaria area over the last 12 months. And I know that initially, you know Spain and the Canaries had a very, very strict lockdown but I think since last summer, let's say from July onwards Spain and the Canaries have been in a very good position.
In fact, in particular in the Canaries things have been very good there. Low numbers, but can you tell us for a personal perspective, what it's been like? - You know, like being on an island is being isolated from the rest of the world, by a natural border, which you see the ocean in our case. March 2020 when we were given this terrible information coming from East Asia and then Italy, and then, wow, it has come here. We were having a very normal lifestyle. We were in February in the carnival time, we were having a good time, I remember. And we were listening to this piece of news telling us, oh, some awful things from China and then the first outbreak in Italy, remember? And then the first case in Spain, which was in one of the safest places in the Spain, the Island of Lago Mera in the Western islands here in the Canaries.
And we suddenly got in this situation where, it's very sad to remember. The 2020 was supposed to be a very, very interesting MICE year. There were lots of events to be taken place of that 2020, you know. In the Canaries and the rest of the world, was supposed to be like Olympics, was supposed to be a European Euro Cup, remember? So many great events that summer. And then in the MICE industry so many congresses, conventions, incentive trips everywhere in Spain and the rest of the world. But we got like the rest of the world look down.
And the good thing is that many of those events that were canceled and postponed, so they are late somewhere in this year or next year. And we eventually got very, again, isolated from the world, from the rest of the world. So we could on one hand, control the pandemic because once the airport is closed, once the port, the harbor is closed, no one can go out, no one can come in.
So you are isolated from the virus, but also from one of the major industries in the Canaries, the tourism. So we have realized that we perhaps rely too much on the tourism industry. And we have focused on the different alternatives to this major industry. And we have grown in sustainability, we have grown into the maritime industry.
The harbor of Las Palmas, it has become a major hub in the region and we have become the major repairing spot for all ships and oil platforms, and everything floating around the mid-Atlantic areas. So it's like, going back to the old times in the agriculture, the fisheries, like we are going back to the roots, we are going back to sustainable models. And again, we are open for meetings all year round, open air which is a major selling point for the Canary Islands. And I must remember that in 2020 we were some of the few, of the very few destinations in the whole country or in the whole of Europe, I may say, that we were able to organize in-person events. December, 2020 we had an educational farm trip. I haven't heard of any other B2B MICE event with (unidentified), one table, two chairs, remember the old times? - [Michael] Yes.
- We were able to do it, maybe because we are on an Island that got completely locked and isolated from everything. - So I know obviously, I've been in the Canaries quite a bit recently. I was there last summer with you and the UNWTO in July. And then again, the start of this year.
And definitely it's one of the few places in Europe that's open at the moment. So you've turned the fact that you're an Island into an advantage, which is great to see and wonderful to hear that you actually had a site visit, an educational take place in December of last year. I'm also aware that there are events taking place in the near future. So unlike the rest of Europe, where things are still very much restricted, I mean, for example Fitur is due to take place in May, next month. Will you be going to that? - We are in, we are in as a destination, as a tourism destination for Fitur, the trade show.
And as a Convention Bureau we are in for the Fitur MICE. Say, a scenario where you can have a pre scheduled list of meetings and B2B, like in the good old times. So we want to be there. Something we must do like convention bureaus, like supporting, maybe we will not do major business ever because you know, it's gonna be taking a while, for the moment there's not real business, no requests, no major things.
We're having some requests in the last couple of weeks, that's a couple of weeks. But it won't be this fruitful event but we must be there, we want to support the industry. - [Michael] And I agree.
I think we should support anybody who's running an event. And we understand that it won't be the same as it was two years ago and previously, but we don't expect that. But I think we all have to take baby steps and learn to meet again and to conduct business. Will Fitur for you be a mix of, I'm guessing it will be one-on-one live meetings with people from within the region, but then maybe it will be a hybrid where you have some virtual meetings with some of your international partners. Is that the structure that you're expecting? - Yep. We are going to have these of double nature.
We want to be in person and then we will bring our laptop, webcam and we'll be doing these virtual meetings that keep us connected like we are talking now. We can still be connected. It's part of our future now. It was already with us, but you know, we didn't know. - Yes, that's true. We've accelerated our use of technology.
- Indeed, indeed, indeed. We are having some in-person meetings and events in these upcoming months. We are now having the international cinema festival in Las Palmas in Canary right now. This week it was a presentation, and the official cinema festival started, the competition started today with people attending the cinemas and the events of the program. - Today be, obviously Monday, the 12th of April. So people obviously watching this after we've recorded this.
So just explain that to me this is an international cinema festival event taking place today. It's a live event, or it's a hybrid event? - It is a live event, in fact, yeah. People attend cinemas, people attend to the premier, to the shows, to seminars, etc, in person.
Okay, according to all the regulations and all the measures, blah, blah, blah. But it's a very, very life event. Yeah. And on the 31st of May, as far as we know, we will be having the first congress here in grand Canaria, fingers crossed for this 12th national congress on water reservoirs. You know, Michael, you've been in places in Grand Canary I haven't been to, I've told you many times. - [Michael] Yes.
- [Sergio] You're a great traveler, very curious. Gran Canaria in the world, in the planet, in the whole world is a place with the greatest density of dams and water reservoirs per quite kilometer. We have, I think it's 167 water reservoirs for a tiny island, 60 by 60 kilometers.
And we have 65, what they call great dams which is I think it's either capacity or the size of the walls, you see. - [Michael] Can you talk me through, Sergio, how a conference like that will take place. So it's a live event, the end of May. Will there be protocols such as people doing rapid antigen tests before they enter or? What is the setup or what are you planning at the moment? - As far as we know, we are directly linked to the organizing committee, and of course everyone will have a negative test on arrival when they get to the Gran Canaria airport. And then all the regulations, the measures, as we told you before, will be taking place.
We just foresee a great opening event for the year. And I think with the vaccinations everywhere, with the information we have now on this pandemic, we will restart of the MICE industry here, in Gran Canaria. We strongly believe that MICE events, congress, incentive trip, say a group, a closed group it's one of the safest scenarios in the present days. We believe that close babble, which moves at once from one place to the other all together. If you are in the bubble, you cannot go out because you will not be allowed to get back in. Say supervising strictly that all measures are being taken, that when we are attending, say for instance a gala dinner in a special venue, Mr. Michael Collins
would be there 30 minutes before to check everything is ready for the arrival of guests. And if we do that, we think that an event, it's say, no perfection is ever achieved, but we have a high percentage of safety compared to say, general Tuesday, which I forgot to say, it's very important for us now. But you cannot trace, you cannot track the general tourists.
When he arrives on the island, you never know he's going to the Maspalomas Dunes or he's going up to the mountains, or he's going to Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria or to the hall city center in Vegueta. Because you never know. "I've been to a restaurant." Which area? "Ah, it was up in the mountains." Do you remember the name? "No. It was a nice lady giving us papas arrugadas and nice wine."
- So what you're saying effectively is that because of the advantages that the Canaries have, for example, you can have outdoor meetings because of the wonderful weather that you have. But in reality, what I'm hearing here is also the fact that the MICE industry can in effect lead the way and show and prove the travel is safe because people are operating in a bubble. And that's very interesting to hear. - I tell you, Michael, it's not because I work in this Convention Bureau for nearly 15 years.
It's because we think that the capability of moving as a group, as a tribe is a lot safer than spreading as individuals in a location. We can say if we have the program and we see what time it is, it's like, okay, it's 10:15, okay people are now leaving from the main conference hall to the coffee break and then they're going on to the next meeting and so on. What's time? Eight o'clock. Okay, they're now at the hotel they're going in... - [Michael] It's all controlled.
- It's all controlled, it's very safe. Say, like you are in a closed circuit from airport, to hotel, to special venue, to convention center, back to the hotel. It's like a professional, very supervised environment. - Yeah. I mean, what I'm saying is having spent
quite a bit of time in the Canaries, but also Spain itself the last year. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I got a sense that within MICE, let's say, outside of Asia, but certainly inside Europe, Spain and the Canaries are leading the way here. The only events I've been to in the last year have been in Spain and the Canaries. So I spoke about the UNWTO last July, but also I was at a cruise conference in Seville. I was at ICCA conference in Malaga, this was last October - November.
And that was the first time I saw a hybrid event in action. And I got a sense that it's definitely the Canaries in Spain that is leading the way here. Tell me, there are other events you're going to. So we mentioned Fitur in Madrid next month, in May, but you're planning other events as well. Other MICE conferences that you will visit, is that correct? - Well, we are having planning of events coming up this year.
Of course, we want to be in an in-person IBTM at the end of the year. In either end of November, beginning of December, I cannot remember now. But in between we have been invited to a number of events. We are always having M & I forum in our radar, we are having Mason forum inside, which is a new event. We are having also marketing plan.
We have still to fix a date for a number of educational site inspections we are having here in Gran Canaria. So we are definitely moving on after lockdown into the restart of this industry here on the islands. In Spain, Spain, apart from a number of months in winter, it's an open country. Canary islands, it's nearly all year round open air destination.
We do have the option to celebrate an event, say outdoors. And that's a plus apart from the measures and regulations is a plus. You are adding to the safety of the event altogether. That's a major advantage we are having here. And I've been talking to you, meeting planners from UK Island in a recent event we had in February. And you are very willing to come to the Canary islands to Gran Canaria, our island, because we've always been there.
We are European capital of winter sun. And, you know, you've been here, Michael, come on. - Yes. - You know about the structures, hotels, convention centers.
We are ready for it. - Certainly one thing, Sergio that I see, and I've been lucky in that, I've been traveling a lot over the last six months, nine months. And maybe it's difficult for you to see this, but for me life in Gran Canaria is taking place, it's continuing, it's open.
You know, you can go get your hair cut, you can go have a meal at a restaurant. Yes, it's outside. But Ireland's today has only just come out of level five. So today, the 12th of April is when we started to reduce or retract some of the restrictions that we have. So I think in comparison, for most people sitting in Europe, Northern Europe, in particular, looking at this video, the Canaries has been open in reality, but with restrictions.
And I think you're lucky that you can hold events outdoors and that obviously you have the weather. But think one reason that people will probably travel to the Canaries for events first, is that the fact that your numbers, as in your cases, per 100,000 in comparison to the rest of Europe are also very, very low. So I think the future is looking very interesting, but it's also good to see you push things forward. I think that's very exciting.
- Mm-hmm. We are team here, we have been undergoing the situation together. And from hostesses to audiovisuals, catering special venues, hotel, convention centers, we are now part of a great family.
And as a sector, as an industry here in Gran Canaria we are willing to welcome you and create these win-win situations where you, meeting planners are happy, your clients happy, we are happy, we are all happy. Thank you very much for reminding me, you can have a haircut hearing Gran Canaria. (both laughing) - [Michael] My pleasure, Sergio.
- It's been great to see you again, Sergio, and great to talk to you and super to get an update on what's happening and to see some real positivity not just in the planning sense but also events actually taking place, visitations, educationals taking place as well. Thank you again, Sergio. - Thank you.
- And to everybody listening, I hope you enjoyed the conversation there with Sergio Maccanti from the Gran Canaria Convention Bureau. I'll include all of Sergio's details in the description on YouTube here and likewise on social media. So thank you again, Sergio, you and take care everybody. Thank you for watching. - Thank you.
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